One of our longest family traditions is our annual Christmas baking. For the past 25 years, my mom and I have been packaging our homemade goodies and delivering them to friends and neighbors.
I think homemade food gifts are the most welcome and appreciated during the busy holiday season. I know for us, this time together baking and canning is so fulfilling.
Cooking and packaging our treats is a wonderful experience. Unlike most of our real jobs, this one has a beginning and an end, and results! We have our delivery route carefully planned, we plug in to some Christmas tunes and head out to deliver our goods.
It is always nice to visit with our friends and share some of the spirit of Christmas.
I love getting Christmas goodies! We look forward to receiving Judy Anderson’s homemade chili. It is the best chili I have ever had. My mom and I save the chili for a special occasion and we think of Judy as we eat her chili, which is what we all do when we enjoy a gift from friends.
Cooking is all about the experience and the love and care in the dish.
Most of my friends also have Christmas baking traditions. Our photo shoot this month is on my friend Elizabeth McCoy’s beautiful Christmas table. Her home is like a Christmas wonderland. She was kind enough to share a few of her recipes. Her beer cheese is a favorite of Kelley and Tim Workman.
This season, I am sharing some of our favorite food gifts. We canned our red pepper jelly this summer. We love it over cream cheese with crackers.
Our Christmas pickles are a favorite. My nephew Joseph has been making these pickles for the past several years and sells them to his friends. He earns his Christmas money this way. I love an entrepreneur. He dreams of one day going to Wall Street with pickles in hand!
My mom’s caramel sauce is a treasured family recipe. She rarely ever lets anyone help with this one. You have to get a feel for caramel; practice is the key here.
Ham salad is an old Kentucky favorite. It’s just the right amount of smoky delicious flavor.
Thanksgiving is a wonderful start to the holiday season. Our family has many blessings, we have our health — mostly — and we all truly love being with each other, and the rest is just life.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I hope that you find the time to share some of your favorite food gifts with your friends.
Margaret Prim is the executive director of the Pennyroyal Arts Council and runs a clothing business from her Hopkinsville home and enjoys entertaining for friends and family. Her column runs the first Wednesday of every month. If you have questions or comments about her column, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kentucky beer cheese
1 cup of beer
1 pound extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I used Tabasco)
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch cayenne pepper
Pour beer into a bowl and whisk until beer loses its carbonation, about 30 seconds. Set aside.
Place shredded cheese into the work bowl of a food processor; add garlic, dry mustard powder, black powder, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, salt, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and flat beer.
Process until smooth and creamy, pulsing a few times, scraping the sides, and blending for about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. If adding more seasoning, pulse a few times to mix.
Transfer cheese spread to a bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of cayenne pepper. Spread tastes best when refrigerated overnight to blend flavors.
Recipe from Sally Hail
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cup half ’n‘ half
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
Caramelize 1 cup of sugar (heat in a heavy saucepan until melted and dark amber in color). Heat cream and 1 cup of sugar in a double broiler until very hot. Add to browned sugar and stir until dissolved. Stir in butter and vanilla. Store in refrigerator.
6 cups sugar
2 cups white vinegar
1 box pickling spice
Gallon jar of dill pickles
Drain pickles and slice into ½-inch slices. Put 5 to 6 peeled garlic cloves in the bottom of the pickle jar. Using cheese cloth, make 2 bundles of spices around 2 tablespoons each. Fill the jar with pickle slices. Put spice bundles down into the pickle slices. Boil sugar and vinegar until the sugar dissolves. Pour into jar over pickle slices. Leave out five to six days, turning upside down a few times. Refrigerate. Pickles ready in two weeks.
Recipe from Elizabeth McCoy
3 cups ground or diced fully cooked ham
2 hard cooked eggs, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
4 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
2 teaspoons finely chopped onion
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
Mix ham, eggs, celery, pickle relish and onion in a bowl. Combine mayonnaise and mustard together in a separate bowl, pour over ham mixture. Stir to coat. Refrigerate until serving time.
Red pepper jelly
Makes 4 to 5 ½-pint jars
1 1/2 pounds red bell peppers (cut into 1-inch pieces)
2 teaspoons dried hot red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons pectin
3 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup white-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
Special equipment: 5 ½-pint canning jars with screw bands and lids; an instant-read thermometer and canning tongs
First, sterilize jars and lids: Wash jars, lids and screw bands in hot, soapy water, then rinse well. Dry screw bands. Put empty jars on a rack in a boiling water canner or a deep 8- to 10-quart pot and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, covered, then boil 10 minutes. Remove canner from heat, leaving jars in water, covered. Heat lids in water to cover by 2 inches in a small saucepan until thermometer registers 180 degrees. Remove from heat. Keep jars and lids submerge in hot water, overhead until ready to use.
Next, make the jelly: Pulse bell peppers with red pepper flakes in a food processor until finely chopped. Mix together pectin and 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl. Stir together pepper mixture, vinegar, butter, salt and remaining 3 cups sugar in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot. Bring to a vigorous boil over high heat, then continue to boil vigorously, stirring constantly, and boil 1 to 2 minutes (mixture will thicken slightly). Remove from heat.
Then, carefully remove jars and lids with canning tongs, then drain jars upside down on a clean kitchen towel and quickly dry lids, invert jars and immediately ladle hot jelly into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top. Wipe off rims of filled jars with a damp clean kitchen towel, then firmly screw in lids.
Last, seal and process the jars: Put sealed jars on rack in a canner or pot and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a full boil, covered, then boil jelly, covered, 15 minutes. Transfer jars with canning tongs to a towel-lined surface to cool.
After jars have cooled, 12 to 24 hours, press the center of each lid to check that it’s concave.