Of all the holiday gifts I’ve been lucky enough to receive, it’s the tasty homemade ones that stay in my memory. There were the shelf-stable bottles of batched cocktails ready for a quick stir with ice, the cookie boxes with gingerbread galore, the pleasingly sticky brittles and toffees, and all the festive chocolate bark.
Homemade gifts are intimate and full of care. You’re actively thinking about the happiness of the people on your gift list as you stir, chop and measure. They’re also efficient: You can make a big batch that’s perfect for all or at least several recipients. And they eliminate the time-sucking indecision that comes with trying to find just the right thing for people who already have a lot of stuff.
But maybe the best part in this season of soaring inflation is that homemade gifts cost little. And if you love to cook, making them is fun.
Here are four recipes to please an array of the loved ones on your list.
If you’ve ever sent someone a giant tin of gourmet popcorn, you know how expensive the good ones can be. But popcorn kernels are cheap, and turning them into batches of caramel corn and Cheddar popcorn is straightforward. You will need to get your hands on some Cheddar powder, which is indispensable for that singular finger-licking pleasure of cheese dust. Spice shops carry it, as do many online purveyors.
If you don’t want to splurge on holiday-themed tins for packing it up, set your children (young or adult) to decorating paper lunch bags with stickers, markers, paints and anything they can catch and glue down. Just avoid those diabolical sparkles when it comes to food gifts of any kind.
For candy lovers, the usual holiday bark pales in comparison to this box of peppermint saltine toffee. The topping, a glistening red and white smattering of crushed candy canes, is as easy as it is eye-catching.
Jars or tins of homemade hot chocolate mix — with or without the marshmallows — will delight any snowman-builders, ice skaters or snow shovelers who yearn for a hot mug of cocoa to warm their icy digits. But even those in warmer climates will be thrilled to sip from such a creamy, bittersweet cup.
And finally, for cocktail bibbers, I can personally attest to how much a bottle of batched rye manhattan can make one’s day and the whole holiday season that much more festive.
Recipes: Hot Chocolate Mix | Caramel Cheddar Popcorn | Peppermint Saltine Toffee Bark | Large-Batch Rye Manhattan Cocktails
Follow New York Times Cooking on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and Pinterest. Get regular updates from New York Times Cooking, with recipe suggestions, cooking tips and shopping advice.