Here are a couple of easy ideas for those of you who think that Christmas just doesn't feel right without some homemade gifts. Both are recipes by Nigella "Queen of Christmas" Lawson, and their sunny color and zingy flavors will brighten up the dark, horrible days of January. Each takes around a half hour (or less!) to throw together. Let's do it!
But Kelly, why chow-chow? you might ask. Quite simply, it's because of this picture:
It's on page 243 of Nigella Christmas, and I've wondered about it for three years as I've made other recipes in this marvelous cookbook. Look at it, all pretty and bright and so cutely packaged. It looks like fun things are happening inside those jars, right?
I've seen chow-chow occasionally in grocery stores but have never tried it. Nigella says that it is a sugary, vinegary Pennsylvania Dutch/Southern U.S. condiment, but she has put her own British spin on it by cutting the sweetness with hot mustard. I'm not much of a mustard or pickle fan, but I love this. It's like eating sunshine. You can use it as you would any other relish--I'm thinking it would be fantastic on a hot dog--or just eat it as is.
Some of these measurements were in metric in the book, and I'm keeping them there with some notes.
- 900g frozen sweetcorn, thawed <--a big bag; just check the weight on the package
- 8 teaspoons hot English mustard, from a jar <--I used half English mustard and half Dijon
- 300g honey
- 500ml apple cider vinegar
- 3 teaspoons celery salt
- 50g sugar
- 8 scallions, sliced into 5mm rounds
- 3 red bell peppers, deseeded and cut into 1cm dice
Sterilize your jars. Here's how. Nigella recommends simply washing the jars, lids, and rings in the dishwasher and filling the jars while they are still warm, taking care not to touch the rims or interiors. Treat the rings and lids with similar care. I've done this before and am happy to report that no one has died from eating my canned goods.
Take the sweetcorn out of the freezer and let it begin to thaw in a sieve over a bowl. If you need to speed the process, pour hot water over it.
Put the mustard, honey, vinegar, salt and sugar into a saucepan and place it on a low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon to help everything dissolve.
Stop stirring, and turn up the heat so that the mixture comes to a boil, the let it boil for 5 minutes. For me this was just a gentle, merrily bubbly boil.
Check that the corn is thawed and drained, tip it into a large bowl, and add the scallions and diced peppers.
Once your liquid has boiled for 5 minutes, take it off the heat and pour through a sieve (so you get a smooth syrup) onto the corn, scallion, and pepper mixture. Stir.
Ladle equal amounts of corn mixture and liquid into your warm, prepared jars. The syrup should cover the chow-chow; or rather, no corn should sit above the syrup but it doesn't matter if the syrup comes up over the corn a bit.
Seal the jars or screw on the lids, and store in the fridge. Once opened, use within one month.
Note: this produced 8 cups of chow-chow with enough liquid to cover it as specified above. I also had 2 cups of corn mixture left over with nowhere near enough liquid to cover it. So I am keeping that around for us to snack on. It's just as tasty as the rest of the batch, but I'm not sure if it will keep as long in the refrigerator with less liquid.
GOLDEN HONEY MUSTARD DRESSING
Jeff and I have been eating a lot of salads lately, and this is my favorite dressing to make. It's so delicious and easy that I refuse to buy salad dressing from the store again. This recipe makes around 1.75 cups, and I recommend that you try the recipe first and see if you like it before making vast quantities for your friends. For my gifts, I multipied all of these measurements by six and produced enough dressing to fill the four pint-and-a-half jars you see in the top photo (with a little left over).
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
Put all the ingredients into a jam jar, make sure the lid's on firmly, and shake like mad.
Or, if you're making a lot of this, put everything into a large bowl and whisk like mad.
Taste to check for salt and/or honey. I always use way more honey than is necessary, but I've got one hell of a sweet tooth. You might want to add a note to your dressing recipient telling them to shake it before using.
Nigella says, "I don't keep [the dressing] in the fridge, but no doubt the health and safety police would tell me I have to." But when you refrigerate this, the olive oil rises and solidifies into a disturbing cap atop the rest of the dressing, and if you want to use it you'll have to thaw it first, and this is annoying. Once again, I've had zero casualties by doing things Nigella's way.
Happy gift-giving, everybody!