There’s a delicate art to delivering an edible heartfelt sentiment.
Just-for-You Tea
Credit: Jonny Valiant; Styling: Blake Ramsey Murray

I’m so sorry to be the bearer of awkward news, but those fruit preserves—the ones you spent hours crafting, years perfecting, and eons ever so lovingly packaging with a a hand-calligraphed label and a cunning bow—are gonna get ooohed and ahhhed over for a moment, then shoved to the back of a cabinet and never eaten. And that’s a darn shame, seeing as you went to all that effort. Handmade gifts are so thoughtful, a reflection of the warm soul of the giver themselves, so it’s extra painful to find out that they’ve been cast aside or neglected. Here are a few ways to maximize the chances that your homemade treat will be happily devoured.

Label it well

It’s a little unnerving to pull out a jar of relish or sweet preserves and not know what's exactly in in there. “Fig shrub" or "cinnamon pear butter" might seem obvious to you, but the recipient might be in the dark about what that actually means. And plenty of folks are super picky about food for all manner of reasons. You don’t have to give the whole recipe away, but consider writing a list of the ingredients—and suggested servings or pairings—on the label, gift tag, or a card so your lucky recipient can indulge without fretting.

Set a timer

There’s a very specific emotion—a cross between guilt, disgust, and mild terror—when you pull a jar or gift box from the cupboard and can’t recall exactly when it entered your life, or even worse, if it’s still safe to eat. It’s helpful, especially with jarred goods, to include the date the food was made. It’s even more useful to know when it’s best used by. Not only will the recipient feel more confident chomping into that dilly bean or slathering those watermelon preserves on their morning toast—it’ll also encourage the recipient to gather their rosehip jelly while they may.

Make it a duet

Condiments, pickles, and spreads are great gifts and often pretty gorgeous to boot, but they're a song that's already been written. If you give someone a baking mix, rub, spice blend, seasoned salt or sugar, flavored syrup, or an oil or vinegar infusion, they'll get to write the next verse and tell you all about how they used it in their own cooking. Maybe you'll even get a taste.

Give to serve

Holiday hosting can be cheerfully taxing, and plenty of people don't get a chance to stop and actually enjoy the food at their own celebrations. If you can swing it, bring over a double batch of your special snack mix, bark, spiced nuts, or mulled wine so one can be served at the festivities and another can be tucked away for them to hoard for themselves after the dust has settled.

Get their hands dirty

Kids and adults alike are more likely to sample something they've made themselves. If one of your extra-special gift-ees lives nearby, offer up a cooking afternoon where you spend a few hours catching up and making your special treat together. Have some festive to-go containers or jars on hand so they can take plenty home, and think of you warmly every time they snack or sip.

By Kat Kinsman and Kat Kinsman