In two months the Christmas holidays will be upon us. Readers often ask for a recipe to use as a gift. Many times by the time you ask for a recipe it is too late to prepare before gift giving time. So today I will share recipes that take up to several weeks to get ready. Preserved items should set for 6 to 8 weeks before using.

Cherry Cordial

1 3/4 liter vodka

1 3/4 cup granulated sugar

several cinnamon sticks

1 whole medium size lemon, holes poked evenly

2 pounds red sweet cherries.

Place prepared fruit into gallon container with secure lid; add cinnamon sticks, lemon and sugar. Pour vodka into container. Use a wooden spoon to stir every thing together. Once a week for the first three weeks, stir the contents to help dissolve the sugar. Stir occasionally the next several weeks until the liquid is rebottled. Let cure for at least a weeks before using. Stain liquid through cheesecloth or coffee filter before rebottling. Collect bottles or purchase new ones and rebottled as you desire.

Pure Vanilla Extract

2 whole vanilla bean

1 1/2 cups vodka

1/2 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

Split the vanilla beans lengthwise into two pieces each. In a glass container with a secure, screw top add all the ingredients. Screw the top on the container and shake vigorously. Shake once a week for about eight weeks, keeping at room temperature. Stain vanilla liquid through cheesecloth or coffee filter Quickly rinse vanilla bean pods to get rid of loose beans for a clean presentation It is best to rebottle the pure vanilla extract into small bottles. Fill bottles and add a piece of bean pod to each. Pure vanilla extract makes a wonderful gift.

Fruit Vinegars

2 cups frozen, no sugar added, strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

4 cups white, cider or rice wine vinegar

Put fruit into six cups or large jar or bowl (not plastic, copper or aluminum). Sprinkle with sugar, then pour in the vinegar. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and let stand at least two weeks. Stain through double thickness of cheesecloth. Discard fruit. Pour vinegar through a funnel into a clean bottle(s). Seal with a cork or tight fitting cap. Makes one quart.

Herb Vinegar by the Bottle

glass container or bottle

herbs

white or cider vinegar

Use glass container or bottle. Fill with your favorite herb or mix of herbs. Heat vinegar to a low boil (enough vinegar to cover herbs). Seal with a cork or tight fitting cap or lid. Keep in a sunny place for several weeks. Store in cool dark place.

Christmas Pepper Relish

1/2 cup chopped sweet red peppers*

1/2 cup chopped sweet green peppers*

l/2 cup diced onions

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon crushed bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl; stir until well blended. Pour mixture into clean and hot (two) half cup canning jars (leave 1/4 head room). Adjust lids. Process for 10 minutes in a rolling hot water bath.

*Hot peppers can be substituted for sweet peppers. Allow to stand for several weeks before using.

There are some cakes and pastries that freeze better than others. The following freeze well, which will allow you to take last minute baking and holiday preparation at a little less hectic pace.

Original Pumpkin Nut Bread

My signature in baked goods

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

2/3 cups water

2 cups prepared pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Stir dry ingredients together. Mix pumpkin, water, oil, and eggs together. Spoon dry ingredients into liquid mixture and mix well. Add nuts last by hand. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place oven rack at lowest possible position. Remove second rack if you have to. If you are making mini-muffins, you can use two racks for four pans. Grease and flour pans unless you are using foil throwaways, then just spray. One recipe makes one Bundt cake, bake 1 hour and 45 minutes, 3 standard loaf pans, bake 1 hour and 20 minutes. 6 mini-loaf pans, bake 1 hour. One batter makes approximately 96 mini-muffins, bake 25 to 30 minutes. Test with toothpick or cake tester by inserting into middle of cake and it come out clean. To freeze double wrap in a good grade foil.

Bethlehem Cookie Recipe

Freezes Nicely

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Cream butter/margarine with sugar; work in flour. Wrap in waxed paper, chill well. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Roll out on lightly floured board. Cut out with star shape cookie cutters. Bake on ungreased or parchment lined baking sheets for 20 to 25 minutes.

If you have a favorite holiday treat to share with everyone write to: Neighborhood Kitchens, P. O. Box 1660, Norristown, PA 19404.

Life is like a celebration, enjoy it!

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