Making cookies, jams, infused honeys or sauces for gift-giving has always been part of my life, but never more so than in 2008 when the downturn in the economy made so many of us re-think what gift-giving really means.
So last year, all my gifts (with very few exceptions) were prepared in my kitchen. It took several days to make all the goodies and package them beautifully, but the result was that long past the holidays, friends and family members would call me to thank me for the gifts they were still enjoying.
This made such an impression on me that I’ve committed to do the same every holiday. It’s not a small commitment — making gifts from your kitchen takes time! — but with a little creativity and planning I find that it’s not only doable, it’s downright enjoyable!
This year, two special treats are on the list: Sienese almond cookies, and honey infused with fresh herbs and spices. Both are easy to make… and incredibly delicious. Both also look absolutely gorgeous, and will be sure to impress your family and friends.
Gifts from your kitchen and your heart – now that’s what the holidays are all about.
makes one 4 oz (120 ml) bottle
active time: 15 min
For the supplies
- 4 oz (120 ml) bottles or jars – washed and thoroughly dried
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) (120 ml) good quality orange blossom or clover honey per bottle/jar (for larger bottles/jars, multiply the amount of honey and herbs needed equally)
For a single herb infusion – all measurements are for a 4 oz (120 ml) bottle/jar (choose one herb from list below)
- 1 sprig basil (a sprig with small leaves is easier to fit in the bottle/jar)
- 1 tablespoon shaved fresh ginger (use vegetable hand-peeler)
- 1 tablespoon dried lavender blossoms
- 2 sprigs lemon balm
- 1 sprig mint
- 1 sprig oregano
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 2 sprigs summer or winter savory
- 1 sprig sweet marjoram
- 1 sprig French tarragon
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 4 sprigs lemon thyme
For a single herb & spice infusion – all measurements are for a 4 oz (120 ml) bottle/jar (choose one herb & spice combo from list below)
- 2 teaspoons anise seeds
- 1 small sprig basil & 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 small sprig basil & 1 teaspoon anise seeds
- 2 teaspoons cardamom pods
- 1 stick cinnamon & 1 sprig sage
- 1 sprig rosemary & 1 strip orange zest (use vegetable hand-peeler)
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme & 1 strip lemon zest (use vegetable hand-peeler)
- Step 1: Choose one herb or one herb & spice combination for each bottle/jar. Place herb (and/or spice) in bottle/jar.
- Step 2: Place honey in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until the honey becomes liquidy or until candy thermometer reaches 180ºF (82ºC), making sure the honey doesn’t come to a boil.
- Step 3: Using a funnel, pour the hot honey into each bottle/jar, making sure the herbs are submerged. Place honey bottles on a cooling rack and cool to room temperature. Once cooled, close bottle/jar tightly and store in a cool dark place for 1 week before using.
- Cook’s note: Store the infused honey in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.
I love to use my homegrown herbs to make these honeys, but not everyone has a herb garden. Fortunately, fresh herbs are available in any supermarket. The fresher the herb, the more flavor it will impart to the honey. As for the honey itself, I recommend buying a good-quality local honey for the infusions. The flavor is unsurpassed!
Disclaimer: As always, my point of view is my own. I do not accept samples, and have no commercial relationship with any product, food or wine company.