Gifts in jars always look good. Even a lump of coal packed in a jar would.
For the following seven gifts in jars, you could buy fancy Le Parfait or Weck jars—for gifts within gifts. Or you can simply remove the labels from pasta jars, peanut butter jars or jam jars spilling out of your cupboards.
Technically a gift in a bottle, not a jar… Limoncello takes less than a week to prepare and requires minimal hands-on work. After steeping lemon zest for at least four days in vodka or Everclear, strain the alcohol and mix it with a simple syrup made of sugar and water. (I sometimes let the lemon steep longer, mostly out of neglect.) Bottle the limoncello up for your recipient and check one item off your gift list.
Limoncello Mixed-Nut Biscotti
Set aside a bit of that limoncello to both sip and to make biscotti. Fill a couple of jars with these twice-baked cookies and give them away asap before you feel tempted to eat them all yourself. You could also give your recipient a jar of loose-leaf tea from the bulk bins for brewing up something to dip their biscotti into. (Many teabags contain plastic.) Your friend probably needs more jars anyway.
Cultured Nut Cheese
Store-bought nut cheese costs quite a bit and often contains undesirable additives that you would never stock in your pantry. Plus homemade tastes fabulous. You’ll need to let this ferment for several days, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
Essentially, you soak nuts, drain and rinse them, whir them up in a food processor or blender with a few additional ingredients, including a starter to kickstart the ferment. I like to use kimchi brine or preserved lemon and a bit of kombucha. Let the cheese sit for several days. You may want to also bake some sourdough crackers for your recipient to enjoy with the nut cheese.
Go here for the cultured cashew cheese recipe. You could use a different variety of nut as well.
Labneh, or yogurt cheese, basically makes itself. But it requires a few days to make itself. And if you make the yogurt to make the labneh, add one more day to the timeline. Once you have obtained your yogurt, wrap it in a tightly woven cloth suspended in a jar in the refrigerator. Gravity will strain the yogurt and tranform it into labneh.
Place a few balls of finished labneh in a jar and cover them with oil. Or roll the balls in herbs first. Labneh tastes something like cream cheese and has a similar consistency but it contains live beneficial cultures.
Hazelnut-Cocoa Spread (aka Nutella)
If you’ve already rifled through the cupboards for the ingredients and kitchen gear you need to prepare this rich, nutty, chocolatey spread for a friend, you may as well make a bit extra and treat yourself as well. My daughter Charlotte sometimes makes a similar version with sunflower seeds—a good option for people with nut allergies. Sunflower seeds also cost much less than hazelnuts, which in turn cost less than many other prized nuts such as pecans, almonds, walnuts and cashews.
When a friend of mine dropped off over two dozen Fuyu persimmons at Thanksgiving, I initially panicked. Then I remembered the old dehydrate-fruit-in-the-oven-to-prevent-food-waste trick.
Squat Fuyu persimmons have a texture similar to apples and dehydrate very well. Hachiyas—the teardrop-shaped persimmons that must soften to a jelly-like consistency before eating fresh—dehydrate through a different process. For the oven method, use Fuyu. (This works for apples and other fruit also.)
Go here for details on dehydrating fruit in the oven. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, check out this post and this post on solar food dehydration.
Chop up some of the dehydrated food above and stir it into a batch of muesli. I have a couple of recipes in my recipe index for you to choose from. This quick one requires no cooking and also works well for overnight oats. Some of the ingredients in this one undergo a quick toasting on the stove. Customize your jars for your recipients. No two muesli batches need be the same—unless you really love a certain formula.
Bonus Gift Idea: Candy from the Bulk Bins
If you can fill up your jars at the bulk bins—our bins have been open for several months now—you won’t have much wrapping to do at home because gifts in jars need little, if any, adorment.
My cookbook also makes a great gift! Learn more about my book here.