Holiday gift giving stresses me out. Finding a suitable and useful gift for the intended recipient is something I simply do not have an aptitude for. I also get a little unnerved at the excess of the holidays. I have to travel across the country to see my family and the idea of having to cram extra things into my small suitcase for the trip back to New Orleans and then trying to fi gure out where to put new things in my house is enough to make me very distraught.
No surprise then, that I like edible and shareable presents. This year I have plenty of honey to go around for gift giving, but between relatives tired of my honey (how rude), prohibitive shipping costs (honey in glass jars is heavy), and the utter mess and waste of having jars break and leak all over my clothes inside my luggage (that I paid $50 to check), I'm done gifting honey to faraway places. I think the novelty of me keeping bees has sort of worn off in my family at this point anyway.
Luckily my family still likes to eat and drink tasty things around the holidays, so this year, I'm making tasty gifts with my honey and another regional ingredient that captures Louisiana in the winter, satsumas.
These are more fl avorful than truly bitter, but I still like to use them for old fashioneds, or in mulled wine. They also make a nice addition to sparkling water for a lighter on the alcohol approach to the holidays.
• 5 satsumas
• 1 750 ml Everclear or Diesel (grain alcohol)
• 10 cardamom pods 2 whole star anise pods 3 cinnamon sticks
• 1 teaspoon whole cloves
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp. chopped fresh ginger
• 3/4 cup of multi-fl oral honey, Or 1 cup sugar
1. Zest the satsumas into a large glass jar (at least 1 quart) avoiding the white pith. If you don't have a Microplane zester/grater, go get one, because they are so useful (sorry for the product endorsement, but it’s one of those tools I can't even bring myself to remember the dark days in my kitchen when I lived without one).
2. Put the rest of the ingredients in the jar (except for the honey or sugar), and cover with the alcohol. Leave to sit in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks.
3. Strain liquid through cheesecloth into a stainless steel or glass bowl or pot and reserve spices. Transfer infused alcohol liquid back to jar and cover. Put spices in a saucepan with 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Add honey (or sugar) to the saucepan. Continue to simmer for a few more minutes, stirring until dissolved. Once dissolved, remove from heat and let sit until room temperature.
5. Once the sugar mixture is room temperature, add it to the jar with the infused grain alcohol and let sit for 5 more days.
6. After 5 days, strain liquid through cheesecloth into a glass measuring cup and discard spices. Pour bitters into small jars* and seal tightly.
*Look for small jars at save-on-crafts.com
Satsuma Honey Caramels
Honey gives these caramels a rich, intense fl avor. These can be easily adapted to be made with sugar, or different types of citrus. This recipe makes about 75 caramels, so by all means halve it if short on ingredients, or afraid of the amount of butter and cream.
• 3 cups satsuma juice
• 1 cup butter
• 2 cups multi fl oral honey
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1 cup light-brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• Sea salt (optional)
1. Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper and set aside (a round pie pan works in a pinch too – there will just be oddly shaped roundish pieces that you may need to eat).
2. Add satsuma juice to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil for up to 20 minutes, until juice is reduced to about 1 cup.
3. Add butter to the satsuma juice in the saucepan and melt over medium-high heat. Add honey, cream, and sugar, the stir to combine. Continue stirring over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a boil.
4. Adjust heat down to medium and continue to boil, stirring frequently, for at least 45 minutes (I know, but it becomes kind of a meditative experience). The caramel is ready when it reads 250 degrees on a candy thermometer, or when it holds together in a ball when dropped in a glass of ice water. Remove from heat and quickly stir in vanilla – it will bubble furiously while the alcohol boils off – then pour into pan with parchment paper. Let cool for an hour, then sprinkle with sea salt if you're a salted caramel kind of person. Leave to cool completely for several hours, or overnight.
5. Once cool, turn caramel out onto a cutting board and remove parchment. Cut caramels with a sharp knife into 1-inch squares or rectangles and roll each in wax paper, twisting at each end.