Holiday gifting can be a scramble or just plain over-the-top expensive. Instead of running around during your after-work hours or scouring the Internet for that oh-so-perfect [insert item here], a homemade food gift is the sort that never goes out of style and is rarely wasted — especially when super helpful or equally indulgent.
These five recipes can be prepared anywhere from months in advance to the day before that big holiday gifting moment. Three of them — the sweet and sour cranberries, citrus sugar, and cider chai syrup — are the sort a home cook or mixologist can use to dress up a cheese plate or turkey sandwich, bake into sugar cookies or rim a cocktail, or simply add to boiling water for a cup of something cozy, respectively.
The last two recipes — the smoky candied popcorn and the graham cracker toffee — should be eaten immediately (because popcorn and toffee, people) or packaged up for instantly gratifying treats.
Each of these recipes comes with suggested gift-wrap materials and directions to make this season’s holiday gifting a delicious snap.
Your Cooking and Packaging Timeline
What to Do in Advance
- Make the sweet and sour cranberries. You can make these in advance and water-bath preserve them to be shelf-stable for up to a year, or simply make them at any time and gift or use within 1 month. Apply a label with a preparation or expiration date onto your jar when you make it.
- Make the citrus sugar. You can make this in advance and store in an airtight container for up to six months, portioning out the sugar into small jars throughout that time, as you like. Apply a label with a preparation or expiration date onto your jar when you make it.
- Make the cider chai syrup. You can make this syrup in advance and water-bath preserve it to be shelf-stable for up to six months; it generally separates and never quite comes back together after six months. Alternatively, simply make it at any time and gift or use, without preserving, within one week. Apply a label with a preparation or expiration date onto your jar when you make it.
What to Do the Day Before Gifting
- Make the graham cracker toffee. You should make this the day before you plan to gift to allow ample time for it to cool and harden before gifting.
What to Do Just Before Gifting
- Sweet and sour cranberries, citrus sugar, and cider chai syrup: Apply twine/ribbon and hand-written notes just before you plan to gift.
- Graham cracker toffee: Once cool, place pieces into a box, apply a label with a preparation date onto your box, and adorn with twine/ribbon and hand-written notes just before you plan to gift.
- Make the smoky candied popcorn. Although this gift will last up to three days in an airtight container, it really is best the same day it’s made. Make the morning of the day you plan to gift. Once cool, spoon into bags, apply a label with a preparation date onto your bag, and adorn with twine/ribbon and hand-written notes just before you plan to gift.
Your Shopping List
To buy at the grocery store:
- Lemons (2 large)
- Limes (3 medium)
- Cranberries, fresh or frozen (4 cups)
- Apple cider (32 ounces)
- Loose-leaf chai tea (1/4 cup)
- Graham crackers, (12 whole)
- Walnuts or pecans (3/4 cup)
- Semisweet chocolate chips (3/4 cup)
- Coconut oil (1 tablespoon)
- Popcorn (8 cups popped)
From your pantry (check to make sure you have enough):
- Unsalted butter (2 sticks)
- Apple cider vinegar (1 3/4 cups)
- Granulated sugar (4 3/4 cups)
- Light brown sugar (1 3/4 cups)
- Cinnamon sticks (2)
- Chili powder (3/4 teaspoon)
- Baking soda (1/2 teaspoon)
- Golden syrup or light corn syrup (1 tablespoon)
- Allspice berries or ground allspice (1/2 heaping teaspoon)
- Whole cloves (1/2 heaping teaspoon)
- Black peppercorns (1/2 heaping teaspoon)
- Juniper berries (1/2 heaping teaspoon, optional)
- Fine salt
- Microplane grater
- Spice bag or cheesecloth
- Coffee filter
- Narrow-mouth canning funnel
- Regular-mouth canning funnel
- Double boiler
For gift packaging:
- For the cranberries: 3 regular or vintage pint glass jars with lids, string, stamp and ink pad, fabric, tape (optional)
- For the sugar: Jars with lids, vintage ribbon
- For the syrup: Glass bottles with airtight lids, ribbon, wax and wax sealer (optional)
- For the popcorn: Resealable food-grade cellophane bags, Washi tape, pinking shears
- For the toffee: Boxes, tissue paper, ribbon