Is there anything sweeter than a homemade gift from a loved one? There's something wonderfully personal about taking the time to craft a gift for friends and family. Homemade gifts in jars are fun to make, cost effective and a great way to celebrate the holiday season.
Smoked sea salt caramels
Once you give these caramels as a gift, people will be begging for the recipe. The saltiness cuts through the intense sweetness of the caramels and using smoked sea salt adds a unique flavor. You can also substitute regular sea salt for the smoked variety.
Recipe adapted from Baking Bites
Makes 3-4 dozen, depending on the size
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/4 cup corn syrup
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1-2 tablespoons smoked sea salt (I used Maldon)
- Lightly grease an 8 x 8-inch or 9 x 9-inch baking dish (baking spray with flour works well).
- In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Once some steam has developed in the pan, remove the lid. Continue to boil until the caramel turns a deep honey color, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
- While the sugar is cooking, combine the butter and cream in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time until the butter is melted.
- When the caramel begins to darken, carefully but quickly add the cream and butter. The mixture will steam and bubble up, so pull your hand away. Using a heat resistant spatula, stir the mixture and add the salt.
- Place a candy thermometer in the saucepan and stir until the mixture has reached 260 degrees F.
- Pour the caramel into the prepared baking dish and allow it to cool completely. Sprinkle the smoked sea salt on top.
- Draw even lines with the tip of your knife and a ruler to create guides for slicing the caramels. Use a warm knife to cut caramels into small squares or rectangles. Wrap each caramel individually in a twist parchment and place in a jar. Caramels will keep at room temperature for a week.
Peppermint sugar scrub
This body scrub recipe is deceptively simple with only three ingredients! But it's so much better than the more expensive store-bought varieties. Regular sugar can be substituted for the turbinado if you have sensitive skin, but turbinado will provide the best exfoliation. Olive oil also works well in this scrub, but coconut oil is amazing for the skin!
- 1/3 cup turbinado sugar
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 4-10 drops peppermint oil
- Measure the sugar into a mixing bowl.
- Melt coconut oil in the microwave for 15 to 30 seconds to liquefy it.
- Stir the oil into the sugar, followed by the essential oil.
- Store in a decorative jar. The scrub will last indefinitely.
Slow cooker apple butter
An assortment of sweet and tart apples will yield the best results with this apple butter. If sweeter apples are used, reduce the quantity of sugar in the recipe slightly. This recipe should yield approximately 2 pint jars.
- 3 pounds (approximately 9 large) apples, peeled, cored and chopped
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1-1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Place the apples in a slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
- Cook for 8 to 10 hours on low heat, stirring a few times to keep the mixture from sticking to the sides.
- Puree the apple butter with an immersion or standard blender.
Cookies in a jar
Cookies in a jar are the perfect gift for someone who enjoys baking from store-bought mixes. The layered ingredients make a beautiful, colorful jar to keep on display. Make sure to include a tag with cooking instructions!
Adapted from Bakerella
- 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 3/4 cup M&Ms
- 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In a 1-quart jar, layer ingredients in the following order, packing down each layer very tightly: flour mixture, oats, M&Ms, chocolate chips, brown sugar and white sugar.
- If there's any space at the top, add some additional chocolate chips or M&Ms. Packing the ingredients firmly and evenly will ensure that they layers stay separated.
- Decorate the jar and include cooking instructions for the gift recipient.
Directions for jar:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Stir all of the jar ingredients together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix 1 egg, 1/2 cup melted butter and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
- Scoop cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.
- Bake for approximately 10 minutes.
Candied citrus peel
Candied citrus peel is one of my favorite gifts to give over the holidays. You can use any citrus fruit — oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, etc. This recipe is also very versatile. Try adding spices to the simple syrup such as cinnamon or cardamom! Depending on the size of the jar, this recipe will make several small gifts or one large gift. In an airtight container, these will last up to one month.
- 2 oranges
- 1 grapefruit
- 2-1/2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 vanilla bean, split down the middle
- 1 cup sugar for coating
- Cut the fruit into quarters. Use a spoon to scoop out the fruit, but be sure to leave the white pith attached. Slice the fruit into thin slices.
- Place the citrus strips in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes, then drain. Repeat this process 2 more times using fresh water (do not skip this step as it removes the bitterness from the peel).
- Clean the saucepan and add the water, sugar and vanilla bean. Bring to a boil, stirring periodically to dissolve the sugar. Reduce to a simmer and add the citrus peel. Simmer over low heat, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, until the fruit turns translucent, up to 2 hours.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and a cooling rack. Use tongs to remove the peels from the syrup, shake off any excess liquid and move to the rack to finish draining. Allow the candied peels to dry overnight.
- Toss with sugar.
Tips for decorating gifts in jars
- You should be able to find almost everything you need to decorate a gift jar at your local arts and crafts store. Look for assorted jars, stickers, tags, tissue papers, ribbons, etc. Have fun and be creative!
- If your gift will require the receiver to do some preparations (such as baking cookies), include simple but clear instructions by attaching a gift tag to the top of the jar, as seen in the "Cookies in a jar" photo.
- If the food gift has a limited shelf life, be sure to include this in the notes.
More holiday gift ideas
Holiday gifts the whole family will love
Holiday gifts for the beer drinker
Holiday gifts for the coffee-holic