Every year, during the holidays, Americans flock to the malls and online shopping spots to find the perfect gift.
But there are those who say making Christmas presents does more than save money, it gives a gift from the heart, as well.
According to the National Retail Federation, this year Americans are expected to spend between 3.8 and 4.2 percent more than last year on Christmas.
The federation, the world’s largest retail association, estimates that U.S. consumers will spend between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion on Christmas, not including automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. Holiday sales have risen on average 3.7 percent each year for the last 5 years.
“The U.S. economy is continuing to grow and consumer spending is still the primary engine behind that growth,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said during the its national holiday forecast call in October. “Nonetheless, there has clearly been a slowdown brought on by considerable uncertainty around issues including trade, interest rates, global risk factors and political rhetoric. Consumers are in good financial shape and retailers expect a strong holiday season. However, confidence could be eroded by continued deterioration of these and other variables.”
But for those looking to avoid the peer pressure to buy something for everyone in your extended family, including your second cousin’s third wife’s father, there’s an alternative. To save money, you can always make something.
Whether it’s making your own coffee liqueur from an awesome recipe in Southern Living, or making your own raspberry salsa from a family cookbook, making Christmas presents is a great way to save money on gifts. If you estimate that you have 12 people you have to buy for, grabbing a dozen bottles at the Dollar Tree, filling them with coffee and alcohol and letting the mixture sit for a while, and you’ve made a dozen gifts for about $10 each.
Abbie Rogers, with Dandelion Ridge Farm, sells homemade treats at the Franklin County Farmers Market. From green tomato pickles to tomatillo salsa to chow chow, Rogers cans vegetables from her Woodford County garden. Homemade specialty items, she says, bring something special to the table for Christmas.
For her, canning what comes out of the garden is a way of life. But being able to have those treats adds something special to a meal.
“It’s fun to have some of the summertime stuff in winter,” she said of canning things like tomatoes. “We still can tomatoes. Being able to pull out that special jar of summer tomatoes is like a special treat and like that little snatch of summer.”
Little treats like that make for a special Christmas treat as well, she said.
“It’s something that is one of a kind, that they’re not going to get from a store,” she said. “But also, it’s something that says, ‘This is all me!’ It tastes better. I think when you can, even if you’re buying the produce from the farmers’ market, there’s still that effort that you put into it. For me, I’ve always loved making gifts. It’s more than ‘Alright, what gift card can I get this for this person.’ It’s a whole different thing — I was in my kitchen chopping things up and making something for you.”
For those just starting out, simple recipes like a jar of fruit preserves or apple butter.
“As far as gift giving, apple butter is a good gift,” she said. “It’s something that is easy to make. And apples are seasonal so they’re easy to come by at that time of the year too.”
Rogers recommends that if this is your first year making Christmas presents to start off with something easy, like an apple butter or a salsa. Those require less cooking skills and can be made in a day or so.
“Maybe they could start with something like that and move on to something more challenging the next year,” she said.
Rogers recommends making sure that you have all of your ingredients on hand before you start, chopped and measured, before you start cooking.
Ball Canning jars recommends on its “Canning 101” that anyone starting to can first work on sterilizing their canning jars using the law temperature method. Basically, after boiling water and inserting the jars into the hot water, you’ve sterilized the jars in preparation for filling them with your goodies.
And, once you get good at it, you can always work on your own recipes, Rogers said. Or, as in the case of the chow chow she sells at the market, you can use an old family recipe — that can bring back memories and connect one to their family a bit more.
“It means a lot more when you make it yourself,” she said. “It’s more personable. “
For more recipes from Ball Canning, check out their web site at: https://www.freshpreserving.com/canning-101-getting-started.html
And, if you want to give homemade gifts, while not dirtying up your kitchen, check out Dandelion Ridge goodies at the Franklin County Farmers Market on select Saturdays through April, and Saturday May through November from 8 a.m.-noon. The farmers market is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 a.m. – 12 p.m. May through September as well.
Recipe: Ginger Apple Marmalade, courtesy Abbie Rogers of Dandelion Ridge Farm (dandelionridgefarmky.com)
Made with apple cider and fresh pink baby ginger, this intensely warming spread brings both sugar and spice to everything from toast for breakfast to jam drop cookies for dessert! This perfect seasonal treat turns any bread into gingerbread! You can also use it to make a flavorful glaze for savory dishes. Recipe yields five half-pint jars.
- 1 pound fresh baby ginger (can substitute mature fresh ginger, peeled, although you may get some fibers)
- 1 quart apple cider or apple juice
- 4 ½ cups white sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 box pectin (1.75 ounces)
1. Place a small plate in the freeze You will use it later on to test if the marmalade is properly gelled.
2. Shred the ginger using a food processor’s shredding blade or a box grater.
3. Place apple cider and shredded ginger in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for an hour or until ginger is tender.
4. While ginger is cooking, sterilize 5 half pint canning jars and two-piece lids in boiling water.
5. Whisk in sugar and pectin and return to a boil. Boil hard for a minute or so, stirring constantly.
6. Remove from heat.
7. Put a small spoonful of marmalade on your frozen plate and place in the refrigerator for a few minutes. Once it has completely cooled, use a spoon or your finger to push the edge of the dollop of marmalade. It should be gelled enough that the spoon pushes the marmalade rather than running right through it.
8. Ladle hot marmalade into hot half-pint jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace.
9. Remove any air bubbles by running a knife around the edge of the jars. Wipe jar rims with a moist towel. Apply lids and screw rings on fingertip-tight.
10. Process half-pint jars 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. If you are new to canning, find detailed instructions on the water bath canning process at the Nation Center for Home Food Preservation (nchfp.uga.edu) or any number of books on the subject.
11. Remove jars from canner and place on a cooling rack. Allow to cool for 12 hours, then check jar seals.
12. Label and store in your pantry or give as holiday gifts!