Put some homemade preserves into a basket, add a few other themed items that pair perfectly with the preserves, and you've got a terrific gourmet gift basket for Christmas or other celebrations.
If you're starting the preserved ingredients part of the gift basket from scratch, here are some quick, last minute food preservation gifts to make. Otherwise, just dip into the pantry of preserves you put up this past summer and your gifts will be ready to delight in no time.
Ready for Risotto
Start with a jar of dried mushrooms, add a package of arborio rice, a hunk of good parmesan cheese, and a risotto recipe. If you have some homegrown and home-dried herbs that go with the recipe (thyme would work), include some of those. Go one step further and add a bottle of dry, white wine to be used both in the risotto and sipped with it at dinner.
Start with a jar of preserved lemons. Add a recipe that uses them, along with a spice bag of the seasonings called for in the recipe. Include a jar of homemade or store bought olives (olives are a frequently included ingredient in Moroccan cuisine).
Start with a jar of marmalade: orange is traditional, but why not mix it up a bit with kumquat or grapefruit marmalades? Or one of each? Add a good looseleaf black tea, and maybe a tea strainer or even a teapot. If the gift will be delved into as soon as it is delivered, you might include an herb butter. A bag or jar of homemade scone mix would be perfect in this basket. Or make a batch of scones and include them with the marmalade and tea.
The Herbal Pantry
This gift basket idea is especially lovely if you grew and dried the herbs yourself. Start with a few jars or bags of simple, delicious herbal teas: mint and lemon verbena are two that almost everyone loves, but use what you've got. Add a seasoning blend or two such as herbes de provence. An herbal vinegar and/or herbal salt are wonderful to include here, along with a card of recipe/serving suggestions.
The Relish Tray
Jars of different pickles just need to be opened and put on a relish tray in order to become instant festive party hors d'oeuvres. Friends who host dinners and parties regularly will be especially appreciative of this gift. Choose pickles that are colorful such as Spicy Pickled Carrots, Fermented Cherries (awesome with a soft, gooey cheese), or Curried Cauliflower Pickle. To make this basket extra special, include an attractive relish tray or plate (I've found some beautiful antique ones in thrift shops).
Mulled Wine Kit
Put a bottle of full-bodied red wine, a small jar of mulling spices, an orange, and a recipe for mulled wine into a basket. While you're at it, include a jar of Mulled Wine Jelly, a blue or goat cheese, some dried fruit and nuts, and some good bread or crackers. All your gift recipients need is a fireplace to sit next to while they enjoy these winter treats.