Skip the Fruitcake: DIY Culinary Gifts Your Foodie Friends Will Love

glasses full of bright red drink, berries, and flowers sit on a wood table

The holidays are approaching fast, and with them comes the stress over crossing names off that gift list. Since the holidays are also typically filled with delicious food and drinks, we’ve combined the two. Put together these pretty little gems in your free time, and you’ll be the hero of the holidays with gifts that keep on giving. They’re also handy go-to grabs for last-minute hostess gifts or secret Santas. So, be sure to make a few extras—we promise they won’t go to waste!

Make it Sophisticated with Simple Syrups

Whether you’re adding some panache to a specialty cocktail or some zing to hot chocolate, the sky’s the limit when it comes to tantalizing flavor combinations. Put the simple in simple syrups when you follow these guidelines:

  • Rinse one cup of fruit or herbs (such as pomegranate seeds, blueberries, mint, or rhubarb) and add to a saucepan with 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water.
  • Bring everything to a low boil and allow to cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. Crushing the fruit as you stir will help ensure optimal flavor.
  • Next, make things extra fancy by adding a secondary flavor. This should be complimentary to your main flavor: consider adding a bit of dried lavender to blueberries, for instance, a pinch of smoked salt to the pomegranate, or a smidge of cardamom to rhubarb. Get creative and try several different combinations.
  • While the syrup is still warm, strain through a double layer of cheesecloth and portion out into pretty bottles. Add a label or use a fine tip paint marker to march which syrup is which, and you’re all set!

Give the Gift of Recipe Sharing

Do you have a treasure trove of special recipes you’d like to share with friends and family? Consider compiling them and publishing your own mini recipe book. There are a variety of ways to self-publish simply and inexpensively, but you can get started by checking out the possibilities at Create My Cookbook. A homemade cookbook is a gift that can be enjoyed all year long! You’ll also love having it handy as you do your own cooking.

If you don’t have enough for your own book, gather recipes from friends and family and create a collaborative book. Your gift recipients will be flattered they were included, making the gift that much more special.

Pass Along a Green Thumb

The summer growing season has passed, but many herbs thrive nicely throughout the winter months if kept in a sunny, indoor location. We do enjoy our sunshine spaces at Gramercy Row!

Start with a handful of small gravel in the bottom of a pretty pot, then fill it with well draining potting soil and fresh herbs. You should still be able to find fresh, potted herbs at your local garden center or grocery store.

Kick up the Flavor with Specialty Salts

It’s hard to think of salt as anything but salty, but it’s actually quite easy to transform plain old table salt into amazing flavor sensations. Start by picking your accent flavor or flavors. Some winners include: dried chilis, lemon, lime, orange, and garlic. The trick is to add the flavors in small, dry portions. For instance, if you’re using lemon, zest the peel and allow to dry completely in a 200 degree oven for a bit until the liquids have evaporated. Then simply mix the salt and flavorings by hand or on the pulse setting of your blender. Pour into a decorated, airtight jar, and you have the perfect culinary gift!

Get a Little Boozy with Bourbon Vanilla Extract

As with any good meal, we’ve saved the best for last! Forget buying the mundane, overpriced bottles of vanilla, and craft your own instead.

  • Start with a bottle of everyday bourbon (save the pricey stuff for sipping), and collect about 9 vanilla beans. Visit The Spice House for online ordering, or check out your local specialty grocery store.
  • Pour 3 cups of the bourbon into a jar with a tight fitting lid.
  • Slice the vanilla beans down the center. Scrape out the seeds and set them aside. Put split beans and seeds into the jar.
  • Store in a cool, dark space, and shake up every couple of days. It will be ready to go in 6 weeks, but the longer you can let it sit, the better—it will continue to age and become more flavorful as time goes on.
  • If you are portioning out for gifts, pour into bottles and divide the beans between them. Tie with a pretty ribbon, and maybe add a recipe card for your favorite cookies using the bourbon vanilla.

And there you have it! You’re all set for a season of easy gift giving and raking in the foodie accolades. Time to don that ugly sweater…and enjoy the holidays!