One surefire way to reclaim the true spirit of the holidays is by getting your craft on with some homemade gifts. These six spice mixtures are easy to prepare and don’t require any special preserving knowledge. Make all six in a day, package them the next, and over the course of a weekend you’ll create a cache of long-lasting and affordable gifts. All you'll need is an assortment of spice and/or jelly jars with labels, some ribbon and an electric spice grinder.
Zesty Seasoned Salt: Sprinkle on sandwiches, burgers, oven fries, avocado, cottage cheese, fish, chicken—just about anything. Toast 2/3 cup coriander seeds, 1/2 cup dill seed, 2 tablespoons black peppercorns, 2 tablespoons allspice berries and 2 teaspoons chili flakes in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and lightly smoking. Cool, and add 1 cup coarse sea salt, 2/3 cup dehydrated minced garlic and 2 tablespoons cornstarch (to prevent caking). Grind to a fine powder. (Fills 6-8 [3-ounce] spice jars.)
Fennel Grill Rub: Great with salmon, pork, poultry, sausages and shellfish. Toast 3/4 cup fennel seed, 3/4 cup coriander seed and 1/3 cup rainbow peppercorn blend until fragrant and lightly smoking. Cool, and add 1/3 cup fine sea salt, 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, 3 tablespoons onion powder, 3 tablespoons dehydrated minced garlic, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons sweet paprika and 3/4 teaspoon cayenne. (Fills 6 [3-ounce] spice jars.)
Roasted Chile Taco Seasoning: Avoid a house full of peppery fumes by toasting dried chiles on a low grill, using tongs to turn frequently until fragrant and lightly browned in spots. (Use 4 ounces dried ancho chiles, 1 ounce dried chipotles (1/2 ounce for milder version) and 1 ounce dried New Mexico chiles.) Cool, and remove the stems and seeds. Tear into small pieces. Toast 1/3 cup coriander seed, 1/4 cup cumin seed, and 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces. Cool, and add 2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano, 1/4 cup dehydrated minced garlic, 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon fine sea salt. Grind to a fine powder. (Fills 6 [4-ounce] jelly jars.)
Garam Masala: This pungent spice blend is used in Indian dishes like Cheryl's Chicken Biryani. Toast 1 cup cumin seed, 1 cup coriander seed, 1/2 cup whole cloves, 1/2 cup black peppercorns, 2 tablespoons fennel seed and 8 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks broken into pieces until fragrant and lightly smoking. Cool, and add 2 tablespoons ground nutmeg and 2 tablespoons ground cardamom. Grind to a fine powder. (Fills approximately 6 [3-ounce] spice jars.)
Vanilla Bean Sugar: This easy indulgence is great in baked goods or a cup of joe. Scrape the seeds from 4 vanilla pods into 4 pounds of superfine sugar. Stir with a whisk until the clumps of beans are dispersed. Bury the pods in the sugar, cover tightly, and let sit 2 weeks. Sift through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any clumps or bits of pod. (Fills 10 [12-ounce] jars.)
Chai-Spiced Cocoa: Combine 4 cups powdered sugar, 2 cups cocoa powder, 2 cups powdered milk, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon each ground cardamom, cinnamon, clove and ginger. Stir with a whisk until powders are blended. Sift through a fine-mesh strainer, working lumps through with back of spoon if necessary. To drink, combine 1 cup hot milk with ¼ cup mix. (Fills 6 [12-ounce] jars.)
Bonus gift idea!
Check out my recipe for crunchy and colorful Dark Molasses Cranberry Granola. It’s easy to make and will be an especially welcome gift on a busy Christmas morning!