Jams And Syrups And Fudge, Oh My!
Not only did I spend a lot of time in front of the TV knitting this holiday season, I also spent a lot of time cooking in the kitchen! Thankfully, sitting and knitting was the perfect respite from all that standing and cooking!
I made pear and vanilla bean jams; pear cranberry cardamom jams, apple butter; lavender, rose, apple, jalapeño, ginger and mint flavored simple syrups; chai, mint, floral, and fruity tea blends; chocolate walnut fudge, toffee, chocolate truffles, a spicy nut mix; and chai spice, floral, orange clove, and allspice fir needle scented candles.
I know… I sound insane… perhaps I am, but I had a blast doing it all and surprisingly none of it was terribly hard or time consuming! All of my recipes and instructions were found on Pinterest and then I tweaked a few things to make them my own.
Assorted Jams and Apple Butter
The jams were so simple and I could do big batches at a time by doubling or even tripling the recipes. I bought Weck Tulip Jars from Amazon (what the hell did we do before Amazon Prime???) and printed labels from the Jam Labelizer website. They came together so perfectly and looked like I had spent weeks on them, versus the afternoon it actually took.
For the pear cranberry cardamom jam I used this recipe from Food in Jars. I added 2 tablespoons of ground cardamom and passed on the proper canning of the jars. I just made sure the recipients of the jam knew that it would only keep in the fridge for about a month.
The pear and vanilla bean jam recipe was also from Food in Jars. Again I didn’t do the whole canning thing. It is something that I have never attempted and figured my first time shouldn’t be when I’m on a Christmas gift deadline!
There are a million recipes for Apple Butter, but this is the one I chose and it could not have been simpler! Plus it had the added benefit of making my house smell amazing as it cooked!
The toughest part of all of these recipes was the peeling and coring of the fruit. To save time I ordered this crazy but effective electric peeler from Amazon. It worked like a charm and cut my preparation time in half. I also ordered a basic apple corer which helped save a ton of time!
Flavored Simple Syrups
The simple syrups were also incredibly easy and yet still impressive. I love projects that look like a lot of time and effort went into them but are in reality a total breeze! I used to spend weeks, even months making gifts or meals or crafts but now a days I just don’t have that kind of time! Between the kids, the dogs, my foundation and my career I’m lucky if I have a few hours a week to devote to my crafty cooking self.
You only need two ingredients to make simple syrup – water and sugar. To add a flavor you just steep whatever you’re feeling in the syrup mixture. I found inspiration via Pinterest with recipes from Spoon Fork Bacon and the DIY Network, then veered off the path and did my own thing.
For the Lavender and Rose infused syrups, I used a cup each of dried lavender and rose buds. I happened to have large bags of both from the teas I had made. To make the apple syrup, I used all the peels leftover from the apple butter. I wasn’t sure if it would work but it turned out great! A cup of mint leaves, a cup of chopped jalapeño (seeds and all), and ½ a cup of peeled ginger were used to make the rest of the flavors.
Assorted Tea Blends
The teas were a huge hit even with my coffee addicted family members! They took me about an hour to make and looked so fancy and pretty in the gift crates! The recipes I used were taken from the Smart Nutrition and Joy Of Kosher websites and I can testify to how delicious they are because I kept a few for myself!
Fudge, Truffles and Toffee
The fudge, truffles and toffee took just a few hours as well and were irresistible! I wanted to bring the spirit of our horse ranch in the mountains to each gift so I went with a rustic, earthy theme for most of the packaging. I found these adorable natural color gift purses from Balsa Circle and they worked perfectly!
Spicy Nut Mix
For the spicy nut mix, I used a simple recipe from Jennifer Chong’s blog that works with any type of nut, and presented the assortment in tin tie windowed bags that provide the recipient with an appetizing glimpse of what lies inside.
The candles took me a full day to make, but that was only because of the learning curve involved. Once I got the hang of the process they only took an hour or two to make and a night to cool down and solidify.
I loved the idea of chai spice candles to accompany the chai tea I had already made and soon discovered a recipe at Stephanie Gerber’s Hello Glow blog. They turned out to be so pretty, although I’m not sure how scented they really are since I haven’t burned one yet.
Using the smaller canning jars, as Stephanie suggested in her post, you get far more bang for your buck! I would really only get one candle made if I used a 16 oz mason jar. With little pint-sized containers I was able to produce four candles from a single batch of soy wax.
Following the basic recipe from Hello Glow, I experimented with essential oils and scents to create a number of different candles:
Clove and Sweet Orange Scented Candles
- 32 oz soy candle wax
- 2 teaspoons ground clove
- 40 drops sweet orange essential oil
Allspice and Fir Needle Scented Candles
- 32 oz soy candle wax
- 1 tablespoon allspice
- 40 drops of fir needle essential oil
Peaceful Floral Scented Candle
- 32 oz soy candle wax
- ¼ cup dried lavender buds
- 40 drops lavender essential oil
- 15 drops geranium essential oil
Okay, so that’s a whole lotta info I just threw at you! Hopefully some or even all of these inspire your next gift idea!! Trust me, every one of them was truly appreciated and it was totally ego boosting to hear all the ooh’s and aah’s the gift crates received!