9 christmas gifts to make at home

BBQ sauce-2 BBQ sauce-4

Can you believe that it’s that time of year again? I know, me either. And while I’m super excited about Summer and holidays, like everyone, there’s a long list of jobs to get done before the celebrations begin. Not least of which is my Christmas shopping.

Since I’ve been getting into minimalism, I’ve found myself shopping less and less. That’s what happens when you decide you don’t need more stuff. But I’m also not feeling that excited about the whole gift buying thing this year either.

To be fair I haven’t ever been a talented gift giver. You know how there are some people, like my gorgeous friend Missy Helgs who have the knack for knowing exactly what you’d love and buying the perfect thing? Like some rustic antique pottery mixing bowls in the photo here that she so thoughtfully organised for my birthday this year. Well I’m not one of those people, although there are times that I wish I was.

This year I’m planning to give experiences OR make my gifts from scratch. There has to be something to be said for gifts made with love. So I thought I’d share a few ideas for gifts I’ve been toying with and it seemed like the perfect excuse to share my latest obsession: homemade BBQ sauce – if homemade gifts aren’t your style do consider making a smaller batch for yourself. It’s seriously the best.

9 christmas gifts to make at home

1. preserved lemons
I blogged about these recently so they were top of mind on the gift idea list. There are few things as pretty as a jar of preserved lemons.

If you’re worried that your recipient may not know what to do with them, then include a link to the post or print out the suggestions I mentioned.

2. marinated olives
If preserving or making jam scares you, marinated olives might be just the thing, particularly if your loved one(s) are olive fans. Feel free to play around with the flavourings in the recipe here. Lemon makes a lovely change from orange zest and thyme or bay leaves can be switched for the rosemary.

3. jam
My mum was the best jam maker ever. For those of you in the southern hemisphere, we’re coming into prime jam making season. Yay. The recipe for my mum’s jam is in my first print cookbook, And the love is free. If you follow the link, the jam recipe is visible in the preview – it’s page 130 so you’ll need to scroll through for a while.

4. dukkah
Dukkah is orginally an Egyptian blend of spices and nuts. It is usually served with olive oil and bread for dipping but can also be sprinkled on dishes for a hint of nutty spiciness.

It makes an excellent gift on its own or can be teamed with a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. The my stonesoup dukkah recipe pre-dates my 5 ingredient ethos but manages to stick to the limit. There are a list of possible uses included with the recipe – it might be a nice idea to print them out and include with the gift.

5. harissa
Another Moroccan specialty, this is one for friends and family who love their chilli. Again there are suggestions for what to do with it along with the recipe.

6. BBQ sauce
Homemade savoury sauce may not be the first thing that comes to mind for gift giving, but I know heaps of people who aren’t into jam that would kill for a bottle of something like this (recipe below).

Wonderful with anything cooked on the BBQ from steak to pork to halloumi and even mushrooms and eggplant (aubergine). It’s also lovely with bangers and mash or as an unusual smoky accompaniment to poached or fried eggs.

7. puddle cookies
If the sweet tooth in your life also happens to be gluten or dairy intolerant, then I have just the thing. These puddle cookies made with just egg whites, cocoa powder, sugar, nuts and vanilla are every thing that a sweet treat should be.

8. chocolate chip cookies
This recipe predates my 5 ingredients pledge, so they’re a bit on the complicated side. Am making a mental note to work on a 5 ingredient version in the new year. But for now, these are bound to get rave reviews – I had a lady email me recently saying that her kids wouldn’t eat any other cookie.

9. homemade peanut butter
My Irishman is the brains behind this phenomenon, but if you know someone who loves their peanut butter, this is probably the best gift you can give. It’s a bit on the labor intensive side, but well worth the toil.

BBQ sauce-3

5 ingredients
BBQ Sauce

makes approx 12 cups

This sauce will keep for months in the pantry if you take the time to sterilise your jars (read – pop them in the dishwasher on the highest setting just before you use them.) But will need to be refrigerated once a bottle is opened. If you can’t be bothered with the sterilising thing, it will still keep for months or even longer in the fridge.

