Another holiday season come and gone. The tree is down, stockings and a variety of chachkies are safely tucked away to a worn banker box in a corner of attic storage until next year. Aaaahh, peace and fucking quiet. The silence is welcomed. This year was a bit stressful – more so than years past. Family was in town from Chicago for 10 days, there was a death in my boyfriends family that left us separated the whole holiday break, my two and three year old niece and nephew were sick, and for some inexplicable reason I decided to make all of my Christmas gifts just a month before the holiday…while on holiday for Thanksgiving in Quebec. Aside from the time crunch to get everything accomplished, winter never really arrived. We’ve had a week or two of cold temperatures, but all of December was very moderate with balmy temps in the 40s.
Homemade gifts – Worst and best idea ever. I always love the idea of homemade gifts. I love giving them and always love receiving a gift that’s homemade. However, four weeks is nowhere near enough time to complete this task. Somehow we pulled it off (somewhat).
The kiddos are easy – toys. I spent every weekend in December felting, a new hobby of mine. I made a variety of stuffed felt woodland animals for my neice and nephew. I had so much fun making these guys and they paired adorably with this darling book, The Secrets of Winter.
For the adults the theme was a kitchen/culinary themes crate. Each would include a hand carved wood spoon (another recent hobby), salted bourbon caramel, homemade caramel filled bonbons (bourbon caramel & tobacco caramel), hand dyed ombre kitchen towels, and optimistically thought I would be able to sew waxed canvas knife rolls and aprons. The aprons and rolls were not complete, but that’s what birthdays are for – right?
Salted Bourbon Caramel
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1 stick of butter
3/4 tsp salt flakes (we used Malden smoked salt flakes
1/2 cup Bulliet Bourbon
1. Slowly heat the cream in a saucepan and put aside.
2. In a different saucepan, add sugar on medium heat until it starts to melt around the rim. Gently stir with heatproof spoon until it’s completely melted.
3. Add butter, small cubes at a time and stir until melted. Slowly add the warmed cream and stir until smooth.
4. Let the caramel cool down a bit- 10 mins or so before adding salt and bourbon.
5. Pour caramel into jars. Use a funnel to make life easier.
**We also did a version of caramel where we steeped 1/4 oz.of pipe tobacco in the heavy cream before making the caramel for a tobacco infused caramel. This gives the caramel a peppery, sweet note. We used this caramel along with the bourbon caramel to make bonbons as well. The sauce is awesome on top of vanilla ice cream!
Moral of the story is, if you’re going to make shit by hand, make sure to have enough time allotted. Great news is I have a couple of months to refine my sewing capabilities in order to complete birthday gifts and perhaps get a head start on next year.
Words and Photos by Candice Alinovich