|Car Heart. I really came out to this one recent frosty morning. Lucky girl, right?|
First off, if you wanted to give homemade vanilla for the holidays, and I really recommend this, now is the time to start making it. For bottles, do a search for "flint glass bottles" on ebay--unless you have a nice collection of small recycled bottles at your disposal. Likewise, search "vanilla beans" on ebay to buy them in bulk. And do this right now, so you can get a move on, okay? It needs to steep for a month or so. Also, I should warn you, now that it's been 3 years since I've been making it, that every time somebody runs out of vanilla, they will bring you their empty bottle with the pleasant-faced expectation that you will refill it. It is, more or less, like giving a magazine subscription, and you'd better be willing to stay on top of it. Forever.
Relatedly, I often make a little boozey something at the holidays that needs to sit around for a while before it gets really good. Limoncello, for example, is very beautiful and elegant (I use vodka instead of Everclear, just by the by). But this year I am making this warm, fragrant, utterly delicious Honey Citrus Liqueur:
Because I am meticulous, I taste it every day to make sure it's good. So far, a week in, it is really, really good. I think I'll borrow bottles from Birdy's dollhouse when it comes time to decant it for gifts. I made up the recipe, in consultation with various versions online because we had some gorgeous honey to use, and here's what it is: In a small pot, bring 1 1/2 cups of honey to a boil with 2/3 cup water, 3 cloves, and 2 cut-up vanilla beans. Simmer for 5 minutes, cool to warm, then pour it into a bottle into which you've already put the peeled zest of one large, clean orange. Fill the bottle up with Jim Beam or something similar (around 3 1/2 cups), then let it sit in the dark for a month, shaking it as often as you think to, and tasting it constantly. Strain through a fine sieve, decant into smaller bottles, and give it away, weeping. If you want to call it by its Lithuanian name, write "Grietai Pagamintas Krupnikas" in festive script on the labels.
That's all you need to deal with for now, although if you wanted to get a jump on ordering games for your kids, these are my posts on the subject from years past: last year's big-kid games; last-year's little-kid games. And this stray one. There is not a dud in the bunch. Oh, and this holiday book round-up, which I still stand by as well. I'll be posting a few new thoughts in the coming weeks too.
And, finally: Thanksgiving? Are you in? I mean, really. What choice do you have. Here are a few recipes from years past that might come in handy:
Sparkling Cranberry Centerpiece
Wonderful Cranberry Sauce
Beautiful Cranberry Upside Down Cake
Fantastic Crudite Platter with the World's Best Dip
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts
I am really going to try to keep track of all my traditional dishes this year--stuffing, mashed potatoes, and the Bird Himself--so that I can offer some basics next year. But it's hard to remember, what with my dad's forceful taking over of the mashing of the potatoes, and the turkey's uncertain doneness, and the holiday caving in on itself in a puddle of food and drink, as I know you know. I might try to post pecan pie on Monday. Which would give me an excuse to make it over the weekend!
Speaking of: have a great one. xo