During the holidays many people enjoy giving gifts that have been specially made from favorite recipes that they have treasured throughout the years. Gifts in a Jar is a simple version of those recipes put into gift form. The jars are decorated with ribbons and bows with a directions card attached, stating how to use the gift, who it is from and the date.

During the holidays many people enjoy giving gifts that have been specially made from favorite recipes that they have treasured throughout the years. Gifts in a Jar is a simple version of those recipes put into gift form. The jars are decorated with ribbons and bows with a directions card attached, stating how to use the gift, who it is from and the date.


Chocolate-Mint Melts

2     cups chocolate chips

¼     cup shortening

1/3    teaspoon peppermint extract

Confectioners’ sugar

In a saucepan over low heat melt chocolate chips and shortening. Stir to mix well, add peppermint extract. Pour into a buttered foil-line 10 x 13 -inch baking dish and chill until firm. Cut into 1-inch squares and dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired. Place squares into a lidded jar.


Amaretto Truffles

Makes 30 truffles.

5     ounces semisweet chocolate chopped

4     ounces milk chocolate, chopped

½     cup heavy whipping cream

3     tablespoons Amaretto liqueur

1     teaspoon vanilla extract

2     tablespoons granulated sugar

2     tablespoons baking cocoa

Assorted sprinkles and/or finely chopped nuts

Place chocolates in a small bowl. In a small saucepan bring cream just to a boil. Pour over chocolates, whisk until smooth. Stir in Amaretto and vanilla. Cool to room temperature stirring occasionally. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until easy to handle.

In a small bowl, combine sugar and cocoa. Shape chocolate mixture into 1-inch balls; roll in cocoa mixture or, if desired assorted sprinkles or chopped nuts. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


Caramel Sauce

Makes about 1 cup.

½     cup butter

1     cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

2/3    cup whipping cream

2     teaspoons vanilla extract

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add brown sugar, and whisk until combined and thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in whipping cream, and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into jars and refrigerate. Sauce will thicken after refrigeration.

Directions on card:

Keep refrigerated. When ready to use, warm in microwave. May be used on ice cream, pound cake and other desserts.


Apple Pie Filling in a Jar

Clear Jel is a super version of cornstarch, which is used as a thickener for soups and gravies also, and can be purchased in specialty stores and Target.

This recipe makes 6 quarts of mix and is enough for 6-double crusted pies. The recipe may be cut in half if desired.

2 quarts cold water

1/4 cup ascorbic-citric powder ( I use Fresh-Fruit.)

10 pounds cooking apples

2 quarts water

5 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups ClearJel or ClearJel Starch

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 1/2 cups water

5 cups apple cider or apple juice

3/4 cup lemon juice

2 cups dark raisins (Optional)

Stir together 2 quarts cold water and ascorbic-citric powder in a bowl.

Peel, core, and cut apples into ½-inch slices. Immediately add slices to ascorbic mixture.

In a large Dutch oven bring 2-quarts of water to a boil. Remove 6 -cups of apple slices from ascorbic mixture, and add to Dutch oven; bring back to a boil. Boil 1-minute. Remove apples from boiling water; keep warm. Repeat this procedure 3 more times with remaining apple slices; keep warm. Discard ascorbic mixture.

In a Dutch oven stir together sugar, ClearJel, raisins (Optional), and cinnamon, gradually stir in 2 ½ cups water and apple cider or apple juice.

Cook over medium high heat stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Add lemon juice, and boil for 1-minute, stirring constantly. Add apple slices, gently stirring to coat.

Pack hot fruit into lidded jars, cover at once, wipe jars clean and refrigerate. Will keep up to 10 days.

Directions on card:

Pour apple mixture into your favorite pie crust and top with another pie crust, cutting small slits into top crust. Pastry brush with 1-tablespoon milk and sprinkle with 1-teaspoon granulated sugar. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 to 45 minutes until golden brown.


Onion Jam in a Jar

Makes about 3 cups.

4 tablespoons EVOO, olive oil

4 pounds sweet onions, halved, lengthwise, thinly sliced

1 3/4 cups water

1-2 teaspoons dried crushed thyme

8 garlic cloves, minced then smashed

1 cup ruby port

1 cup dry red wine

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Heat oil in heavy pot over medium high heat.  Add onions and garlic, sauté until onions are slightly softened, about 10 minutes. Add 1 3/4 cups water, stir, add thyme, stir, then add the rest of the ingredients, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to boil gently until onions are soft, liquid is reduced, and mixture thickens to jam consistency.  Stir often, adding more water by 1/4 cupful to prevent sticking, 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat.  Spoon into gift jars. Cool slightly, cover and refrigerate.

On gift card: 

Before serving rewarm onion jam just until heated through, stirring to mix. This goes well with hamburgers and hot dogs. Keep refrigerated.


Remedy to Help Coughs and Soothes Throats

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup honey

1/2 cup cider vinegar

In a microwave safe dish with a cover, stir together honey and vinegar. Warm in microwave until warm about 40-60 seconds. Pour into small lidded jars.

Directions on card:

When ready to use warm a serving, about a tablespoon, stir in a cup with some tea or water and sip slowly. This may also be taken by the spoonful.


Rosemary Homemade Bath Blend

2 cups baking soda

1 cup Epsom salts

2 tablespoons crushed rosemary leaves

In a bowl whisk together baking soda, Epsom salts, and rosemary. Spoon into small lidded jars or pretty small plastic bags using a colored twist tab.

Directions on card:

Add 1/4 cup of mixture to a tub of warm water, stir then soak for 20 to 30 minutes.


Herb Salt Rub

1 cup ground rosemary leaves

1 cup ground thyme leaves

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

1/2 cup sea salt or Kosher salt

In a blender or food processor pour in together rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and sea salt.  Pulse until finely chopped. Transfer mixture to small jars or zipper plastic bags.

Directions on card:

This lightly spiced salt is delicious rubbed over large cuts of meat, like lamb, pork, or beef, also on thick steaks or chops.


Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival, winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012, and placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing; and has won various other contest awards for her blueberry cheesecake, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.


Submit recipes

Do you have a special cookie, candy or bar recipe that you make for the holidays? Share it with us for our holiday cookie special. Send recipe and your name to topsail@jdnews.com.