If you can’t find smoky paprika, just substitute in regular paprika, the flavour won’t be as smoky but it will still be delicious.

With the chilli, leave the seeds in if you prefer a hotter sauce and remove them if you’re more of a mild person. You could always make a big batch without the seeds then bottle half and add the seeds or some dried chilli and cook for a little longer so you have a mild version and a hot one.

Feel free to decrease or increase the batch size depending on your needs.

10 brown onions, peeled & quartered
25 red chillies, stalks removed (see note above re. seeds)
2L (8 cups) tomato ketchup
1kg (2lb) brown sugar
10 tablespoons (60g /2oz) smoked paprika

1. Pop your jars and their lids in the dishwasher on a high setting.

2. Whizz onion and chilli in a food processor until you have a smoothish puree. You will probably need to do this in batches.

3. Heat a few tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan.

4. Add onion puree and cook, covered over a medium-low heat for about half an hour or until onion is soft. Remember to stir occasionally.

5. Add ketchup, sugar and paprika. Increase the heat and bring to a simmer.

6. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally for about an hour or until sauce has thickened slightly. Taste and season if required but it probably won’t need anything.

7. Remove from heat and pour into warm jars from the dishwasher and seal immediately (I like to use gloves to avoid burns).

BBQ sauce instructional video on YouTube.

With love,
Jules x


  • I never thought of making barbecue sauce before! Thanks for all the gift ideas – one thing I can add is hot cocoa mix. I made that for a friend’s birthday present :D

  • Brilliant list of gift ideas! Especially the peanut butter and the olives. I think I would eat the BBQ sauce before giving it away. I love my smoked parika I bought in Barcelona so much that I would be loathe to give away 10 whole spoonsfulls of it (I love my friends, but….).

    I have just made and bottled 14 jars of marmelade for my team on Saturday as their Christmas gift. They have fruit delivered to them every week at work but no one was eating the lovely sweet oranges, mandarins or clementines!! I actually saw people throwing them out (!!!) and ended up collecting the leftover ones the day before fruit was delivered for 3 weeks. So now, each member of my team will receive a jar of marmelade with a label instructing them to eat more fruit.

    For my close friends I am making some panforte and mini fruit cakes, and packaging up juniper berries and porcini mushrooms I dried in the autumn. I will try to give away biscuits to people when they come over for biscuits and mulled wine as you and you blogreaders recommended.

  • What an interesting list. Here, shortbread is a must at Xmas. I would include this recipe in your 5 ingredient list: http://tinyurl.com/5keugq

    1 cup (250 mL) (250 mL) butter, softened
    3 tbsp (45 mL) (45 mL) cornstarch
    1/4 cup (50 mL) (50 mL) granulated sugar
    1 and 3/4 cups (425 mL) (425 mL) all-purpose flour

    Recipe here, with two options which would bring it up to 5 ingredients.

    Alex! Panforte! That’s ambitious. Any chance of a recipe?

    I’m going to make those puddle cookies. Been hearing about them everywhere.

  • Beautiful pics as always Jules- and love the idea of bbq sauce as a present- something you can never have too much of on hand. Am thinking of doing baby Christmas puddings as presents- in the past I’ve trampled them through ice cream in the week after Christmas- makes the festive season go on for just that much longer…

  • weiwei
    that’s a great idea. what did you put in the mix?
    there’s a company in australia that makes hot chocolate on a stick – so you stir the stick with the chocolate into warm milk and it slowly melts – mightbe a good idea too.

    love the marmalade story – would love to get your recipe I’ve only made it once and it wasn’t a big success.
    and very jealous of your home dried porcini

    thanks for sharing your shortbread recipe – my mum used to make it and my sister has inherited the shortbread gene – but good to have a backup recipe

    woman after my own heart – LOVE icecream with pudding mixed through

  • Love this idea for Christmas presents! Will definitely make the dukkah and harissa for my Dad’s presents. I can’t wait to get home and fire up the food processor! Thanks, Jules!

