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For many of us, holiday shopping and planning began weeks and maybe even months ago.

For others, it's barely gotten started. If you are in the latter group, you may share my aversion to the commercialization of Christmas and other winter holidays. I love this time of year, the cold, the shortening of the days as we approach the solstice, the way we naturally turn inward, and I have, for years, refused to let the pressure to shop eclipse these quiet pleasures. From November through the end of December, I do very little shopping, except at a few local craft fairs, farmers markets, a couple of local shops and hardware stores, where I buy cases of canning jars.

If you love to cook, you can make wonderful gifts in your kitchen, an activity that works well when it is chilly outside and darkness falls by 5 p.m.

Flavored olive oils and vinegars have been popular in recent years, but I think there are better ways to go. Working with olive oil can be especially tricky, as fresh herbs submerged in it go bad quickly and garlic, a popular addition, can result in an oil infected with botulinum spores if not done properly.

Today's recipes feature gifts I'm making this year. I've prepared nearly six pounds of gomashio, a sesame-based Japanese condiment, using locally harvested nori seaweed from Strong Arm Farms. When a friend gave me a bushel of Meyer lemons, I made a huge batch of marmalade, most of it flavored with ginger and a bit with fresh thyme from my garden. Because apricot season sped past me this year, I've made a favorite chutney using pineapple instead of the fleeting stone fruit. And after several requests for my recipe for Korean Barbecue Sauce, I realized it would make a great gift for friends who love to cook but rarely have much time in the kitchen.


Two ounces of gomashio lasts a while, as it doesn't take much of it to brighten up such foods as steamed rice, grilled Korean ribs, grilled cheese sandwiches and such.

<strong>Gomashio, with a Spicy Variation</strong>

<em> Makes about 1 pound (enough to fill eight 4-ounce canning jars)</em>

1 pound white sesame seeds, preferably organic

1 ounce nori seaweed, preferably local and unprocessed

2 to 3 teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt

Toast the sesame seeds in a wok or similar pan set over high heat, stirring frequently with a wide wooden spoon, until they take on some color and become fragrant. Do not let them burn. It should take about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Break the nori into manageable pieces and toast it in the same pan, turning the seaweed frequently, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate or bowl to cool.

Grind the sesame seeds in a spice grinder or food processor fitted with the metal blade, until about half the seeds are broken into smaller pieces and the other half remain whole. Work in batches as necessary and transfer each ground batch to a bowl. Process the seaweed similarly, reducing it to small pieces but not dust. Add to the bowl with the sesame seeds.

Add 2 teaspoons of salt to the mixture, toss thoroughly, taste and add the remaining teaspoon of salt if needed.

Let cool completely.

Divide the gomashio among individual glass jars; 4-ounce canning jars are ideal. Label and decorate with ribbons or fabric as you wish.

The gomashio keeps indefinitely, though flavors are best within the first few months.

Variation: For a spicy gomashio, add a teaspoon of chipotle powder or crushed red-pepper flakes along with the salt.


This is one of those dishes that is so much more than the simple sum of its parts. Once you've tasted it, you'll want to have it around frequently and you'll want to share it with well-loved friends and family.

<strong>Korean Barbecue Sauce</strong>

<em> Makes about 5 cups</em>

4 cups soy sauce, plus more to taste

2 cups palm sugar or granulated sugar

8 to 10 garlic cloves, crushed and minced

3 bunches green onions, minced

6 inches fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 cup toasted sesame oil

6 tablespoons white sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Pour the soy sauce into a large saucepan, add the sugar, set over low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Taste and correct the sweet-salt balance. Stir in the garlic, onions, ginger, sesame oil and sesame seeds, remove from the heat and cool thoughly.

Divide among 5 individual bottles. Close with a cap or cork. Label (see Note below), refrigerate and use within 10 days.

Note: You'll need to make a label, which is not difficult. I recommend something like this: "Korean Barbecue Sauce. Keep Refrigerated. Use within 5 to 7 days. To use with Korean cut ribs, put 2 pounds of ribs in a large plastic freezer bag, add two-thirds of the sauce, seal the bag and refrigerator for several hours. Grill the ribs about 90 seconds per side, slather with the remaining sauce and serve. Also excellent with short ribs, steak, grilled burgers and steamed rice."


Use pineapple chutney with any Indian curry. It is also excellent with roasted and grilled chicken. Be sure to taste this chutney several times; the sweetness of pineapples varies so much that it is impossible to give a single quantity and guarantee success.

<strong>Pineapple Chutney</strong>

<em> Makes about 6 to 8 pints</em>

2 ripe pineapples, peeled, cored and chopped (see note below)

2 cups granulated sugar, plus more to taste

1 to 2 cups golden raisins, plumped in boiling water, optional

3 to 6 serranos, stemmed and minced

1 garlic bulb, peeled and minced

3 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and grated

2 tablespoons white mustard seed, lightly toasted

1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

1 cup pineapple vinegar or apple cider vinegar, plus more to taste

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Put the pineapple and sugar into a large pot set over medium heat and stir gently until the sugar is dissolved. Taste and add sugar if it seems overly tart; you want it quite sweet.

Add the raisins, if using, and the serranos, garlic, ginger, mustard seed, red pepper flakes, vinegar, and salt, stir and cook for about 10 minutes. Taste and correct for acid and sugar balance. Continue to cook very gently until the mixture thickens slightly.

Remove from the heat, let cool slightly and ladle into sterilized pint or half-pint canning jars. Add lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, following the instructions that come with the jars. Transfer to tea towels to cool and check seals.

Dry and label the jars. If the jars are sealed, the chutney will keep for several months; if they are not sealed, store in the refrigerator for several weeks.


Faced with a bushel of lemons, I used the thin slicing blade on my food processor the cut them into rounds. It was a bit of a trade-off, as I had to pick out seeds and seed fragments by hand, but it did make dealing with all those lemons a bit more manageable. I like the uniformity of the slices, too. If you're making a single batch, though, just use a very sharp knife and slice by hand.

<strong>Meyer Lemon and Ginger Marmalade</strong>

<em> Makes about 4 pints</em>

8 to 10 Meyer lemons, preferably organic

5 cups sugar

2 tablespoons freshly grated peeled ginger

Wash the lemons thoroughly under cool running water and dry with a clean tea towel.

Using a very sharp knife — a good serrated knife works best — cut the lemons into crosswise paper-thin slices. As you cut, remove the seeds, keeping them whole. Cut the slices in half and put the sliced lemons into a large nonreactive pot. Tie the seeds into a small cheesecloth bag, add to the lemons and cover with 6 cups of water. Cover the pot — a large plate works well and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

Set the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, until only about 6 cups remains. Use tongs to remove and discard the bag of seeds, stir in the sugar and the ginger and simmer over medium heat, stirring now and then and skimming off any foam that rises to the surface, until a teaspoon of the mixture dropped onto a very cold plate gels. It likely will take 30 to 40 minutes or a bit longer.

Ladle the hot marmalade into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Wipe the rims with a dampened cloth and seal. Process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes for half-pint jars or 10 minutes for pint jars, or according to the instructions that accompany the canning jars.

Alternately, pour the marmalade into sterilized jars and store in the refrigerator for up to a year.

<em>Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.</em>

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