Homemade gifts are always appreciated by recipients, and food gifts are as much fun to give as they are to make. Whenever you buy products that come in glass jars, from jams and jellies to artichoke hearts, keep those jars so you can fill them with homemade epicurian delights and share them with your nearest and dearest. Here are 10 fabulous recipes for edible vegan gifts that will please any palate, plus suggestions on how to decorate those upcycled jars before giving them away!
A note before beginning: In addition to the pretty label you’ll place on the front of each jar, it’s a good idea to also slap a label onto the back of the jar with a recommended “use by” date, and instructions on safe storage. Food gifts that haven’t been pickled, or water bath- or pressure- canned will break down and spoil if kept at room temperature, so a general rule to follow with any non-preserved food is to keep it refrigerated and consume within a week’s time. Pickled foods can last for a month or more if refrigerated diligently, but it’s a safe bet that these small (delicious) batches won’t stick around that long.
1. Olive Tapenade with Capers
This spread is fabulous on crackers or endive spears, and can also be used as a base layer for bruschetta. Or just spooned out of the jar. I like to make mine with giant green olives, little black Spanish olives, and either salt-cured Moroccan or gorgeous purple Kalamatas, but that’s just a serving suggestion: use whichever olive varieties you like best.
- 1/3 cup EACH of 3 different varieties of olives, but make sure that they have their pits removed. (You should have 1 heaping cup of olives in total.)
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until coarsely chopped and combined well. Adjust lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste, and transfer into your jars.
2. Roasted Strawberry-Balsamic Preserves
No special canning procedure needed: this stuff disappears before it could ever go bad. It’s beautiful on toast, stuffed into croissants, drizzled on pancakes, or just spooned right out of the jar. This will make a little over 1 cup of jam, so feel free to increase the quantity: you’ll want to save some for yourself.
- 2 pounds of strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced into halves
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1 tablespoon high-quality dark balsamic vinegar
Toss strawberries and sugar in a large bowl until they’re mixed together thoroughly. Set aside and let them macerate for about half an hour. Heat your oven to 250 F.
Spread berries on a 9 x 12 inch baking dish and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar. Pop the dish into the oven and bake for 90 to 120 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes or so. You’ll want to bake them until they’re a very dark red, and some of them may have dry edges.
Pour the berries into a bowl and squish them with a potato masher or fork. There will be a fair bit of liquid, so drain that off into a spare jar and set it aside for whatever nefarious purposes you have in mind.
Adjust flavors as desired (add more sugar if you like, or a pinch of spice, even some cracked black pepper…) and transfer into your upcycled jars.
3. Cashew and Mushroom Pate
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 1 tablespoon Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
- 4 cups sliced mushrooms (I like to mix portabellos with button, cremini, oyster, and wild mushies, but use whatever you have on hand.)
- 1/3 cup white or yellow onion, minced
- 1 green onion, slivered
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon onion salt
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon dry white wine
Toast your cashews in a dry frying pan until they’re just golden on all sides, then set aside to cool.
Heat your margarine on medium-high heat, then add your minced onion. Reduce heat to medium and stir until they onions go translucent. Add the mushrooms and crank the heat up a bit – you want to brown these babies a little. Once they start to brown, add your garlic, green onion, and spices. Stir well until nearly all liquid has evaporated and it’s all gloriously fragrant.
Pull the mushroom mixture to the sides of the pan and pour your wine onto the exposed pan to deglaze it. Use a spatula to move all the pan’s contents around, scraping gently at the pan’s bottom to release any bits of caramelized deliciousness. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.
Add cashews and mushroom mixture to a food processor, then pulse gently until all is chopped up and combined well, but don’t puree it! You’ll want to keep some texture here. Season to taste with salt, add a generous twist of cracked pepper, stir well, and transfer to your jars.
It’s fabulous on toast squares and crackers, as well as cucumber rounds, celery sticks, and green pepper spears.
4. Salsa Verde
Fresh and bright with lime and cilantro flavors, this salsa is fabulous on tortilla chips, huevos rancheros, or scooped over a veggie burrito bowl.
- 6 medium or 8 small tomatillos, husks removed
- 1 jalapeño pepper, chopped finely (wear gloves!)
- 1 handful of fresh cilantro, removed from the stem and chopped finely
- 1 large green onion/scallion, sliced thinly
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Slice up those tomatillos and place them in a saucepan with the onions and jalapeño pepper. Add water until they’re just covered, and simmer for 8-10 minutes until the tomatillos have softened. Drain through a sieve and add to a blender.
Add the rest of the ingredients into the blender and puree on medium until the mixture is combined and ground well, but not liquefied. Adjust lime and salt as desired, and transfer into your jars.
5. Cherry Ketchup
Tangy, musky, and salty-sweet, ketchup adds a unique note to everything from veggie burgers to fries. This nightshade-free version gets a smoky kick from the chipotle peppers.
- 1 pound cherries, with pits removed
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 1.5 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced finely (or ground to paste in a mortar and pestle)
- A pinch of mustard powder
Process all ingredients in a blender until pureed smoothly.
Heat this mixture in a saucepan on medium until it starts to bubble. Turn down the heat and allow it to simmer gently for 40 minutes or so, stirring frequently. Once thickened and glossy, transfer into your jars and allow to cool.
Keep refrigerated until ready to use; this will stay good for 2 weeks if kept cool.