Homemade pantry basics as gifts
October 28, 2012 8:28 PM   Subscribe

Another food gift question: ideas for homemade pantry staples

My family and I have not exchanged holidays gifts for a few years now. But now one sister has suggested a "Crafty Christmas," where we all make each other something. She's a really experienced and artistic knitter and crocheter. The other sister would probably also give some type of needlecrafted gift, probably sewn goods. Our mother will probably sew something as well. I'm not a very good knitter or seamstress and don't really love doing those things. I do love cooking, though. I'm thinking I don't want to give sweet things, and I don't want to do the typical pans of lasagna type thing. Each of my family members is single and lives alone, so they tend not to cook too much unless entertaining. But they all appreciate good, high quality food. I was thinking of perhaps making them each some really good chicken and/or beef stock for their freezers--something they won't take the time to make for themselves, both because the amounts are usually too much for their small households and also because they usually don't take big chunks of time for cooking. But even minimal cooks, at least ones who appreciate good, homemade stuff, would love a staple like homemade stock for soup or an ingredient in lots of other things. Not sexy, but good, right?

Do you have any ideas for similar food items? Basics for their pantries or freezers that they might not make on their own but that would make a good foundation or key ingredient for a dish or meal? Anything? Thanks!
posted by primate moon to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
Not exactly your idea, but came to mind immediately. I would package your homemade stock with high quality arborio rice and aged parmesan: risotto kits!
posted by telegraph at 8:31 PM on October 28, 2012

A jar of this amazing homemade bouillon would be a terrific gift and last a long time.
posted by judith at 8:38 PM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

This book has a lot of good ideas for that kind of food gifting. Most of it is even shelf-stable - bread mixes/drink mixes, salsas, jams, etc. There's also the occasional gifting suggestion throughout ("pair these canned plums with a tin of nice cookies for a gift", etc.).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:42 PM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Caramelized onions—really, deeply caramelized—would be something I would appreciated because a) they're delicious; b) I don't often have the time to caramelize them myself; and c) they're delicious. You could freeze them, or perhaps can a caramelized onion jam.

I once received an amazing tin of different salts as a gift—some were regional varieties, and others were flavored in ways that could be replicated at home (smoked, vanilla bourbon, porcini, lime, red wine, etc.). Perhaps you could make/assemble your own assortment?
posted by rebekah at 8:43 PM on October 28, 2012

Last Christmas I gave the bouillon judith linked above, along with canned peaches and tomatoes (a bit late for those but you could can something else, like applesauce) and homemade truffles, which are surprisingly easy to make.
posted by TrixieRamble at 8:46 PM on October 28, 2012

This granola is AMAZING. I keep a 3L jar of it on my counter and eat it for breakfast over yogurt most mornings.
posted by mollymayhem at 8:54 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love the idea of deeply carmelized onions and flavored salt, but I'd also suggest jam, infused vodka in flavors like pumpkin (if you have drinkers in your family), and sauces/marinades. Actually a killer tomato sauce, BBQ recipe, or marinade would probably be amazing and gives a lot of range to accommodate for tastes.
posted by katemcd at 9:05 PM on October 28, 2012

I did that make-your-own MeFi gift trade, and got AMAZING apple butter.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:06 PM on October 28, 2012

My godmother just gave me a bag of totally gorgeous homemade English muffins. I'm so excited to try them. Especially if you make jam, it'd be awesome to give a half-dozen English muffins to eat with it.
posted by town of cats at 10:55 PM on October 28, 2012

It takes some time, but you could do homemade vanilla extract. My friend bought some vanilla pods online, a bottle of vodka, and a bunch of little brown apothecary bottles and a couple months later she gave me the best tasting vanilla extract I'd ever had.

I make Cinnamon Honey Butter for my family every Christmas.
posted by E3 at 11:27 PM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Can you make sausage? Because home made sausage is my favorite gift ever.
posted by fshgrl at 11:52 PM on October 28, 2012

Pickled jalapenos are ridiculously easy to make and look pretty in a jar (especially if you throw in a couple artfully-cut carrot slices and a garlic clove), and they're certainly a pantry staple in my household. I like to gift them along with a jar of my homemade salsa.

I also make boozy cherries and candied cherries for friends and family every year. They're all pretty big into cocktails and/or ice cream, so cherries actually are a pantry staple.
posted by rhiannonstone at 11:53 PM on October 28, 2012

The Naptime Chef swears by this homemade pancake mix.,
posted by spunweb at 12:52 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Infused oils, too.
posted by knile at 1:04 AM on October 29, 2012

Compound butters. Get oodles of fresh herbs and aromatics and spices like basil, garlic, or saffron, and mix them into melted butter. Then, pour the mixture into a mold lined with plastic wrap and cool. Then you slice them into rounds, or do it ice-cube-tray-style. A pat of chive butter melted onto a baked potato is instant-delicious, or saffron butter on top of roasted cauliflower can be super fancy, or citrus zest butter is secret shrimp magic, etc. Maybe do a different flavor of butter for each person, so they're unique to each person's favorite tastes?

