As we all flip our calendars to the month of December, many may begin to feel anxious as they consider the prospect of holiday shopping. Between the expense, the long lines and traffic, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and dream of a not-so-distant past when gifts cost less and meant more.
Luckily for us, do-it-yourself trends are sweeping across the nation and there’s no shortage of ideas for thrifty home-made gifts.
About a dozen people gathered upstairs in the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library Tuesday, Dec.1 to learn how to make home-made edible gifts just in time for the holidays. Christina Davis, a self-proclaimed culinary and d.i.y. instructor, began the class by inviting all in attendance to get up out of their seats and gather around the table as she whipped up a few gifts.
Davis began by introducing spoon butter, a blend of bees wax and food grade mineral oil, used to condition wooden utensils. This was one of the exceptions to the night’s edible theme. Davis noted that the spoon butter will only absorb into utensils and cutting boards that have not been lacquered. “Use local bees wax!” Davis urged, naming Betterbee of Greenwich, NY as a great option. She encouraged her audience to take advantage of the versatility of mason jars. “They’re in vogue now,” she added. The jar of spoon butter she brought to show the class was years old. “It does not go bad,” she said. As the jar passed around the room, people took a whiff and dipped their hands in. Some even pleaded with Davis to begin marketing it as hand cream.
Next Davis dove into drunken martini olives. This simple recipe involved dumping a mostly drained can of California green olives in a mason jar with vermouth, rosemary sprigs and tri-color peppercorns. A few women in the class joked about drinking straight out of the jar.
The next project, making vanilla extract from vanilla beans and vodka, gave some members of the audience their first glimpse at an actual vanilla bean. Davis slit the vanilla bean open without cutting through it, then placed it in a mason jar of vodka. Bourbon or rum would work as well. Then, you simply wait two months. “It doesn’t feel like I thought it would,” said one woman as she held a long dark vanilla bean. Another was so enamored with the scent, she dabbed it on her neck as perfume.
Davis also discussed home-roasted coffee, homemade mustard, cinnamon pancake mix, finishing salts and preserved lemons. The lemons, a great hit, were fermented with salt, cardamom pods, bay leaves and lemon juice.
Davis wrapped up the night by thanking her class. “This is my favorite part of the whole month,” she said. “You are all absolutely dreamy.”