Preserving your Sanity with Homemade Gift Ideas

The race is on! If your schedule is anything like ours, you are running non-stop from now until New Year’s Day! While you are making plans for Thanksgiving, the last thing on your mind is your holiday gifts, right?

Think again. Now is the perfect time to be stocking up on holiday gifts – stocking your pantry that is. Last weekend we were very fortunate to attend a Holiday Preserving workshop taught by Lyn Deardorff of Preserving Now at the beautiful Bosch Experience Center in Serenbe. As a 40-year canner, she has revived the tradition of preserving while bringing in 21st century science to teach fun, easy and safe home canning.

We began the class by cutting pears to make a pear-cranberry butter. Once the fruit was in a pan cooking down, we started preparing a wine jelly. Yes, you read that correctly! Using a master recipe, we prepared a Rosemary Chardonnay jelly that is a marvelous accompaniment to sharp cheese and cured meats for that perfect holiday cheese board. The same master recipe can be used to make jellies from any wine varietal including Reisling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel.

Red Wine Jelly
3½ cups red wine of choice
¼ cup lemon Juice (fresh or bottled)
1 package powdered pectin
4 cups sugar
Herbs & spices such as rosemary, peppercorns and/or cloves (optional)

White Wine Jelly
3½ cups white wine of choice
½ cup lemon Juice (fresh or bottled)
1 package powdered pectin
4 cups sugar
Herbs & spices such as lavender, mint, and/or tarragon (optional)

Combine the wine, lemon juice and herbs and spices (if using) in a large saucepot and bring to a boil. Following package directions, stir in powdered pectin. Bring back to a boil, stirring frequently. Then add sugar, stirring constantly until completely dissolved. Return to a rolling boil and boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Be very careful at this stage as the boiling sugar can cause serious burns. The mixture may starts to boil over even with constant stirring, reduce heat or remove from the flame for a few seconds to reduce foaming. After a minute, remove from the heat, and strain (to remove spices) and ladle hot jelly into hot jars, leaving at least ¼- inch headspace. Process jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

The fruit butter was still cooking down while Lyn gave us a tutorial on making shrubs. Shrubs are a way of preserving fruit in a vinegar and sugar solution that can be used to make a sweet-tart refreshing drink. Dating back to colonial days, shrubs combine fruits will all sorts of herbs, spices, even veggies for thousands of varied drink combinations. More and more, we are seeing trendy shrubs used by mixologists to make fancy signature cocktails. Now you can too! Shrubs are SO easy to make: one part fruit, one part vinegar, and one part sugar. You could make plum/red wine/maple syrup, or maybe cranberry/cider vinegar/white sugar? Mixed with seltzer water, they make excellent unique non-alcoholic sodas for the kids too. We sampled some cherry/balsamic/brown sugar with bourbon and club soda (which could possibly be my new favorite drink for the holiday season) along with some of our Chardonnay jelly with goat cheese and a variety fruit butters prepared by Lyn.

After we finished putting our pear-cranberry butter in jars and set them in a water bath, Lyn showed us a variety of adorable and inexpensive ways to package our gifts for giving. Wrapping jars in burlap or cellophane bags with a decorative spoon, or a jar of jam with homemade shortbread cookies in a cute hatbox make unique homemade gifts for family, friends, office workers and teachers that are sure to please!

For more ideas for homemade canned items, please visit Lyn’s website. Preserving Now offers classes and workshops throughout the year in various locations around the North Georgia & Nashville areas. Everything needed including food, jars, equipment, and recipes, is always provided and the classes are completely hands-on.

While the class we experienced was complimentary, no additional remuneration was received. The opinions included herein are honest and unsolicited.