From homemade granola to the best-ever nut brittle, here are easy food gifts.
Food & Wine
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Date Quick Bread with Pecan Streusel
This date-studded quick bread can be made into mini loaves to give as gifts, or it can be baked as a standard loaf for serving at a meal. The streusel topping uses fresh pecans, a traditional gift in the South.
In France, pâtes de fruits (fruit jellies) are sold in high-end pâtisseries or pastry shops. The French roll them in sanding sugar, which has large crystals that cling to the candy without melting. Table sugar also works, as long as the jellies are rolled in it just before serving.
To preserve the garlic, Grace Parisi simmers the cloves with dried red chiles and fresh thyme in olive oil under tender, then packs them in the oil. Mash the garlic confit in butter and spread it on bread or slip it under chicken skin before roasting.
This clever pound cake, from Megan Garrelts, has crushed graham crackers in the batter. Garrelts serves it with sage-glazed figs and spiced walnut gelato. This cake is already easy to make, but omitting the figs and gelato makes it easier still.
The flavor of sturdy herbs like thyme and rosemary is too strong for pesto, but it works beautifully in a seasoning salt. The mildly spicy salt is delicious rubbed over big cuts of meat like leg of lamb or thick steaks, but it’s also terrific sprinkled on buttered bread or corn on the cob.
Emily Kaiser Thelin devised this simple, fail-safe recipe while living in Oakland, California, with two excessively productive Meyer lemon trees. Likely a cross between an orange and a lemon, the Meyer lemon give this sweet-tart marmalade a bright citrus flavor.
Real beef jerky isn’t a smoky stick of preserved mystery meat. Rachel Graville’s handmade versions are an exemplar of the artisanal-jerky trend. This classic recipe gets a double dose of peppery flavor from both cracked peppercorns in the marinade and coarsely ground peppercorns on top.
You can think of this salsa as a not-too-smooth, fresh version of your typical rusty-orange hot sauce—fresh chiles replace dried ones, fresh lime juice replaces vinegar. The roastiness of the fresh chiles adds sweet richness, plus a powerhouse of heat should you choose a chile like cayenne or habanero. The not-too-hot jalapeño is a good chile to start with, as you’re getting to know this approach to salsa; its natural, juicy sweetness makes a salsa that’s well rounded and utterly delicious—a favorite of market stall cooks in Guadalajara.
A huge virtue of homemade syrup is that, unlike the store-bought kind, it can taste much more like fruit than sugar. This blueberry syrup will last long enough to give as gifts during the holidays; simply transfer it into tall, pretty bottles using a funnel and store it in the refrigerator.
Dark-Chocolate Bark with Walnuts and Dried Cherries
Beauty Guru Bobbi Brown finds that a small piece of bittersweet chocolate is the perfect indulgence. Not only is dark chocolate full of antioxidants, it is mood enhancing in its own right. This recipe, from F&W’s Grace Parisi, gets an extra boost from walnuts (an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids) and dried cherries (high in fiber and minerals).
Store-bought mulling spices are often muted. In this vibrant version, oranges and fresh ginger are dehydrated and blended with whole spices. Each spice packet is designed to flavor one bottle of apple cider or a soft, fruity red wine, such as Zinfandel.
These chewy treats are like caramel apples in candy form, combining the tangy-sweet flavor of cider with buttery caramel. To create your own spin on them, use a flavored apple cider or add different spices, like ground ginger or black pepper.
Linton Hopkins’s aunt Julia—“my paternal grandmother’s sister-in-law,” he says—made giant vats of this barbecue sauce on her farm in Alabama, then drove around delivering it to everyone in her extended family. Hopkins likes to spoon it over coffee-cured pork shoulder. “To have a meal in the South without roast pork is not really a meal,” he says.