Yep, yep, yep… Christmas time is nearly here, if you can believe it! If you are like me, life often gets in the way and you find yourself scrambling to check everyone off your list at the last minute. Though I’ve been woefully neglectful of Sustainable Kentucky lately, I thought I’d offer you some super quick gift ideas that might save the day if you are a little frazzled. Make ’em, buy ’em, gift ’em… there’s something for everyone on the list.
1.) Seasoned Salts. So easy it may be bordering on lazy…. I use kosher salt and mix with dried herbs, garlic, tomatoes, etc. from my garden. I wish there was a fancy recipe here, but I usually just eyeball it. I like to use the resulting product on pizzas, pasta, etc. You can experiment with the mixes that work best for you. I like to use lovely jars that I pick up throughout the year at Hobby Lobby as they go on sale, usually at 50% off. This makes it seems more like a festive gift and less like you were frantically mixing herbs into salt at 1 am in the morning to get all your gifts done… (Hint: if you didn’t dry herbs or garlic this year, you can actually chop up all the fresh ingredients, toss generously with the salt and leave out to dry on the counter for a day or two before bottling.)
2.) Sweetgrass Granola Holiday Bundle: All three flavors of Sweetgrass Granola, a fresh roast of Magic Beans Coffee, and an 8 oz decorative sorghum syrup jug makes a great gift for the Kentuckian or breakfast lover. Comes in a decorative craft paper bag. Ships FREE anywhere in the continental United States. The catch is you’ve gotta order NOW to get it in time for Christmas as it ships on December 19th! Our friends Jacob & Carolyn lovingly make every bite of your granola by hand and are lovingly handpackaging these gift bags, too.
3.) Bringing Wine Home, Books One & Two by Jesse Frost: a memoir about farming, love, and natural wine making by half of the duo at Rough Draft Farmstead. Perfect for anyone who wants to get back to the land, live off grid, or make their own wine…. or just enjoys a really good read by a great Kentuckian.
4.) Recipe Cards. If you have a flair for graphic design or maybe even just brilliant handwriting, why not put together some small bundles of your favorite recipes to give out as hostess gifts? This gift is good because it is easily reproducible and you can put it with a dish towel or jar of jam for a lovely and simple gift.
5.) The Kentucky BBQ Book: Wes Berry has traveled the state in search of the best barbecue. Perfect for the meat lover in your life, especially when paired with a gift certificate to a favorite or off-the-beaten path BBQ joint.
6.) Community Farm Alliance Membership. This is the gift that keeps on giving all year long! CFA is THE group to be a member of if you are a farmer or eat food grown on farms in Kentucky. I’ve written about Community Farm Alliance’s important work in the past, so read up and give the gift of agriculture.
7.) Homemade Mustard. I usually gift gifts of homemade fruit preserves this time of year in gift baskets, but it is nice to round out the sweetness with something savory. Homemade mustard is super fast and easy. I have been experimenting with recipes for a few years now and have come up with one that is easily adaptable to whatever your mood is and whatever is in your pantry.
1 1/2 cups alcohol (local wine, Kentucky bourbon, maybe some West Sixth IPA?—if you use Bourbon, you might want to 1/2 cup of water instead of all bourbon)
1/2 cup vinegar (white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, etc…)
1 1/4 cup mustard seeds (brown, yellow, or a mix)
1/4-1/2 cup of something sweet (honey? brown sugar? sorghum? mix and match?)
1 tsp salt
optional: dash of hot sauce (we heart Sadistic Mistress here), fresh chopped herbs, etc.
Most recipes call for blending the ingredients in a food processor after you’ve made the mustard. My food processor is not the best, resulting in a very whole grain mustard that is a little weird texturally. This year, I’ve learned the magic trick, which is to grind all the mustard while it is still dry, using a mortar and pestle. (Great tasks for the kiddos who have so much extra energy this time of year.) Soak the ground mustard in the alcohol a few hours or overnight. Then combine with remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir constantly until the mustard reaches the desired thickness. Ladle into jars (this recipe makes about 4 8 0z. jars) and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. This makes a great gift paired with yummy soft pretzels or my favorite homemade cracker recipe.
8.) Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste by Bill Best: Bill Best is the king of seed saving in Kentucky, and this book will reveal to you why. “Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste will introduce readers to the cultural traditions associated with seed saving, as well as the remarkable people who have used grafting practices and hand-by-hand trading to keep alive varieties that would otherwise have been lost. As local efforts to preserve heirloom seeds have become part of a growing national food movement, Appalachian seed savers play a crucial role in providing alternatives to large-scale agriculture and corporate food culture. Part flavor guide, part people’s history, Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste will introduce you to a world you’ve never known — or perhaps remind you of one you remember well from your childhood.” Good for the farmer, seed hound, or Appalachian-history lover in your life.
9.) Bourbon Barrell Foods Soy Sauce. Why, yes, as a matter of fact… that is a $32 bottle of soy sauce on the list. But it is microbrewed, made in Kentucky, non-GMO, and completely incomparable to anything you’ll buy in the grocery store. Perfect for the person in your life who is obsessed with the quality of the ingredients in their food… and they have smaller, more affordable bottles that would make great stocking stuffers.
10.) A CSA membership. You can find CSAs near you or your gift recipient on Local Harvest. While it may seem expensive (memberships can run hundreds of dollars), what better gift can you give than healthy food for the entire summer? Some CSAs offer smaller shares, too or even egg-only shares that would be very affordable. (If you aren’t familiar with the CSA concept, local farms sell shares at the beginning of the season then give part of the farm’s harvest to you each week during the growing season.) This might be a great gift for a needy family in your life or anyone who loves to cook and eat well.
11.) Basically anything from Kentucky for Kentucky. While it might not be food-related, the cool folks who brought us the Kentucky Kicks Ass campaign have a ton of gifts for the person in your life who loves Kentucky and would be proud to show it by wearing something other than a Wildcats sweatshirt.
12.) A Gift Certificate to The Bluebird. The Bluebird in Stanford is a great farm-to-table restaurant that a lot of folks still haven’t been to because it isn’t in a major city. Give the gift of a delicious local lunch, or even better, take a friend or loved one there to share in their company, too. While you are that way, visit Kentucky Soaps & Such (next door) and Marksbury Farm Market (a hop, skip, and a jump down the road in Lancaster).
Christmas and all the consumerist behavior that comes with it can be discouraging… but it can also be a great time to support local producers and businesses and stimulate our economy. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone here at Sustainable Kentucky.
Oh… if you are still out of ideas… you can always get a Sustainable Kentucky t-shirt or tote bag… if you order today it could still make it in time for Christmas!