In honor of the upcoming solstice, I thought I’d compose a local gift guide. They’re divided in two parts, in-town, and out-of-town. Just in time for your Saturday Durham Farmers’ Market (though they are also holding a special winter market this coming Wednesday, December 22 from 2-5 pm).
If your giftee is in town:
A gift certificate to a favorite restaurant, bakery, coffee shop, popsicle store is always appreciated. Or even better, a gift certificate to a place they’ve always wanted to try. (In my case, I try to preach the gospel of Toast– which in my humble opinion is the warmest place in the winter.)
Make your own homemade mustard made with local beer (Fullsteam, Triangle Brewing, Big Boss, Lone Rider, or Carolina Brewery). You do not even have to can the mustard if you’re going to be in town- just advise the giftee to put in refrigerator for however long (the mustard gets stronger over time, if it lasts that long!). If you want to get really fancy, you could make a basket with Guglhupf’s bread (Volkhorn is a favorite) and local cheeses (available at most Triangle farmers’ market, Weaver St. Market, and Whole Foods – may I suggest Chapel Hill Creamery Thunder Mountain Swiss? There’s always Celebrity Dairy, Goat Lady Dairy, Hillsborough Cheese Company, and Elodie Farms.)
Wine is always a good gift. 3 Cups and Wine Authorities are good sources, and again, you could be fancy and give a “local” wine-and-cheese set. At the farmers’ market, Benjamin Vineyards also produces local muscadine wine and other varities.
Local pickles are good too. If you haven’t made your own, you can get them from Bonlee Farm, Farmer’s Daughter or Blessed Earth Farm (the last two are at Carrboro Farmers’ Market). If you do make your own, remember that pickles don’t have to be canned, just ‘set’ overnight, so just tell your giftee to refrigerate them. They will go quickly, and they’re a very healthy option during the sea of cookies. Did I mention they go well with cheese too? If you are wondering what winter produce can be pickled, just google the specific produce and pickle recipes and you’ll be surprised by how many different recipes there are. In particular, Marisa at Food in Jars has a good daikon-and-carrot pickle recipe. If I can find any cauliflower and carrots, I’d love to make an Italian antipasto-style pickle.
For those who like sweets, Guglhupf’s stollen is an excellent choice. It’s the best stollen I’ve ever had, and it’s moist, flavorful, and will change your mind about any past awful stollens you’ve ever had. Also, the bakery smells so wonderful and looks so festive this time of year. You could pair this with a bag of Joe Van Gogh coffee beans (mocha java is a favorite, but you could be fancy and go for kona or tazanian peaberry).
Another sweet option: make your own pancake mix! I discovered this by accident, when I tried out Lex Alexander’s recipe for Wilson Street pancakes and found that four of the major ingredients are local! If you go to Brinkley Farms at Durham Farmers’ Market and get their cornmeal and whole wheat flour, you can make this following recipe (will feed 4-6 folks):
Mostly-Brinkley-Farm Pancakes (adapted from Lex Alexander’s Wilson Street Pancakes)
1 cup Brinkley Farm whole wheat flour
1/2 cup Brinkley Farm cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour (King Arthur’s is good)
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tb local honey or sugar
2 cups buttermilk (Maple View Dairy is good; can also use regular milk)
1/4 cup oil
For gift-giving, just put the dry ingredients in a jar and give the giftee this recipe, along with a small jar of local honey. This might be good for folks who have their own chickens (and therefore, have access to very local eggs).
- Sift/mix the dry ingredients into a large bowl (including sugar if you are using it).
- Separate eggs. Add buttermilk and oil to the yolks, as well as honey if you are using it. Mix well.
- Beat egg whites until stiff.
- Slowly add wet ingredients to dry and mix. Fold in the egg whites. Do not worry if the mix looks a little runny. Let rest about 10 minutes (uhm, I waited 2 minutes and they were still good). Heat up your favorite cast iron skillet or griddle (anything else is just heresy. just sayin’.)
- Add a pat of butter in the hot skillet, let melt, and pour. Flip when bubbles appear on the surface. It may take 1-2 pancakes to get this right, so don’t worry if your first two look messy- if you eat them fast enough – claim a taste test- no one will notice 🙂 If you are making a stack, put the pancakes on an oven proof plate or pan and put in a warm oven (250-300F will do).
- Serve with maple syrup, a side of pecans or walnuts, orange slices, whatever fruit you have in end. Pronounce that your day is going to be good.
It really is an excellent pancake recipe. And it’s sort of healthy but tastes like pure indulgence, especially if you get the maple syrup from 3 Cups.
Finally, that always elusive gift for the person who has everything: a gift certificate to Kitchenworks or Southern Season will do. If that doesn’t help, give them the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog and a gift certificate. It’s the gift that keeps giving- growing your own food, canning/preserving it, and then giving it as gifts for the next solstice season. 🙂 Any canning book by Linda Ziedrich is good, though for a Southern flavor, I like Putting Up by Stephen Palmer Downdey.
I’m not much for classes, but if it is your giftee’s thing to learn something new in the new year, there’s always cooking classes at Southern Season (sometimes with renowed chefs), wine classes at Wine Authorities, and gardening workshops at Frog Pond Farm or Bountiful Backyards or from a local gardening guru, Frank Hyman. Even if there aren’t classes on offer right now, you can always contact them about a customizable program to be held later in the new year.
If your giftee is out of town and you want to send a taste of the South:
Go to Durham Farmers’ Market. There is actually a lot of non-perishables you can mail:
Guglhupf stollen can be mailed- it keeps for a while.
Likewise, Joe Van Gogh can mail their coffee beans. Add a Durham Bull mug for a nice touch.
Go to the Regulator Bookshop and mail either Southern Pies by Nancie McDermott or Southern Foodways Alliance Cookbook. Add a lovely apron or tea towels from any of the local gift shops, namely (Ox and Rabbit, Parker and Otis). It is also worth noting that Parker and Otis has an excellent cookbook collection.
- dried fruits from Angels’ Nest Bakery (their Jupiter raisins are divine)
- local honey
- good cornmeal for cornbread and grits (Brinkley Farm)
- canned goods (Bonlee Farm)
- dried peppers and tomatoes (Wild Scallions Farm)
- dried spices, particularly paprika (CatBriar Farm)
- Dolly Mama chocolates (Dolly Mama Chocolates)
Whew! Hope you all have fun shopping, gifting, and cooking!