The holidays are full of traditions and customs, like gifts and specialty food. It can collide in the most delicious way with holiday food gifts. Here are some seasonal treats that are perfect to give (and keep)!
A Philly Pilgrimage
Folks come far and wide Christmas Eve day to Philadelphia for some of the nation's best Italian pastries. I know because my family has been going for the last 50 years. If you don't believe me click here. With three locations, Termini's Bakery is the king of them all. The original location at 1523 South 8th Street has some especially great traditions. Folks line up as early as 4:00 am to buy their Christmas treats. The bakery doors open, and the line quickly wraps around the center counter of Italian delights. Then people wind all the way back into the kitchen to see where the delicious magic starts!
The bakery has a dizzying array of pastries. Termini's is likely best known for the house-made cannolis, ricotta cheese-filled Italian pastries. They also sell authentic Italian cookies. On the menu are pignolis, quorasemali (chocolate, fruit, and nut bar cookies), Italian rum cakes, and sfogliatelles (clam-shaped pastries with a ricotta filling).
If you can't go in person, they ship many of their desserts including the cannolis. Cannolis come 6 or 12 to an order and you can choose your fillings (in individual pastry bags). Also available are select cakes, cookies (including pignolis), and pastries. Prices vary. You can order from Termini's Bakery here.
Ham I Am
There are all kinds of mail-order hams to be had for the holidays, so I asked Chef Virginia Willis for advice. She's the author of five cookbooks, a food writer and blogger, one of the foremost authorities on southern cuisine, and a James Beard Award winner for her 2016 cookbook Lighten Up, Y'all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome. So ... she knows ham. And her pick? Newsom's Country Ham from Princeton, Kentucky.
Col. Bill Newsom's Aged Kentucky Country Hams follows the curing process from a 1700s family will. According to their website, they rub salt and brown sugar into the ham by hand. The hams are then washed, hung, and smoked. Only after many months above smoldering hickory wood are they ready. Being hand-crafted, availability is limited, and they come with a numbered certificate. They are sodium nitrate and nitrite free and average 14-18 pounds. They also sell a smoked bacon, sausages, prosciutto-type hams, and sweets. Prices vary. Order your Col. Bill Newsom's hams here.
Bee My Honey
There are few condiments, if any, that you can put on almost everything... until now. While living in Brazil, Michael Kurtz discovered chili pepper-infused honeys. He then created his own recipe for peppered honey as small batch gifts for friends and family. In 2011, while apprenticing at the renowned Paulie Gee's Brooklyn pizzeria, he brought some in for the owner to try. It was a hit, and after that Mike's Hot Honey was born.
You can use Mike's Hot Honey for everything--savory treats, breads and baked goods, meats, vegetables, cocktails, even ice cream! And they use New York wildflower honey harvested by local beekeepers. Mike's Hot Honey comes in 12-ounce bottles ($10.00) and a 24-case of 1.88 ounce mini jars ($79.99). It's available at select food retailers, like Williams-Sonoma, as well as online here.
Shane's Candy can trace their history back to 1863, when the business first opened as a candy manufacturer. In 1910, Edward R. Shane bought the business, and opened the storefront the next year. The shop remained in the Shane family for three generations. Then in 2010, Barry Shane sold the business to brothers Eric and Ryan Berley and they restored the shop to its 1863 glory. Shane's Candy, located at 110 Market Street, is the longest-operating candy store in the United States.
Shane's makes many outstanding specialties, but their most famous candies are buttercreams and clear toy candy. For over 100 years, Shane's has created buttercreams by which all others are measured (or at least should be). The classic is the vanilla buttercream, but don't forget seasonal flavors like maple walnut and pumpkin. Boxes are available in dark, milk and white chocolate coatings. Price: $15.00-$30.00. Order here.
An 18th century German-Amish holiday tradition, families gave clear toy candy as gifts to their children. While Shane's always sold clear toy candy, the Berley Brothers first made them in-house. They are available in various holiday figures including Santa Claus, Christmas Trees, and reindeer. Prices range from $7.50-$55.00. Order here.
Located in the heart of Ohio Amish country, Minerva Dairy and Walnut Creek Cheese make some of the most delicious cheese to grace a holiday party.
Walnut Creek Cheese operates a 60,000 square-foot grocery store at 2641 State Route 39 in Walnut Creek, Ohio. They are popular for many reasons, especially the large selection of bulk items and Amish specialties. But the big draw is their cheese. There are over 50 varieties available.
They stock Baby Swiss, Smokey Cheddar, Assorted Cheese Curds, Horseradish Cheese and Butter Cheese. You can also call them up and they will recommend cheeses not on their website. There is a large selection of items from the store available on their website. Prices vary. Order here.
Minerva Dairy, 430 Radloff Avenue (Minerva, Ohio), is America's Oldest Family Owned Cheese and Butter Dairy. Founded in 1894, today 5th and 6th generation family members continue to churn out delicious cheeses and batch churned Amish Butter that is 84% butterfat.
Either individually or sent as a combo holiday gift pack, Minerva Dairy cheeses and butters are a perfect gift to give! Standouts include their Farmers Cheese, Raw Milk Cheddar and Maplewood Smoked Lace cheese. Order here.
If you're baking, cooking or serving butter for some freshly baked bread, their Amish Butter is what your holiday table needs. The butter comes salted, unsalted and flavored with garlic & herb, smoked Maplewood and seasonal flavors of pumpkin spice and maple syrup. Prices: $3.49 - $8.99. Order here.
There is an Old English says that says, "Of soup and love, the first is best." Fortunately, Betty Rosbottom's latest book, Soup Nights: Satisfying Soups and Sides for Delicious Meals All Year, is a soup cookbook you can fall in love with. This 208-page book features more than 100 soup, salad, sandwich and dessert recipes perfect for year-round cooking ... and eating.
The cookbook's eight chapters, many with color photographs, cover vegetable soups, chowders, gumbo and bisques, bean and grain soups, comfort soups, light warm and chilled soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts. Every recipe is unique, simple and delicious. Just start at the beginning this winter and you'll work your way right though entire book by summer. At the bottom of each soup recipe is a suggested accompanying salad, sandwich and dessert. Price: $35.00. Order here.