Do you need new ideas for food gifts for the holidays?
Look no further than the Irish Pantry: Traditional Breads, Preserves, and Goodies to Feed the Ones You Love from Noel McMeel and Lynn Marie Hulsman (Running Press 2013). This is a wonderful book to open on a December morning with a warm cup of tea. “Making the most of the bounty of the land, working hard with your own two hands to preserve it, and opening the home to share it – these were the core principles where I grew up. I’d go so far as to say it’s the Irish way (p. 7)” It sounds very much like the Irish way is the way of family, holidays, and the watching someone’s face light up when they appreciate what you’ve given them – and your own face lighting up with satisfaction at that gift.
The first chapter is on Home Canning and Preservation. Think about a Perfect Lemon Curd (p. 29) rich with butter, tart lemon, and egg yolk. Maybe something spicier? Spiced Pear Chutney with Ginger and Lime (p. 42) or one of the Irish Whiskey dishes – like Savory Whiskey Butter with Shallots and Kosher Salt (p. 51) or Traditional Marmalade with Irish Whiskey (p. 22). Then you need something to go with all those spreads and sauces, like Traditional Irish Soda Bread (p. 84) or one with A Hint of Curry (p. 85) or the Traditional Treacle Bread (p. 91) – which Noel advises you can make with molasses and honey – but look for proper treacle if you are going to tackle this simple, deeply rich bread. You could also try the Guinness and Bacon Bread (p. 95):
When you want fresh, savory bread for a winter’s evening meal, but you’re short on time, this loaf fits the bill. It’s almost a meal in itself. I like to serve it with pureed soups, such as butternut squash or potato and leek.
But it would be hard to give this bread away – it sounds and smells too good.
At the end of the book, after more dressings, pickles, scone recipes, and potted and cured recipes – plus wonderful photographs of Ireland and Noel at work – you’ll find a chapter on Dry Mixes – these are perfect to give as a gift at the end of a meal – or to a host or hostess – or a college student who could make the recipe more easily in a dorm kitchen. Think about how much a student would enjoy Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Loaf Mix (p. 275) that comes in a pretty jar with ingredients stack inside. Date and Walnut Scone Mix (p. 277) – all they have to do is add an egg.
That’s a thoughtful present.