I know that I am truly an adult because I value homemade gifts more than store bought ones. As a child I never grasped why my relatives wanted something handmade rather than some brightly packaged store bought ‘thing.’ I get it now and in getting it, I am rushing to put the final touches on my handmade Christmas gifts. And yes, they are all food related.
After gorging myself on peaches this summer (a true advantage of living in this part of the country!), I started to can. I canned and canned and canned-peach salsa, ginger and vanilla peaches, Muscat soaked peaches and peach butter. Not sure if the local friends will appreciate them as much as my out of state recipients but the bottles sit on my pantry shelves like chunks of shiny amber. They will remind me of hot heavy summer days as I sit and munch on Muscat peaches over ice cream in front of the fire in the middle of January.
For local friends and neighbors, I have started to bake cookies. After years of making hundreds of dozens of Christmas cookies in the culinary industry, I enjoy making a much more reasonable amount, packaging them and leaving them on doorsteps and in mailboxes.
Food gifts are truly the gifts that keep on giving. They are something that your friends and family will remember each time they open the bottle, jar or box. If you want to get in on this, I recommend making and packaging chocolate ganache.
Chocolate ganache is simply chocolate and heavy cream. It is delicious to eat and equally delicious to look at. It looks decadent; it looks amazing; it looks impressive . . . all necessary traits, I believe, for a memorable Christmas gift. And what really makes ganache great is its versatility. It can be used as a sauce, as a glaze for a cake, chilled and beaten for a cake filling or chilled, scooped, rolled and covered in chocolate for that most marvelous of chocolate creations: the chocolate truffle.Chocolate Ganache 1 pound dark couverture chocolate* 1 cup heavy cream Place chopped chocolate in a heat safe bowl. Bring heavy cream to a boil. Pour cream over the chocolate, making sure that it covers the chocolate completely. Let it sit for a few minutes and then gradually stir the mixture with a whisk. Continue to gently stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Liquors and extracts can be added as desired. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to use. For sauce: gently heat the ganache in a double boiler or with short bursts of heat in the microwave. For truffles: simply chill until the mixture is the consistency of peanut butter and roll into balls. Chill and then dip into more melted couverture chocolate. *A note about couverture chocolate: It is a high quality chocolate with a large percentage of coca butter. It is the cocoa butter that gives chocolate its wonderful smooth mouth feel. This is not the time to pinch pennies. And no offense to Mr. Hershey, but his chocolate will not work here. Ganache is a celebration of luxurious, deep, rich chocolate. It cannot be made with a cheap, waxy chocolate (I am sure there is a law about this somewhere-probably in France). How to tell a couverture chocolate? Look for one that lists a percentage. Anything above 50% will work well in this recipe.
The time you take in making a food gift or two (or ten) will be appreciated by all those lucky enough to be on your Christmas list. In truth, you do not have to be an adult to know that a homemade gift is the best of all; it is the gift of time, thought, labor and love.