The trick is of course that you have to keep the stuff cold. Maybe freeze your stock into ice cubes and use it as a way to keep the butter cool in transport!
posted by Mizu at 1:19 AM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Buy vanilla beans cheaply (hint: ebay), slit open and put into small bottles, fill with the cheapest non-flavoured vodka you can find and put in a warm place. Shake it every other day and - if you can resist the temptation to drink it - you'll have home-made vanilla essence. It'll be OK by Christmas but gets better the longer you leave it. Just paste a cute label on it and it'll be awesome. You don't need best quality beans for this and it's a great way of making a little money stretch a lot further.
posted by ninazer0 at 1:21 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

A lot of these ideas sound fantastic for someone who knows or wants to cook. If you give me something like fancy butters or salts, tell me what they are used for otherwise they will just sit around. Something like the risotto combo sounds nice or perhaps a few of those "meal" or "baking item in a jar" type things would be good, especially if they are thought out for one person meals.

Or if they are good cooks and do so when entertaining, give something that can be used while entertaining. Fancy cocktail combos or something along those lines.
posted by raccoon409 at 1:40 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

This'll take some experimentation on your part first because there are infinite possibilities, but blends like garam masala or berbere (e.g. this paste or this powdered blend) are nice to have on hand. The solo chef is unlikely to make his or her own version of these.
posted by knile at 3:15 AM on October 29, 2012

If you can do frozen gifts, perhaps some cookie dough that's ready to bake? I do this at home for myself (small household = a full cookie dough recipe is way more cookies than I should have around) and so long as you put the baking directions on the package, it's super-easy to bake up only as many cookies as you want.

This works for lots of things- scones are another excellent thing to freeze in single-serving sizes.
posted by Cracky at 7:57 AM on October 29, 2012

You can fit a standard 4-dozen (small) cookie recipe (dry ingredients only) into a large mason jar. Attach the recipe, which will cover temp and baking time, as well as the ingredients they need to add.

You can include but do separate (plastic bag?) the sugar, which should be creamed with the butter and eggs/vanilla not included. As tasty as it is, avoid brown sugar, as if it is allowed to dry out, it will be far more difficult to cream up-- the baker can add molasses (2T/c white sugar, 1T/c light brown sugar to get dark brown, else 1T/c white sugar to get lt. brown).

Alternately, I once got a bean-soup in a jar from a friend (pint mason jar)-- had a great variety of beans, plus spices and recipe. Send that along with a jar of your homemade chicken stock (which is a great idea itself-- I never take the time to make stock because ...no good reason... send me some! :^).
posted by Sunburnt at 8:28 AM on October 29, 2012

Spice mixes. Rubs for barbecue, etc. They'll keep for a few months, too. Maybe longer depending on what you put in them/how picky you are.
posted by Atom12 at 10:31 AM on October 29, 2012

primate moon, thank you for giving me the inspiration to finally track down a recipe I've been looking for for years. My friend's dad gave me a jar once of his "garlic elixir", which was somehow beyond minced garlic. I only today thought to search for a recipe involving parsley... voila, Chester Aaron's "Garlic Elixir". Infinite uses. Yes, that's the second time I've used "infinite" in this thread.
posted by knile at 11:48 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ooh, what great ideas! And I love the risotto kit! I had been thinking of infused vodkas or limoncillo, and now I think I might try them. Thanks, everyone!
posted by primate moon at 11:50 AM on October 29, 2012

Not exactly a staple, but people will thank you for it: Johnnybird's Toast Dope (oh so good). To tempt you, a few suggestions from that thread on how to use it:
If I kept track of all the ways I've used Johnnybird's Toast Dope, I would be able to publish a cookbook about the stuff. ...Used it in an orange french toast recipe this morning, and sauteed apples in butter and Toast Dope recently and then put vanilla ice cream on top. Another thing I love when I have a slight sweet tooth late at night is buttered popcorn with Toast Dope on it, and to drink bubbly with it.
posted by Lexica at 6:50 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Things I have been considering include homemade mustard (crazy easy to make), BBQ sauce, tomato/pizza/pasta sauce. Give it as a gift of three.
Cocoa mix is great in the winter too. Perhaps with a series of small jars of different kinds of honey?
I love the granola idea and scone idea (I'm a sucker for breakfast).
Jars of party snacks, like sweet and spicy nuts?
Preserved lemons with a recipe on how best to use them!

I love this idea lots. Your family will be very lucky!
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 7:38 PM on October 29, 2012

Preserved lemon peel! I got this as a gift recently and loved it. Plus it's easy to make, actually--just put organic lemon peel into kosher salt and wait--so maybe you'll also end up inspiring the recipient to keep the jar going.
posted by aka burlap at 7:55 PM on October 29, 2012

-homemade mustard-we use the red wine version from this link: http://www.marthastewart.com/313218/homemade-mustards
-boiled cider syrup. Boil cider down til it's thick and syrupy-I get a pint or so out of a gallon. Refrigerates forever in canning jars. Add to apple desserts to boost flavor, use as syrup, add to soda for sparkling cider, or mix with bourbon on the rocks.
-homemade pickled ginger
posted by purenitrous at 9:29 PM on October 29, 2012

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