Christmas Gifts #2

I’m gradually getting in that holiday spirit.  The weather is cooling off, we are picking up leaves, putting part of the the garden to bed, and have our hoop house planted with cool weather veggies.    I am starting to think about Christmas gifts.   I am even reading a holiday book at the moment—Bailey White’s Nothing with Strings, her “beloved NPR holiday stories.”

Last year,  my family decided we had too much stuff.   Don’t get me wrong, presents are always appreciated, but my house was beginning to resemble a hoarder’s hovel.  Everyone else had the same sentiment.    The decree went out that we could only make our gifts and we had the best homespun Christmas ever.   We vowed to continue the tradition.

But, Christmas is only 22 days away.   I need to pick up the pace!

DVRs are a wonderful thing.  And, as I was watching my backlog of The Chew, I was intrigued by Mario Batali making a simple and elegant dish, Peaches with Primitivo.    I did a quick Google search and found out that the decadent sauce he made for those peaches is called Vino Cotto (or “cooked wine”).   I thought this would make great gifts.

And, I LOVE Primitivo!

Vino cotto
adapted from Mario Batali as seen on The Chew

3 1/4 c. Sugar
3 1/4 c. Primitivo or  Other Dry Red Wine
1 clove
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick (about 2 inches long)

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, red wine, and spices.

Bring to a simmer, and simmer until reduced by half, about 30-45 minutes.   It should be a viscous, syrupy consistency. 

Remove spices and pour into a decorative glass bottle or jar.  Store in refrigerator until ready to use.   (Mario said it would last for years.   I think the website said it would last for two weeks.)

Serve over peaches, strawberries, pears with ricotta, gorgonzola, waffles, pancakes, French toast, Greek yogurt, ice cream, cheesecake;  use as a sweetener (instead of honey) in salad dressings; use in sauces for poultry and pork;  or use in this recipe  (again from Mario).


One of these is a bottle I bought at a hobby store. The other is a recycled vinegar bottle.

I really want to find some sealing wax to top off these bottles to completely seal them.  I will store them in the fridge and give them as early Christmas presents or hostage gifts.    (I bought a whole case of this wine, so I know I will be making more as well.)

I also have some Blackberry-Thyme Jam put away, along with a few jars of  Roasted Pickled Peppers for gifts.  I am planning on making some spice mixes like Cajun spice, pumpkin pie spice, and some poultry and rib rubs.   I also have those beautiful berries to make jellies and jams.   And,  if I get really industrious, I will revisit my Twelve Days of Christmas Treats from last year.

Homemade gifts really capture the essence of the holidays.   It does not matter how much money we spend on gifts or who we are trying to impress or outdo;  what does matter on our sentiment in giving—giving from the heart.

As we approach the busy holiday season, I hope you can capture the true spirit of giving.




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My Favorite Reads

Eat, Pray, Love
Running with Scissors
SantaLand Diaries
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Angela's Ashes
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
My Life in France
Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, and Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table
Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table
The Liars' Club
Code Name Verity
The Paris Wife
The Shoemaker's Wife
The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo: A Novel
Brother of the More Famous Jack
Burying the Honeysuckle Girls

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I Heart Cooking Clubs

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