  • Aiee – my marmalade recipe is terribly (embarrasingly easy). I also find that it is the easiest jam to make because you can leave it all at different stages and do something else and get back to it when you are ready to keep going again.

    I wash the fruit to get rid of any bugs/stickers telling you that this is an orange/grit/general dirt (you can use any amount of any citrus – lemons/cumquats/oranges/limes). I put them all in WHOLE in a saucepan and just cover them with water. I leave that to simmer for about 2 hours. No stirring needed if it just simmers and makes the hous smell nice. I also leave the lid off after about an hour to start getting rid of fluid. Occasionally I check on the fruit and put the ones at the top of the pot at the bottom so they all have a go at getting hot. I then leave it to stand for about a day. Most of the pectin is in the peel of the fruit, so doing marmalade this way means you get a good chance of getting all of the pectin out and softening the peel so that you don’t need to do the next stage (boiling with sugar and stirring alot) for as long. After the boiling and the soaking in the water/burst fruit juices you put all of the fruit in a bowl. Pick out any seeds that might have busted out into the liquid and toss them (they are unpleasant and bitter).

    In the bowl, burst all the fruits. You can do this by hand. I tend to do them one by one so I can pick out the seeds and toss them. For this next stage you decide if you would like a clear or a chunky marmalade (I usually do a chuunky one because everyone I know seems to like it). Once you have busted your fruit you sill see you have quite alot of juicy mess. If you want a clear marmelade, strain any of the juice from the flesh/peel you have before you. If you want a chunky one, no straining needed. For chunky marmelade, take the flesh (without the pips) and put it back in the saucepan with the water/juice from boiling the fruits. If you want a clear one, only put the strained juice from the fruits back in the saucepan.

    For the chunky marmelade, chop all of the peel (coloured and white pith) into pieces (I tend to cut it all up into same sized strips about 1-2mm wide) and toss it into the saucepan. Start boiling and stirring.

    For clear marmelade, take some of the firmest peel and make very very thin slices of the ‘coloured’ part of the peel only and pop that in the saucepan. Put the rest of the peel into a muslin cloth that you can tie off so that is is loose (you want liquid to be able to move through the peel to extract more pectin for setting). Start boiling and stirring.

    After boiling for about 30minutes. Switch it all off again and let it rest for an hour or so (again to help extract the pectin). Then add sugar. Start with 1/2 the volume of sugar as you had fruit to start with. Normally I end up adding 3/4 of the volume of sugar as I had fruit to start with (ie if you had a bowl full of oranges I would put in 3/4 of a bowl of sugar). This is alot of sugar, and sometimes you do not need as much (it depends on your fruit – age, ripeness, thickness of peel, volume of juice, how much water you added).

    Let the sugar dissolve, stir it up, then start simmering and stirring. Don’t let it boil too much to make sure it doesn’t burn. Put a little plate in the fridge so that it is cooling the whole time you are simmering and stirring. After about 20mins smear a little of the jam onto the plate and put it back in the fridge. Keep simmering and stirring while this cools enough for you to test it. After about 5mins check the plate. If the jam is very liquid and has not started setting, then keep going with the simmering and stirring for another 20minutes and retest the jam. If this time after 5 minutes it hasn’t set yet, this is when I add more sugar (anything up to making it to 3/4 of the initial fruit volume). Continue simmering and stirring. I have never had to go further than this, so can only assume you might consider adding pectin yourself if it doesn’t gel after another 20minutes.

    Turn off the heat. For the clear marmeladde, pull out your muslin bag (and consider using the mash inside as part of your fruit cake, for little tarts, to stir through vanilla ice cream, to put in an orange custard pie, through one of those little cheesecakes Jules had put on her last blog etc etc.

    If you want to add vanilla, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, star anise or any other spice, or even almonds to the marmelade, this is when you do it! Stir them in to the saucepan, or alternativly drop them into the jars and you can have different flavours of marmelade. The flavour will develop with time.

