Pack a batch of cookbook author Paula Wolfert's prunes in Armagnac into a Mason jar. (Awesome over vanilla ice cream or crepes.) They'll be ready to eat in two weeks: You can include that on the "don't-open-until-Christmas" card.
Prunes soaked in sweetened and lightly-spiced Armagnac is just one way to get crafty this holiday season with homemade gifts from the kitchen. We've compiled 25 great ideas, ranging from quick and simple gifts (perfect if you're working with kids) to more intricate projects that call for a little extra time and patience.
Some gifts will last for weeks, perhaps more. Others are best eaten within a day or two.
Not only are homemade gifts a great way to save money during the holiday season, they're a thoughtful and creative way to show how much you care.
PRUNES IN ARMAGNAC
Total time: 30 minutes, plus 2 weeks soaking time / Makes 8 cups soaked prunes
Note: Adapted from "The Cooking of Southwest France" by Paula Wolfert. You will need a sterilized 1 1/2-quart, wide-mouth glass canning jar. Superfine sugar can be found in the baking section of many grocery stores; alternatively, place granulated sugar in the bowl of a food processor and blend until very fine. Armagnac, a type of French brandy, can be found in many liquor and grocery stores, including Trader Joe's.
3 1/2 cups water, divided
6 tea bags (camomile, linden or orange pekoe)
2 pounds extra-large prunes (dried plums), about 6 cups
1 cup superfine sugar
About 3 cups Armagnac
1. In a small saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil, add the tea bags and remove from the heat. Steep 5 minutes. Place the prunes in a medium heat-proof bowl and cover with the tea. Soak overnight at room temperature.
2. The next day, drain the prunes, discarding the tea. Roll the prunes in paper towels to dry well and place them in a sterilized 1 1/2 -quart, wide-mouth glass canning jar.
3. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar with one-half cup water. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
4. Pour the cooled syrup over the prunes. Completely cover the prunes with the Armagnac, then stir the mixture. If the prunes rise above the line of the liquid, add more Armagnac.
5. Let the prunes in Armagnac soak a minimum of 2 weeks in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator. The soaked prunes will keep for up to one year.
Each one-eighth cup: 66 calories; 0 protein; 11 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 0 fat; 0 cholesterol; 0 sodium.