A Very Tasty Christmas

My family has decided to do something different for the holidays this year: we plan to exchange only gifts that are edible. Yum! We’re always looking for ways to keep costs down during the holidays and often like to share homemade gifts like granola or jam, favorite blends of coffee or cards with some new favorite recipes. Now we’re just taking it to a new level and focusing all of our gifts around things you can eat. I do love to bake, but when there is such good food available at Weaver’s, I will often just buy baked goods from the market. So without totally giving away all of the surprises on my list, I’d like to share a few ideas for edible gifts:

Ship Apples to Out of State Friends & Family!
Ship Apples to Out of State Friends & Family!

Fruit Baskets & Apple Boxes This time of year, the market transforms as it is filled with fruit baskets in all shapes, sizes and a wide array of colors. Weaver’s fruit baskets start at just $5.99.They also ship boxes filled with fresh apples, pears or citrus that you can send to out-of-state friends or family.

Local Meats Lone Star Farm is a local farm with delicious free-range beef. Their cows forage on their lush pasture until the finishing stage. Lone Star Farm firmly believes that the balanced diet during the finishing stage, a mix of locally produced hay, grains and whole corn silage makes their cows healthier and the meat more flavorful. Their animals are SO healthy that they never need any medications or antibiotics. I have to agree that this meat is delicious – it’s the only beef I ever buy. You can pick it up at Weaver’s or meet them at The Farmer’s Market at Elverson (which is actually open once a month this winter – their next market will be held on December 17th.) They also take orders on their website and will ship meat anywhere in the US! Check out some of their awesome holiday gift pack specials on their website.

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Homemade Canned Goods I dabbled a bit in canning this year, and my preserves included canned peaches and diced tomatoes. I also made strawberry jam, triple berry jam and salsa. It’s definitely time consuming – and requires adhering to instructions more than I usually have patience for.But since I usually do this with other people, it’s been a fun way to catch up with old friends and strengthen new friendships. I’m pretty excited to give some of my triple berry jam to some people on the VanDuzer side of the family because I made it from 3 varieties of wild berries that grow on my in-law’s property: mulberries, wineberries and black raspberries. I already got some tasty gifts from my sister when she was visiting over Thanksgiving including lemon curd (which is to die for!), cranberry applesauce and homemade granola.

Image ©2011 Ryan Estes Photography - www.ryanestes.com
Image ©2011 Ryan Estes Photography – www.ryanestes.com

Coffee & Tea Coffee and tea are gifts that I ALWAYS welcome! My brother got us some awesome Square One Coffee from Lancaster, PA for a birthday, and we’ve been savoring for the past few months. I’m also a big fan of locally roasted Twin Valley Coffee, which is also available at our market. My niece loves Chai tea, so I’m going to search for some specialty Chais for her.

Cheese – Even Homemade!

September Farm Cheese - Photo by Sean Talbot
September Farm Cheese – Photo by Sean Talbot

There are many options now for locally made, gourmet cheeses including wax-wrapped cheddars and flavored jack cheeses from September Farm and goat cheeses from the newly re-opened Amazing Acres Goat Dairy. I’ve also even made my own ricotta cheese with goat’s milk and fresh garlic. I hope to make some more during the holidays for some special appetizers. I think my family will prefer it if I stick with traditional cow’s milk though!

Dipping Oils & Spice Blends Last year, my mother-in-law gave me lots of dipping oil mixes with plenty of rosemary and garlic in them. I haven’t been able to find these for sale anywhere, so I may try to make some. They are also delicious to season potatoes, carrots or Brussels sprouts. This recipe is looks awesome to me.

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Fudge A few years ago, I made some peanut butter fudge using the recipe below. I love Weaver’s mochachino fudge and so far, I haven’t mastered a homemade version of that! Plus, the fudge is always on special at Weaver’s: buy one pound and get a half pound free.

Dog Biscuits My family’s 14-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, Ramona, is still quite energetic and goes crazy over homemade dog biscuits. She can tell when we start making them as the aroma of freshly baked peanut butter dog biscuits wafts through the house. Weaver’s also sells Northwoods all-natural dog biscuits for your canine companion.

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Cookie Mixes by Little Barn

Ready-to-Bake Treats Last year, my mom made my brother-in-law some cookie dough that he could freeze and bake any time he wanted fresh cookies. Sometimes it’s not feasible to give a gift that needs to go straight to the freezer though, so you could always make or buy homemade cookie mixes like Weaver’s sells. I’m definitely looking forward to exchanging gifts this year and getting to see everyone’s creativity. I have so many ideas, it’s going to be tough to narrow it down to just a few Christmas gift ideas.