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Seasonal Pantry: Making holiday gifts in the kitchen

  • Edible gifts, such as lemon and ginger marmalade, make wonderful holiday presents. (Shutterstock)

For many of us, holiday shopping and planning began weeks and maybe even months ago.

For others, it's barely gotten started. If you are in the latter group, you may share my aversion to the commercialization of Christmas and other winter holidays. I love this time of year, the cold, the shortening of the days as we approach the solstice, the way we naturally turn inward, and I have, for years, refused to let the pressure to shop eclipse these quiet pleasures. From November through the end of December, I do very little shopping, except at a few local craft fairs, farmers markets, a couple of local shops and hardware stores, where I buy cases of canning jars.

If you love to cook, you can make wonderful gifts in your kitchen, an activity that works well when it is chilly outside and darkness falls by 5 p.m.

Flavored olive oils and vinegars have been popular in recent years, but I think there are better ways to go. Working with olive oil can be especially tricky, as fresh herbs submerged in it go bad quickly and garlic, a popular addition, can result in an oil infected with botulinum spores if not done properly.

Today's recipes feature gifts I'm making this year. I've prepared nearly six pounds of gomashio, a sesame-based Japanese condiment, using locally harvested nori seaweed from Strong Arm Farms. When a friend gave me a bushel of Meyer lemons, I made a huge batch of marmalade, most of it flavored with ginger and a bit with fresh thyme from my garden. Because apricot season sped past me this year, I've made a favorite chutney using pineapple instead of the fleeting stone fruit. And after several requests for my recipe for Korean Barbecue Sauce, I realized it would make a great gift for friends who love to cook but rarely have much time in the kitchen.

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Two ounces of gomashio lasts a while, as it doesn't take much of it to brighten up such foods as steamed rice, grilled Korean ribs, grilled cheese sandwiches and such.

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