1.02.2012

Homemade Gifts: Cranberries and Lemons

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Many years ago, the husband and I had a great idea -- we'll make soap for Christmas gifts! We headed off to Michael's, bought a soap-making kit, brought it home and started to soap it up. Then, we had another brilliant idea -- let's add some texture and scents to our soaps. I'm not sure which one of us came up with that one, but I'm stepping back and pointing the finger at him. So, we added oatmeal and teas and herbs to our cute little soaps. They did turn out cute. We admired our work. The soap looked like soap! It smelled like soap. We were excited, big smiles and all.

And, since I'm a planner, we got this done way before Christmas. Go us! So we sat back and relaxed. We even tested out some of the soap, and it worked. It was soapy, it smelled okay, it was made with love. Then a week or so went by and it was time to package our creations. Hmmm, something was not right. The soap looked weird. We looked closer and sniffed. The soap was rotting. Our gifts of love were spoiled!  The brilliant second idea of adding "stuff" to the soap didn't play out so well. Apparently, and I haven't done any research (the traumatic experience has left me with no desire to investigate) so I'm just guessing here, but you can't just add oatmeal from your pantry, or tea from your tea collection to your soap. I'm sure you have to do something else to stabilize these ingredients. I'm sure of it, but you will have to confirm for yourself.

The point here is, after that attempt, and the disappointment that came with it, we haven't really "made" people Christmas gifts. That is until this year.  Note, I read about canning, and watched videos, so I can safely say, these gifts will NOT rot.

The inspiration here was a recipe I made for Thanksgiving -- a delicious and beautiful cranberry-hibiscus sauce, a recipe featured on Apartment Therapy. It was so easy to make, and we loved it so much (after a slight adjustment of adding more sugar), we decided to share it with the world; our little world of select coworkers, friends and family.

Also, because I had access to Meyer lemons, I decided to make several jars of preserved lemons, for those who appreciate cooking as much as I do.

Both of the projects went smoothly. Maybe it was because this time I took the solo approach. Although there was a lot of encouragement from the husband, just not actual help. When done, we both stepped back (I let him step back with me) and admired our work. I made little tags, packaged the goods, and we sent off these food gifts into the world. So far, I've only received compliments. Zero reports of rot = success!
I enjoy eating the sauce as a jam on toast, and also in my morning yogurt.
Cranberry-Hibiscus Sauce-Jam
Adapted from  http://munchinwithmunchkin.com 
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup red wine (stick with something fruity)
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 clove
1 Tbsp. dried hibiscus leaves
1 Tsp. orange zest
1 12 oz. package of fresh cranberries
cheesecloth
1) Bundle up the hibiscus and clove in the cheesecloth, and set aside.
2) In a medium saucepan combine orange juice, red wine, water and brown sugar. Bring to a boil and add hibiscus clove bundle to the liquid and boil for two minutes.3
) Stir orange zest into mixture and add cranberries. Bring mixture back to a boil.
4) Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes until the liquid reduces. Make sure not to overcook, you want some texture.
5) Can! If you don't want to can, you can refrigerate for a couple of weeks.

Preserved Lemons Featured Here

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