Friday, November 26, 2010

12 Edible Gifts for the Festival Season

The Twelve Days of Christmas

The following recipes are dedicated to the twelve days of Christmas. In many cultures around the world, gift giving is offered not on Christmas eve or day but in the period following December 25 throughout the following twelve days. The last night of the Christmas season is January 5, the day before Epiphany and named 'twelfth night' and if you haven't sufficiently feasted throughout the season, this is the last night of revery.

In the 16th century England, when Catholicism was an outlawed practice, and any scripture study would be a cause for capital punishment by hanging or worse being drawn and quartered, youngsters would learn and memorize their catechism by using the traditional song of the 'Twelve Days of Christmas' where the 'one true love' was the symbol Christ himself and each of the stanzas symbolizing another aspect of The Faith that they held so dear. There are also schools of thought that dispute the theory of a connection with the catholic catechism but its likelihood is greater than the evidence to dispute it inother words it rings truer than believing it to be a collection of nonsensical rhymes.

There are so many reasons why edible gifts are enjoyable to prepare, give and receive. In a season surrounded by rampant commercial bombardment in department stores and frantic shopping, it is pleasant to prepare gifts that are unique, handmade, fresh and free of unnecessary additives. Many of the ingredients are still local, saved from the fall season harvest but infused with aromatic spices that would have been costly and exotic in previous centuries, namely cinnamon, whole allspice berries and whole cloves. This season would not bring the same nostaligia were it not for the tangy aromas of lemon and orange that infuse this seasonal recipes.

This collection of twelve gifts offered in this book can inspire you to develop your own. Every year your friends and family will look forward to these preparations and encourage them to take part as Christmas culinary events. Package them in delightful ways and offer them throughout the festive season as hostess gifts, in your own home during gatherings and even as gifts under the tree.

The First Day of Christmas: Spicy Candied Walnuts

If you want a lively 'amuse-gueule' as the French would say (tasty something to munch on) during the festive yuletide season, try these candied walnuts that at once have a sweet, salty and spicy zing.

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup butter

2 tbsp corn syrup

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp baking soda

3 cups walnut halves

Combine sugar, butter and corn syrup in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolve. Stir in spices, salt and baking soda. Pour the hot liquid over the walnuts and mix with a large ladle until the walnuts are thoroughly coated and the mixture becomes a luscious sticky cluster. Place the walnuts onto a greased cookie sheets and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. After baking, cool and remove from the cookie sheet. Store in a tightly covered container and try to keep a lid on it.

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