Nothing is more appreciated than a home-made gift, especially if packaged in an appealing manner.  The following recipes will give you some great ideas using herbs.

 
                               Mustards

 

Mustards are delicious and give a lift to all sorts of savory foods.  We all know the English, French and German varieties, but these recipes give them an extra lift and would make marvelous gifts for a mustard lover.

 

                                              

                                            Minty Mustards

 

1 8oz jar wholegrain coarse mustard

4 tsp dry mint leaves, finely crumbled

 

Mix these two ingredients well and either return the mixture to the original jar or put it in smaller jars to give as part of a set of small mustards.

 

 

                         Tarragon Mustard with Vermouth

 

large handful fresh tarragon leaves

4 oz chopped spring onions

2 8 oz jars Dijon mustard

1 tbsp dry vermouth

 

Chop the tarragon leaves well and add the spring onions, mustard and vermouth.  Mix together very thoroughly.  Pour into a clean jar and seal with a tight-fitting lid.  This mustard can be stored in the refrigerator for about one month.

 

 

                                                    Pickles

 

Pickles can add their own special zing to a meal and are particularly good with cold cuts of meat or poultry.  Most vegetables will pickle, so here are some recipes that are especially good.

 

 

                                          Dilly Cucumbers

 

24 small ridge cucumbers

5 pints water

1/2 pint vinegar

4 oz sea salt

1 large handful fresh dill heads

1 large or several small chili peppers

 

Soak the cucumbers overnight in a solution of salt and water, using 8 oz of sea salt to every pint of water.  Then boil together the water, vinegar and sea salt and allow to cool.  Drain the cucumbers and arrange in clean canning jars interspersed with layers of dill heads.  The cucumbers can be left whole or cut into slices.  Add a small chili pepper or pieces of a larger one to each jar.  Cover with the vinegar solution and secure the lids.

 

 

                                     Sweet Pickled Onions

 

2 lb pickling onions

1 bunch tarragon

1 bunch mint

1 bunch sweet chervil

4 oz sea salt

1 pint cider vinegar

6 oz granulated sugar

 

Peel the onions then arrange them on a tray, sprinkle with the sea salt and leave overnight.  Carefully wipe all the salt and moisture off the onions and place in clean jars.  Put a couple of sprigs of each herb in every jar.  Heat the vinegar and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved, then leave to cool.  Pour the vinegar over the onions, leaving a very small amount of room in the top of each jar.  Secure the lids of the jars.  The onions will be ready in about two to three weeks but are a lot tastier after about six to eight weeks, if you can wait that long!

 

                 

                             Mint and Tomato Chow Chow

 

6 average tomatoes

1 onion

1 green pepper, chopped

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp salt

1/2 pint cider vinegar

2 tbsp finely chopped mint

 

Peel the tomatoes by placing them in boiling water for a few seconds and then carefully removing the skins.  Peel the onion and chop the tomatoes and onion finely.  Put all the ingredients in a lidded casserole dish and cook at 300ºF until the onion is quite tender (about one to two hours).  Remove from the oven and leave to cool.  Pour into wide-mouthed jars and cover each jar with a circle of waxed paper, then cover with cellophane and add a label.

 

 

                                                Mint Relish

 

1 pint mint leaves

1 lb onions, peeled and chopped

1 lb apples, peeled and chopped

1/2 lb green tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1 lb sultanas (gold raisins)

2 tsp salt

2 tsp French mustard

1 pint white wine vinegar

1 lb granulated sugar

 

Heat 1/4 pint of vinegar with the sugar until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Leave to cool.  Place the remaining vinegar in a saucepan with the salt and mustard.  Put the green tomatoes in a food processor for a few seconds until they are mushy, then add to the saucepan.  Repeat the process with the mint leaves, apples, onions and sultanas, adding them all to the saucepan.  Then simmer all the ingredients until soft.  Pour in the vinegar and sugar mixture.  Boil the mixture for a couple of minutes and then leave to cool a little.  Pour the relish into warm clean jars and cover with waxed paper circles.  When completely cool, add cellophane lids and labels.

 

 

                                                    Sauces

 

Sauces make a very unusual gift.  Although you must provide clear labeling to indicate whether they need to be refrigerated or not, a basket containing a selection of sauces could be very welcome, especially at Christmas.  At a time when plenty of ingenuity is needed to use up the inevitable leftovers, a Christmas gift of delicious and unusual sauces could be a real winner!

 

 

                                                     Pesto

 

This very Italian sauce is delicious with many foods, as well as pasta.  Mixed with mayonnaise it makes a lovely sauce for cold turkey, or you could use it when stuffing some tiny tomatoes or mushrooms.  Although you need fresh basil for this recipe, once it has been made, the sauce lasts in the fridge for at least a month or freezes indefinitely.

 

1 lb fresh sweet basil leaves

4 oz parsley

8 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

8 oz pine nuts

3/4 pint virgin olive oil

8 oz Parmesan cheese

sea salt and pepper

 

Combine the basil, parsley, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor.  Process until the mixture resembles a coarse paste.  Slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream, with the processor switched on, until all the oil is used up.  Add the cheese, sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper and process again for a couple of seconds.  Depending on how you  plan to package your gift, scrape the mixture into plastic or glass containers.  Pour a thin layer of olive oil over the pesto to prevent discoloration, then seal.

 

 

                            Hot Tomato and Coriander Sauce

 

4 large tomatoes, weighing approximately 1 lb

8 tbsp fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)

2 small hot chili peppers, fresh or canned

2 large onions, weighing approximately 8 oz

2 tbsp garlic vinegar

 

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and process finely for a few seconds.  Alternatively, you can mince all the ingredients well and combine them in a bowl.  Taste and add salt if required.  Allow to cool, then pour into clean bottles and label.  This sauce is delicious served chilled with vegetable or meat dishes.

 

 

                       Tomato Sauce with Olives and Oregano

 

1 lb peeled tomatoes

3 tbsp green pepper, chopped

1/2 large onion

1 to 2 cloves garlic

3 tbsp olive oil

10 green olives, stoned and chopped finely

1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped

 

Chop the onion and garlic finely and cook in the olive oil until softened and transparent.  Add all the other ingredients, seasoning with salt and black pepper to taste.  If you would like a smoother sauce, you can combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and then return to the pan.  Simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes.  Allow to cool, then pour into bottles, seal and label them.  This sauce is ideal with cheese dishes, pasta or pork.

 

 

                                      Alcoholic Herbal Sauce

 

1 pint vegetable or chicken stock

8 fl oz white wine, preferably medium-sweet German

1 tbsp fresh rosemary

1 tbsp fresh dill

1/2 tbsp fresh tarragon

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp flour

1/2 tbsp lemon peel, finely chopped

 

Mix the stock, wine and herbs together and simmer until reduced by 10 to 20 percent.  Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour, stirring vigorously, then cook for 5 to 10 minutes.  Add the stock and wine mixture to the fat and flour by whisking it in with a small balloon whisk.  Add the lemon peel and some salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for another 10 minutes.  Strain the sauce to remove the herbs, allow to cool, then pour into bottles, seal and label.  This sauce is delicious served hot with vegetables or poultry.