I’ve been wanting to make liquor infusions and hard eggnog for a few years, but they take several weeks to infuse, and things get so crazy around the holidays that before I know it, I don’t have time to prepare them as Christmas gifts.  Not this year – I got started early!
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To give as gifts this holiday, I made two infusions from Karen Solomon’s Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It.  If you’re not familiar with this cookbook, let me tell you how awesome it is.  It isn’t a cookbook for making entrees or meals.  It’s a cookbook for making little homemade goodies that you could buy at the store for cheap but are fun and make you feel like an accomplished foodie.  The book has recipes for crackers, chips, cheese, spreads, popsicles, bacon, smoked fish, candy bars, beverages, and more.  I’ve made many things from her cookbook, and many I’ve made more than once: almond joy candy bars, peanut butter cups, watermelon popsicles, and bacon.  Love, love, love the book.  

Anyways, back to the infusions.  

First, I made Rumkirschen, which is a rum-based cocktail with Morello cherries and their juice.  It tastes similar to a port but is slightly sweeter and more tart.  I also made the Winter Solstice Brew, which is a brandy-infused cocktail spiced with orange, cinnamon, star anise, black peppercorns, and vanilla bean.  It’s significantly stronger than the Rumkirschen and isn’t as smooth, but it has a nice bite and smells like a spicy-sweet orange cake baking in the oven.  Lastly, I made eggnog using my Uncle John's tried and true recipe.
Spiced Eggnog * Rumkirschen * Winter Solstice Brew
In addition to these infusions, I prepared a different sweet to pair with each.  For the rich, cherry Rumkirschen, I made the coconut almond candy bars from Jam It.  Almonds have a sweet, cherry scent to them, so I thought these candy bars would pair well with the cherry drink.  

For the Winter Solstice Brew, I made chocolate-dipped candied orange peel.  For the first time.  Using this recipe from Bon Appetit which claims it’s the simplified version.  I’d hate to try the normal, extra tedious and even more time-consuming version.  They’re a total pain.  Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if I’d only used two oranges like the recipe calls for instead of the 12 I needed to make enough to give away as gifts.  Ah, removing the pith from 12 oranges.  Laying out ¼-inch sliced orange peel from 12 oranges one-by-one on wax paper.  Thankfully they turned out well.  They’re not gorgeous but they taste good, and even better with the brew because they’re so sweet and sugary and it’s so sharp and peppery.  I know I’ll have just enough time to forget what a pain in the butt they are by next Christmas, and so I’ll be making them again come December 2013.  

As for the eggnog, I made everyone’s favorite chocolate pretzel bites.  Soften Hershey’s kisses on top of preztels in the oven, press an m&m on top of the kiss, and voila:  highly addictive snacks!  Sweet and salty with enough salt to stand up to the cloying sweetness of the eggnog.
Sweet & Salty Pretzel Bites * Chocolate-Dipped Candied Orange Peel * Coconut Almond Clusters          (This is all that was left for us...)
Hopefully these “Sippers & Sweets” go over well.  I know come cold January nights, I’d want to pop in a movie and curl up on the couch with some snacks and something to sip on.  I really do encourage homemade gifts.  I know they’re time consuming and often just as expensive or moreso than buying the store bought version, but I enjoy planning them out, executing them, and giving them away knowing that the recipient knows I put time, thought, effort, and love into making them. 
1/4/2013 20:25:08

Wow, those are some truly amazing self-made gifts! I'm impressed! I've wanted to make eggnog since forever, so if you ever feel like sharing your uncle's recipe... then maybe a tutorial post would be cool! ;)

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1/5/2013 06:24:14

That's a great idea. Maybe I'll do that next winter, since I probably won't have a craving for it until then. I'll dig the recipe back out of the box soon and send it to you. It's super simple.

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1/6/2013 22:58:20

Thanks so much!! You have my email from this comments form, right? Next year will hopefully be a home Christmas for us, and I'd love to be able to serve up home-made eggnog! Not to mention make my own eggnog lattes, haha - I am sooo craving those, now that Starbucks have stopped doing Christmas drinks!

1/15/2013 05:47:15

Those look very fun. I am definitely going to have to pick up that book. I love doing handmade gifts. My father-in-law and I were going to make lemon liquor for Christmas gifts. It takes about 6 months to infuse with the recipe he found, but then he passed away and I haven't made it yet. I think my mother-in-law and I will have to set some time aside this summer to get some going.

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1/16/2013 01:59:07

I think you'd really like the book; they're more like cooking "projects" than recipes. I think you should make the lemon liquor with your MIL this summer. It would be something to honor your FIL and could maybe be the start of a tradition you could share with your MIL.

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