by Yvonne Stenlake

Home Made Gifts for the Festive Season

A myriad of wonderful containers are available in Japan at the small local shops, and a great selection at department stores. Pottery and glassware, bamboo, wood, ceramic, plastic and metal. Good enough reason to utilize these pretty containers, for gift giving at Christmas time, Easter, Thanksgiving, birthdays, an­niversary celebrations and many other occasions. Presents from the kitchen that you have cooked your­self, wrapped and beribboned, with your own per­sonal message is such a thoughtful gift.

Obento boxes, filled with home-made cookies, pretty plastic canisters or those ever-so-useful mortar and pestle, filled with sweets, or bouquet garnis (very simple to make if you can find some muslin or cheese cloth, cut a circle, place a bay leaf in each one, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, marjoram and/or basil, and dried parsley; gather the cloth around the herbs to form a little bag, and tie tightly with string leaving long ends to the strings, stored in a container near the stove, they are ever ready to pop into casseroles and stews). Glass containers with lids, for vanilla sugar, stoneware pots for pate, bamboo baskets for cakes and biscuits, or his favorite cheese and bottle of wine.

Home-made jams, chutneys, pickles, preserves, bran-died fruits, etc., offered in interesting jars with your own hand painted labels, makes a nice gift. Search the bargain tables, and collect any lower priced flans, moulds, cake tins or mugs, you can fill for those special friends.

Spiced Mikan

Select 12 small mikan, or enough to fill your selected jar.
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 1/4 cups white wine vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
10 cloves
400 grams light brown sugar
12 allspice berries
3 cm square fresh ginger root

Wash the mikan and pierce a few holes with a skewer, place in a large pan and cover with water, add soda and boil for 12 minutes. Tie all the spices in a piece of cheesecloth to form a bag, add the spices and vinegar to the pan, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the spice bag and lower heat. Pour in the brown sugar, stir and bring to the boil, simmer a further 20 minutes covered. Remove the fruit with a slotted spoon and place carefully in a sterilized jar. Continue simmering the liquid a furthur 10 minutes, cool slightly and then pour over the fruit and seal the jar. Store in a cool place. Will keep several months provided fruit is covered with liquid. Serve with pork, veal, turkey, chicken or duck.

Dried Apricot Jam

450 grams dried apricots
1 kilo sugar
6 cups water
Juice of 1 lemon
80 grams sliced, blanched almonds

Soak the apricots in the water for 24 hours. Place fruit and water in a heavy pan and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add lemon juice, sugar and almonds and stir over a low heat until sugar has dissolved. Boil the mixture rapidly until setting point has been reached (test by placing a small amount in freezer and check desired thickness as it cools}. Skim any froth from jam and then pour into hot jars and seal while hot.

Almond Cookies

1 cup butter
2 1/2 cups flour
3/8 cup fine sugar
2/3 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup icing sugar sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). In a large bowl rub the butter into the flour, add the sugar, ground almonds and vanilla essence, and mix thoroughly together, knead the dough lightly and roll out thinly about 1 cm cut into crescent and star shapes. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 6 to 7 minutes; do not allow to brown. When cool dust the biscuits with the icing sugar. The mixture is crumbly before cooking so handle delicately; after cooking they are fragile, so store care­fully.

Rich Chocolate Walnut Fudge

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup evaporated milk (eva milk here!)
114 grams cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups small marshmallows
85 grams dark chocolate pieces
85 grams light chocolate pieces
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
walnut halves for topping (optional)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

Combine sugar and milk and bring to the boil, stir­ring. Add the soft cream cheese and marshmallows and stir for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the chocolate pieces, until melted, add walnut pieces and vanilla essence. Pour into a buttered dish. Mark into squares and top each one with a walnut half. Cool, then cut into squares.