    Put the marmelade into sterilised jars while the jars are still hot (or else they will crack!! – sterilise them and the lids either in the oven or the dishwasher) and pop the lids on. TaDa! Marmelade. Easy. I still have some in the cellar from 2008 and it has not turned mouldy or spoiled – it keeps really well.

    The jars will be too hot to touch, so don’t lift them. Broken glass and superheated liquids do not make for an easy clean up. I suggest shutting the lids by holding the jar on the bench with a damp teatowel and closing the top with a separate damp teatowel to protect my hands.

    You can also add red currants or cranberries to marmelade if you like. They make it go red and Christmassy. I add them before I add sugar and find I need less sugar and less cooking time if I use fresh berries. A friend gave me marmelade with prunes and walnuts mixed in too – and that was fantastic warmed up on the stove with a little grand marnier and eaten with yoghurt after skiing.

    One way to simpliofiy this recipe is to slice up all the fruit to start with and pick the seeds out and boil it all at once. The only problem with that version is that you can’t really leave it alone as much and have to be more careful about when to add the sugar! If you add too much sugar too early then you end up with marmelade with a consistency and taste of candied peel (which I love but not everyone else is too keen on). In my version I can get things going before work/switch them off/start again whenever, it is just the last stage with the sugar that I need to commit to being there.

    Sorry Jules. Maybe I should have emailed this or started my own blog.

  • alex
    you are a star! this is gold. thanks so much for sharing. I love that there are 2 different options, I like my marmalade less bitsy…this is perfect. bookmarking now for orange season over here.

    and please feel free to use stonesoup as your blog too any time;)

    thanks johanna
    yes edible gifts surely are the way forward!

  • exactly audrey
    couldn’t have put it better myself.

    was just talking to a gardening friend who was planning to give vegetable seedlings as gifts – another great idea

  • LOVE this post! I love making gifts! I’m gonna be visiting this one over and over and over…

    Here’s another idea, if you don’t mind: flavored vinegar. I work for the Special Education department of our school system as an Occupational Therapist, and there are 25 of us in the OT/PT/Assistive Technology department. We have a Christmas party every year and everyone brings a little inexpensive goodie for each desk – sometimes it’s candy, sometimes an ornament, sometimes a scented candle…stuff like that. This year I’m taking little bottles of flavored vinegar. So easy! Wash and sterilize bottles and lids, or have corks available. Fill with very hot water while bringing a pot of apple cider vinegar to a boil, and prepping the “flavors” – peeling garlic cloves, rinsing rosemary or basil or other herbs, slicing lemons and/or limes into narrow wedges or rings. When the vinegar is simmering, pour out the hot water from the bottles and stuff them with a few garlic cloves, some long stems or leaves of chosen herb, and a wedge or folded ring of lemon or lime. Using a funnel, pour the boiling vinegar to the top of the bottle. Let it cool before corking or lidding. You might also have to pour in a little more vinegar, as the level will drop.

    After this yummy stuff sits for a week or so, it’s the most wonderful flavored vinegar for cooking. :)

    Hope you have a blessed Christmas!

  • How do you do it, Jules? Is there a blog entry on this site that doesn’t have a comment along the lines of “wow, I was just thinking about that and then you go and blog about it…” ?? You are something of a prophet :)

    Last year, at the end of October, I was in an accident that left me hospitalised and then homebound with the use of only one leg. In my boredom, incapacity, and severe overuse of the internet, I managed to get all my holiday shopping done without leaving the house, including groceries. It was bliss! So this year, when the tinsel started appearing in town (what is it, about August??), I made a mission to achieve the same feat this year. Then in the meantime, I bought myself a house. So in addition to not wanting to go near the shops, I also didn’t want to spend much money. This is where homemade gifts really come into their own!

    My plan includes these little gems:
    – soy candles
    – mixed spice blends (and now dukkah, thanks)
    – small fruit cakes
    – skin care things, like body scrub made of sugar, oils, essential oils, etc
    – homemade muesli (my dad, he’s been asking about mine)

    and there are always books, because even though they aren’t homemade, and are relatively ‘material’, you can’t have too many books (especially kids). http://www.booko.com.au

    I was very keen to get into some preserving before now, but time has got away from me there. I admit I’m a bit scared of getting it right too, for fear of poisoning my friends and family! I wonder if other thestonesoup readers are keen for a bit of a preserving series, sometime in the future?

