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Candied Jalapeños from Food Gift Love

Can we be real for a minute? Can we all sit down and look at all the stuff that’s accumulating around us, especially before clicking that big yellow “Place Order” button on all those too-good-to-be-true Cyber Monday deals?

Can we come to terms with the fact that maybe we don’t need to stuff our stockings with more novelty socks or plastic tchotchkes this year?

And that we might all appreciate something a little more heartfelt—with the added bonus that we can consume it, appreciate it, and won’t need to dust it every few weeks?

blood orange sugar and orange fennel salt
Photo: Casey Barber

What I’m saying is that maybe we can all get behind making more homemade edible gifts for our loved ones, getting away from dutiful consumerism and moving towards touches that might be small but which are more meaningful.

And where to begin? I’m starting with Maggie Battista’s new book Food Gift Love: More than 100 Recipes to Make, Wrap, and Share.

Maggie, the charming founder of the charming food gift resource Eat Boutique, has compiled a (surprise!) equally charming and inspirational book full of homemade gift ideas for every single loved one and celebratory moment in life.

And before you say, “Oh, another jar of jam! You shouldn’t have!”, let me assure you: there is far more than just jam to be found inside Food Gift Love‘s pages.

Yes, you might be tempted to make a little pear pineapple ginger jam, if only as a gift to yourself, but you’ll find a delightful repository of edible options here.

Heading out to a party? Check the Fresh Gifts chapter for recipes that do double duty as party appetizers or potluck dinner contributions, like a fresh and lemony bean dip or sizzling cheesy mushrooms that no one has ever been able to resist.

Or maybe a tub of salty maple butter as a little something to leave in the refrigerator of your host as a lovely afterparty surprise.

There are gifts that take less time to make than running to the mall to find yet another candle or typing your credit card number into a little box online, like easy homemade BBQ rubs, infused simple syrups, and fragrant citrus and herb sugars and sea salt blends (pictured above) that you can customize any way you want.

Mix them up, jar them up, and include a tag with a few “how to use” suggestions—like stirring blood orange sugar into your evening tea or rubbing some orange-fennel salt over a pork roast before throwing it in the oven.

There are gifts that work just as well for cookie swaps or filling up the house treat tray for the holidays as they do in small bagged stacks for teachers, hairdressers, postal workers, and anyone who’s received one too many Starbucks gift cards as a holiday thank you: graham cracker toffee, molasses cookies, brown butter madeleines, or mini roasted banana breads.

chocolate dipped coffee spoons
Photo: Casey Barber

There are gifts that pair a piece of permanent elegance with the thrill of the ephemeral, like the idea to make adorable chocolate-dipped spoons as luxe coffee stirrers.

If you really want your gift recipient to have something to hold onto once the food gift has been consumed, why not tie a tiny fork onto a jar of minty pickles, or wrap a bottle of homemade orange cordial in a fun towel and pack it inside a pitcher for margaritas? (Or add another food gift to the package—see below for a special recipe!)

Beyond the recipes—each of which includes suggestions on how to wrap the food you’ve just made—Food Gift Love helpfully includes an entire chapter with a roster of essential gift wrapping supplies from butcher paper to hang tags to washi tape

There’s also recommendations for shipping all items (hi there, glass bottles filled with liqueur!); and even a step-by-step photo tutorial for making your own gift box for all those oddly shaped items that defy the selection of boxes at Staples.

margarita with candied jalapenos
Photo: Casey Barber

And speaking of things that are more than just jam, I bet you’ve never received a jar of candied jalapeños as a gift.

I certainly haven’t, and I’ve been the happy recipient of many a weirdly wonderful food gift in my lifetime. If you, like me, look forward to your annual treat of Southern red pepper jelly, these sweet and spicy rounds will be right up your alley.

A small jar of these is a truly unexpected treat—gift them solo or with a wheel of goat cheese for a nudge in the appetizer direction.

Candied jalapeños also make an excellent add-on to a bunch of other recipes in the Food Gift Love repertoire, giving you the opportunity to create a wonderfully generous gift collection.

margarita with candied jalapenos
Photo: Casey Barber

Paired with a bottle of good tequila or mezcal, orange sugar for rimming the glasses, homemade orange cordial, and a few fresh limes, you’ve got a party ready to go.

However you decide to present your food gift, it’s going to be received with lots of love for sure.

margarita with candied jalapenos, via www.www.goodfoodstories.com

Candied Jalapeños

Yield: 3 cups
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Candied jalapeños are an unexpected edible gift that's always appreciated. Use them in margaritas or as part of a cheese board!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound jalapeño peppers, washed and dried
  • 3 cups (21 ounces; 600 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 4-inch cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 star anise pod

Recommended Equipment:

  • kitchen scale
  • disposable rubber latex gloves
  • 3 sterilized half-pint mason jars or other heat-safe jars with airtight lids
  • wide-mouth funnel

Instructions

  1. To avoid burning your skin or eyes, wear rubber gloves when working with jalapeños or any hot peppers.
  2. Slice the stem end off each jalapeño and remove the seeds, if desired. (If you love heat, then leave them in!) Slice the jalapeños into 1/4-inch rounds. Set aside.
  3. Stir the sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, cloves, and star anise together in a medium pot over medium-high heat.
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 more minutes.
  5. Add the jalapeños and simmer for 3-4 minutes, watching very closely. When the first jalapeño begins to lose its bright green color, remove all of them from the pot quickly with a slotted spoon, tongs, or metal spider, and place them in a bowl.
  6. Remove the cinnamon stick from the syrup and discard, but leave the rest of the spices.
  7. Return the syrup to a boil over medium-low heat and cook 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally to help the foam subside. Remove from the heat.
  8. Divide the jalapeños evenly between 3 sterilized half-pint mason jars or other heat-safe jars with airtight lids.
  9. Strain the hot syrup if desired or leave the remaining spices and errant seeds in the syrup, then ladle through a funnel into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace.
  10. Tap the jars a few times to loosen any air bubbles. Wipe the rims and seal carefully—the jars will be hot.
  11. If you're not water bath canning the jars, allow them to cool completely on a rack, then store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
  12. If you're canning the jars, process the jars (use this excellent Food in Jars tutorial if it's your first time water bath canning) and store in a dark, cool place for up to 1 year.

Notes

reprinted with permission from Food Gift Love: More than 100 Recipes to Make, Wrap, and Share by Maggie Battista

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 10Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 0g

The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.

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