Homemade holidays


During this season of giving, keep your gifts rich and real with homemade and locally sourced products, foraged decorations and repurposed items. A gift need not be pricey or fancy, and when it’s homemade, it conveys a personal, meaningful touch. Look to your community and Mother Nature for inspiration.

There’s an abundance of natural gifts and decor outside our doors and growing right under our feet. Seek out artisanal and handmade items, homemade food and drink, garden citrus and clipped branches, kitchen spices and Mason jars to converge, inspire and create thoughtful gifts for friends and family.

This DIY gift basket includes all the fixings to make mulled wine. Mulled wine, also known as gluwein, glogg and vin chaud, is universally pleasing. It’s a winter staple, from holiday markets to the ski slopes to a cozy chair in front of the fireplace on a cold night. Who wouldn’t want to curl up with a fragrant mug of vino — especially one fortified with spirits and fruit, laced with cinnamon and spice?

To make a gift of it, write the recipe on a decorative card to ensure proper allocation of the basket ingredients. The recipe is a keeper, and the ingredients ... well, as you can see, while they are certainly key to the recipe, they can also be enjoyed on their own or put to another use.

In this case, a bottle of port and red wine, a little shot of orange liqueur, and sachets of spices and dried fruit are assembled in a basket with a few sprigs and leaves plucked from the winter garden to make a seasonal kit. Of course, this is a template, and if you have a favorite holiday drink, then change up the recipe accordingly — you get the gist of it.

Homemade Mulled Wine

Active time: 20 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Yield: Serves 5 to 6


1 cup port wine

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup orange liqueur, such as Gran Marnier or Cointreau

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Zest of one untreated orange

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp. whole cloves

1/2 tsp. black peppercorns

1 (750ml) bottle full-bodied fruit-forward red wine

1/4 cup raisins, soaked in port wine or orange liqueur for at least 20 minutes

Cinnamon sticks or orange slices for garnish

Combine the syrup ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until reduced by about half, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Add the wine to the syrup. Cover the pot and gently warm over medium-low heat, without letting the wine come to a boil. Taste, and if you prefer a sweeter drink, stir in additional brown sugar to your desired sweetness.

Strain into mugs. Add a spoonful of raisins to each mug and garnish with an orange slice or cinnamon stick.


Lynda Balslev is the co-author of “Almonds: Recipes, History, Culture” (Gibbs Smith, 2014). Contact her at TasteFood, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106; or send email to tastefood@tastefoodblog.com; or visit the TasteFood blog at tastefoodblog.com.


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