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Great Ideas for Homemade Holiday Gifts

December 17th, 2015
Center for Food Safety

The holiday season is upon us, and that means it’s time to start thinking about gifts. Homemade treats are a thoughtful gift for family, friends, and party hosts alike, and they’re especially great for anyone on a budget. We’ve put together a list of edible gifts that would make a great addition to any food lover’s pantry. All of these recipes are easily multiplied, making it possible to take care of all of your gifts in one cozy weekend afternoon.

Read on for simple, tasty treats that would make marvelous gifts for everyone on your list!

Make sure to use organic, non-GMO, and fair trade ingredients whenever possible.

Hot cocoa gift jar 

Hot Cocoa Mix

Hot chocolate is the perfect winter treat, and this homemade recipe is a delicious improvement over the instant cocoa packets of our youth.


3 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup Dutch Process cocoa powder
¾ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup powdered coconut milk, powdered milk, or malted milk powder
1 pinch salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Directions for mix

  1. Break the chocolate into large chunks and blend in a food processor until crumbly. If you don't have a food processor, finely grate the chocolate.
  2. Add the cocoa, sugar, powdered milk, salt, and cornstarch to the food processor. Blend until combined. Or, stir in the rest of the ingredients by hand.
  3. Scoop the mixture into a jar and screw on the lid.
  4. Attach a tag with directions for serving to the jar.

Directions for serving

  1. Combine 1 cup milk and 2 tablespoons hot cocoa mix in a small pot.
  2. Gently whisk over medium heat until steaming, then pour into a mug and serve.

 Preserved Lemons in Jar

Preserved Lemons

This culinary favorite can brighten up any dish. We’re partial to Meyer lemons, but any variety will work. The lemons are rinsed before they are added to stews, tagines, soups, and couscous dishes. Only the rind is used while the flesh gets discarded.


Organic lemons, washed
Kosher salt
Sterilized wide-mouth jar with a tight-fitting lid


  1. Cut the lemons (not quite all the way through) into quarters, keeping them attached at the stem.
  2. Working over a bowl, pack the inside of each lemon with kosher salt.
  3. Tightly pack the salt-filled lemons into the sterilized container.
  4. Pour more salt over the lemons as you fill the container.
  5. Cover the salt-packed lemons with freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  6. Store the jars in the refrigerator, turning occasionally for the first few weeks to moisten all the lemons with the brine. The lemons should eventually become submerged in this brine. If the brine doesn’t completely cover them after a month, use a metal spoon to press the lemons down. Ready to use after a month in the fridge.

Preserved lemons will last up to 1 year in the fridge.

 Loose tea gift

Tea Blend

Custom tea blends are a great way to give the tea drinkers in your life a unique present. Homemade blends are infinitely adaptable, so get creative with your choices. We’ve included basic guidelines, along with some suggestions to get you started.


Dried teas
Dried herbs

Here are a few of our favorite ideas:

  • For relaxation: equal parts holy basil, chamomile, lemon balm, and lavender
  • For an illness: equal parts peppermint, rosemary, thyme, and lemon verbena
  • Black tea blend: 1 cup black tea, 1 tablespoon dried orange peel, 1 tablespoon cinnamon bark
  • Green tea blend: 1 cup green tea, 1 tablespoon dried lemon peel, 1 tablespoon dried ginger
  • For the lemon lover: equal parts lemon balm, mint, and lemongrass
  • For a floral blend: equal parts rosehips, hibiscus flowers, and mint


  1. Choose your tea base. Black, green, white, or oolong teas are great starting points for a caffeinated blend. If you want a more relaxing tea, an all-herb blend is the way to go.
  2. Decide on your dried herbs. Look for these at your local farmer’s market, co-op, or health food store. You can even toast chicory or barley to give your tea some nuttiness.
  3. Mix your herbs with tea (if using) in a jar and you’re all set!

 Vanilla extract gift

Vanilla Extract

Homemade vanilla is a real delicacy for any home baker, and it’s quite simple to make. This recipe is best made in individual batches, as the hot alcohol is flammable and should be treated with caution.

1 vanilla bean
¾ cup vodka


  1. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Place in a 1-cup jar.
  2. Very carefully and slowly, heat the vodka in a medium or large saucepan—the fumes can catch fire, so make sure nothing flammable is nearby.
  3. Pour the hot vodka into the jar, using a funnel to reduce spillage. Cool to room temperature.
  4. Seal and store at room temperature for one week, shaking gently every day.
  5. Strain, if desired, and store in a cool, dark place. The extract will keep indefinitely.


Happy holidays from all of us here at Center for Food Safety!

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