For your family Christmas gathering, a gift exchange among friends, or to thank your host for their hospitality, we have gifts that are sure to be a feast for the eyes . . . and for the tastebuds! To help guide your choice, we found the ideal gift for three distinctive personalities. With these, we’re sure you’ll find something for everyone on your list!
For those who’ll eat just about anything
A gift basket filled with local gems
Is your spouse, aunt, or mother-in-law one who can’t resist stealing a bite from everyone’s restaurant order, “just to try it?” Give your taste-tester a package of local products, including fruit jellies and jams (think strawberry, blueberry, and haksap) and boreal varieties (Labrador tea or balsam fit jelly). And don’t forget to include some classic maple treats as well, such as maple syrup and butter, and even flakes for topping desserts and other sweet-and-savoury dishes. You can also add a maple vinegar, to add a local touch to salads.
Marinades are also always a big hit. Get off the beaten path and taste our local forests (no typos here!). For example, you can try pickled pine shoots which, unbeknownst to most, literally melt in your mouth and taste like rosemary . . . with a little oomph. Similarly, pickled elderberry is also an interesting choice, as it can be used instead of capers in tartare or on smoked salmon and cream cheese baguettines.
You can also slip one or two bags of dehydrated wild mushrooms, perfect for sides and sauces! To elevate dishes in an unexpected way, there are also various Quebec spice mixes, sauces, and even Saint-Laurent Sea salt.
As for drinks, there are plenty of hot-chocolate mixes, wild or Nordic berry herbal teas, and beers from microbreweries, spirits, apple ciders, and other Quebec alcohols to choose from.
For those with a sweet tooth
Candied fruit of all kinds
Candied fruit can be eaten as is (it’s better than candy!) or be used to elevate fruit desserts with their bright colours. They’re prepared by replacing the fruit’s water with sugar, so they can be preserved naturally. Peaches, pineapple, cherries, and lemon and orange zest are just a few examples of these mouth-watering sweet treats. However, they’re relatively long to prepare, so why not buy some already-made ones instead?
Candied lemons, for their part, are usually prepared with salt instead of sugar in order to be used in savoury dishes like tajines, made with various types of meat (think chicken or lamb), as well as in legumes in vegetarian dishes. Here’s a candied lemon recipe perfect for anyone trying to tame their sweet tooth.
For 1 jar
Prep time: 15 minutes
Maceration time: 2 months or more
Coarse salt (for stuffing)
4 tbsp. salt
4 cups water
- On a sturdy board, apply pressure to each lemon so as to make its pores pop (releasing the juices inside).
- Make an X-shaped incision at one end of each lemon, a few centimeters deep (the lemon must stay whole).
- Stuff each lemon with coarse salt.
- Place the lemons in a sterilized mason jar.
- Bring the water and salt to a boil.
- Cover the lemons entirely with boiling water.
- Let macerate in a dark place for two months.
- Rinse the lemons before serving.
For the culinary explorer
Luxurious flavoured oils!
The pantry holds more spices than can be used in a year, but to truly impress the culinary explorer in your life, consider flavoured oils. Oil infused with Espelette peppers, Herbes de Provence, Greek herbs, fresh garlic, thyme, basil, rosemary, cilantro, truffles, lemon, lime, orange, bergamot, etc.: each is sure to elevate vinaigrettes, marinades, pastas, and soups.
For a personalized gift, make yours using a neutral oil base (canola, sunflower, camelina, grapeseed, or extra virgin olive oil). Pour your oil in a glass measuring cup and add the fresh herb of your choice (a few leaves or sprigs), a little lemon zest, and a few garlic cloves. Place the cup onto an oven-safe dish (to ensure stability) and place in the oven, at 300°F (150°C), for 2 hours. Let cool about 30 minutes and filter the oil using a coffee filter. Transfer to a decorative bottle that closes hermetically. The oil keeps in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.Caution: Before you start making flavoured oil, learn the precautions to take to prevent botulism.