A gift in hand: Three simple savouries

One of the first lessons I remember is my mother's counsel, "Don't go to anyone's house with one arm as long as the other."

Because there are so many parties this time of year, here are three really easy, inexpensive and, best of all homemade treats to hand your host. Because December's a sugar blitz, a savoury treat seems especially clever.

Murph's Mustard
(Time required: 20 min.)

"Murph" was my Aunt Magdalene, an elegant but not overly domestic banker. She'd whip this up, put it in a cute pot, and enter in cloud of Chanel and swishing taffeta. 

1 4oz. can dry mustard (like Keen's)
1/3 cup and 3 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup water
2 eggs

Combine and cook in saucepan 10 min. while stirring, or in double boiler till slightly thickened. Yield: 1 pot. (What does she mean? Beats me; I'd estimate it makes about 1 1/2 cups of mustard, enough for a good-sized gift jar with a little left for you to enjoy how good it is.) Store refrigerated.

Also appealing is this Moutarde maison au miel de lavande (in French) from Alto Gusto.

Sweet Dill Pickles
(Time required: 10 min. and three days to marinade) 

These these start with good old garlic dills, you do just enough to them that they taste different. 

1/2 gallon whole garlic dills
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. mustard seed
1 tsp. garlic chips (or chopped garlic)

Mix everything together except the dill pickles. Drain the pickles, slice them into spears, put into that dill jar and layer with the sugar/herb mixture. Refrigerate and shake a couple times a day for three days. Pack in a glass jar.

Painted Potato Chips
Time required: 20-30 min.

Before Miss Vickie's offered every flavour known to humans and some not, my mother made her own flavoured chips to serve with cocktails. It's still a really cool thing to do—you get a chip that tastes like no commercial one.

Preheat your oven to 350F.

She'd just melt 2 tablespoons of butter, and mix in one teaspoon of B-V broth and sauce concentrate. (I don't see why you couldn't use jerk sauce, either, as long as it's not the thick, gloppy kind.) That mixture goes into a small shallow bowl.

Open a bag of good unflavoured commercial potato chips. Take out your pastry brush. Brush one side of each chip with the mixture, using a lightish hand, and place each painted chip on your cookie sheet so they don't touch, 'painted' side up. (Don't worry about covering the chip edge to edge, just give it a good lick.)

Pop into oven and roast, watching carefully so they don't burn. (You are just 'drying' the paint, the chips should not get dark.)

Let cool and pack in a tin to take to your friends. I said take your hands out of there right now!

For those with more time and the willingness to fry, impressively gourmie homemade chips with nori salt will stand out.  This is an intriguing homemade potato chip, though if you are getting out your mandoline and making them, any flavour—or none, just salted— will be leapt on. The recipe is from the renowned (now closed) Chicago restaurant, Butter.

PS. For sweet-lovers, that divine sweet and spiced nuts recipe is here. (It says 'walnuts' but you can use any nut or a combo.)

I re-post it every year; last year a reader told me she made it and then she and her husband stood in the kitchen and polished off the batch!


Susan B said…
I love the idea of making a homemade mustard! I wonder, have you tried adding some dried herbs to make different varieties like tarragon mustard? Would that work? I could imagine doing small "sets" of different flavor varieties too as gifts.
Duchesse said…
Pseu: Not yet, I always make it just as my aunt did. You could add tarragon;I'd use finely chopped fresh tarragon.
materfamilias said…
We have very few Christmas parties or dinners to attend this year, and I usually bring a small jar of my homemade blackberry jam, but that mustard would be a great contender! When the kids were small, we used to make a nut mix similar to your recipe -- it was a very popular gift, if it lasted long enough to give. . .
LPC said…
I had no idea mustard had eggs in it? I bet people are so happy to receive these!
Duchesse said…
materfamilias: I still make the simple gift items we made with the kids: pomander balls, easy refrigerator cookies, toffee apples; part of the pleasure is the memories summoned.

LPC: There are mustard recipes which contain no eggs; if interested, search "homemade vegan mustard" to find.

The simplest recipe I've found for parmesan shortbread is from Nigella (of all people).


Nothing but flour, parmesan (or a similar cheese), butter and an egg yolk. Thus easy to adapt to your tastes and those of your hosts or guests. Herbs, garlic or shallots, chillis ...

However, if you have as much hair as Nigella and I do, please cover it or at least tie it back while baking and cooking.

Duchesse said…
lagatta: Oh, I'm making this, thank you!
I love these little hostess gift recipes...one can never have enough!
I will be trying that mustard.
materfamilias said…
The pomander balls we used to make used limes as a base to pierce whole cloves into. A messy business, but the combination of those scents instantly conjures a layering of Christmases...

And we made lemon butter for the kids to give as gifts. . . back in the day when fat and sugar count weren't quite so much under the spotlight! ;-)
Francie Newcomb said…
Thanks for these recipes, Duchesse! I emailed the sweet and spicy nuts recipe to myself and my sisters. Mother used to make that mustard too and would give it away in baby food jars! It really is delicious. Thanks for the memory.
SewingLibrarian said…
I'm trying the mustard recipe ASAP. I have dry mustard on hand that I bought in a large quantity without a clear idea for its use. My husband and I will enjoy it, even if I can't wean the children away from French's. My mother used to make shortbread as teacher gifts when I was in school. Only three ingredients: butter, sugar, flour. We would pack the cookies in round Quaker Oats boxes that we kids decorated with construction paper. Those were simpler times. Nowadays, it's gift cards for teachers!
Duchesse said…
Sewing: I have posted before on my dislike of gift cards, though there are a few circumstances when they are about impossible to avoid. But generally, gift cards (merely proxies for cash) take the warmth and connection out of giving, reducing gratitude to a transaction.

When a young person makes something for someone, they learn far more than how to bake. Teachers accept that receiving a lot of mugs and hand lotion is an occupational hazard- but they are touched by the effort when someone makes them a homemade treat, edible or not. (We made sachet bags filled with potpourri. All of my teachers were nuns and they were permitted to accept these.)

Mmm, shortbread! I am making lagatta's link to Nigella's savoury version this weekend. What is the season without shortbread? In honour of Nigella I shall bake in a Brora sweater (with apron), apparently she is passionate about them too.

Speaking of giving, the McCord Museum is taking part in an initiative to knit 25000 tuques for Syrian refugees:



SewingLibrarian said…
Duchesse, your point about the care and thought behind a homemade treat was my mother's thought, also. She always said that as working women the teachers didn't have much time to bake and would appreciate good home baked cookies. Today it seems that every teacher is asked by the PTO or the room mother to provide a list of "wants and needs", or the room mother organizes a group gift that is inevitably a gift card or even cash. I've found this phenomenon to be the case in all three schools my children have attended. Sad, isn't it?
Duchesse said…
Sewing, I love your mother's sensitivity and also her insistence on a "good" cookie! Now of course the cookie might have to be free of this or that- nuts, flour, you name it. And who could not use a lavender sachet, pray tell?
SewingLibrarian said…
Yes, no gluten issues with lavender sachets!
diverchic said…
I love the image of your aunt in a 'cloud of Channel and swishing tafetta" carrying pots of mustard! That's aspirational for me.
I can just see the fitted-to-the-waist dress, with a wide, full, mid-calf skirt swishing and moving and shining. Such a great turn of phrase!

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