  • sis
    LOVE the vinegar idea – thanks for sharing

    lovely to hear from you! and congrats on buying a house.
    and wonderful list – would love to know more about soy candles
    and you’ve read my mind on the preserving thing – planning on running a class at my Virtual Cookery School in July next year

  • This is really a great idea. It’s so much better than gift cards……which is what I get everyone because I never know what to buy!

  • This looks delicious and the list is just appropriate with minimalistic ingredients. I really wonder how you can cook with 5 Ingredients always, but come to thing of it one can, I spend a week using 4-5 ingredients in the pantry. And here you are doing it so deliciously all the time Bravo!

  • kulsum
    5 ingredients is all about having the faith that things will work out when you cut them back to basics – and the good news is that they pretty much always do!

  • I’ve made a small batch and my husband loves it! I was wondering though, since ketchup can be a challenge to find here at times,especially in large quantities, if I used Aussie Tomato Sauce should I add vinegar and more sugar?

  • Hey Monique

    I just used Aussie Tomato sauce in the recipe above and it’s lovely – but if you want to up the sweetness a little by all means – it’s pretty versatile – and great because you can adjust it to suit your tastes.

  • I think the pudding cookies rock!

    In the spirit of the holiday season I would like to share a cute song that describes the meaning of Xmas. You can download for free at the following link: http://www.yesnack.com/music/whatischristmas.mp3

    What is Christmas? Christmas is Love.
    What is Christmas? Christmas is Love.
    Angels flying up above.
    Merry Christmas, I Love You!
    Merry Christmas, I Love You!

  • Hey Jules, I’ve been reading The Stonesoup since more than a year ago, but I’ve never left a comment, I’m rather shy about writing in English. I’m writing a blog about minimalism, in Polish (I live in Cracow). I find your gift ideas very inspiring, do you mind if I use your recipes on my site? I would like to translate some of the recipes and use your photos, they are so beautiful! And of course all of this with proper credit and links to your blog. What do you think about it?
    And of course I wish you Merry Christmas :)

  • Hey Ajka
    Thanks so much for having the courage to comment! Would absolutely LOVE you to translate and share the Stonesoup love with links back.
    Have a wonderful Christmas too!

  • Hi Jul,
    Your BBQ sauce is THE best sauce ever! Hubby and I loved it and I made us a batch on the weekend (but apparently i used too much chilli so now i get to eat it all :)).
    Can’t wait to see you in the NY!
    Luv nao xoxo

  • These can also be gifted to realtives or friends who has shifted to new house, will be easy for them as may have other work to do except cooking

  • I love home made jams and sauces, well done on the informative blog.
    My wife makes a fantastic chutney I will have to get onto this one also.

  • Hi!
    Was googling to find the answer to this question re: gifting jars of bbq sauce:
    To can or not to can (preserving in jars to create vacuum). My husband is concerned with making people sick, and we have some we would like to ship (+4days).

    • HI Denise
      Did you sterilise the jars and fill them with hot BBQ sauce?
      If yes then they don’t need further preserving.
      If no you will need to ‘preserve’ them to make sure the sauce is safe
      Hope that helps

      • Helped a lot. We are filling them this weekend. Decided to be as safe as possible, and we will properly can. You gave us food for thought. Appreciate the quick reply:)

  • the bbq sauce looks so great and i know it will taste good i cant wait until i make it thanks for the ideas and recipies.love bbq sauce

  • Hi Jules,

    I have recently discovered your pages and they are wonderful!

    I would like to ask whether for this BBQ sauce we can substitute tomato ketchup with something else like home made tomato sauce?

    Thank you!

  • I love home made christmas gifts. I helped the grand kids make a photoboard for their parents for Christmas, then I made quilted bowl cosies with soup bowls, containers of christmas granola with cinnamon, ginger and cranberries, and plates of assorted cookies.

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