Learn to give homemade gifts, barter your skills and make gravy like the best old-school grandma you know. Oh, and leave a comment to win a free book. These and other keys to modern life below.
A lot goes through a girl’s head while she’s pouring eight-plus pounds of homemade granola into a legion of tiny cellophane gift bags. There are optimistic thoughts, like Happy Holidays and The Joy of Giving and If One More Dried Cranberry Hits the Floor, I Won’t Have to Feed the Toddler or the Cat Breakfast Tomorrow.
There are pessimistic thoughts, like Another Year Gone? and Dwindling Numbers at the Family Holiday Table and Why is There No Cheese in Granola.
There are practical thoughts, like The Inappropriateness of Scratching Certain Itches While Handling Foodstuffs.
And as the bags appear to multiply before her bleary, wondering eyes, there are the inevitable deep thoughts, like At What Point Tonight Will I Have Birthed Enough Granola to Qualify as a Grandmother?
I’m still working on an answer to that last question. But in the meantime, the charming new book How to Sew a Button by Erin Bried goes a long way toward imparting the wisdom of the world’s grandmothers to those of us younger folks making an earnest attempt to fit homemade granola (and maybe a homegrown tomato and a real live neighbor or two) into our modern lives.
I received a review copy of this little gem when my friend Daphne and I were already busy scheming our homemade holiday gifts for this year: a breakfast basket of granola, lemon curd and hot cocoa mix and a cocktail medley of ginger-infused vodka, spiced nuts and little pots of cheese spread. On top of that, we Umamis have now done several seasons worth of canning and even have a semi-legit compost pile of our very own. In other words, I am already a crazy-ass grandma in training, so I wondered whether the book would have much to add to my old lady savvy. It totally does, my dearies. It totally does, in the most accessible and entertaining of ways.
Looking to make gravy? Step one: pour yourself a glass of wine while you wait for the fat to rise to the top of the meat drippings. This is the kind of project I could really see you getting into. Want to barter your old crap or your services instead of spending money on the things you want? Step one: open your pie hole. Making introductions? Let new friends know what they have in common, but keep it flattering. “Jo, have you met Blair? I think you both have hemorrhoids,” is less good than “You both went to the same boarding school.” See? You can do this. And with How to Sew in hand, you’ll want to.
As for homemade gifts, why not pair some granola with this lovely lemon curd, which is delicious spread on toast or scones or spooned directly from the jar into the recipient’s pie hole?
And as for free books, would you like a chance to win a copy of How to Sew a Button? Leave a comment with your best bit of bad-ass granny wisdom, or confess to being so grannily impoverished that you desperately need this book. I’ll choose a winner at random after entries close on December 24th at midnight. Good luck!
Adapted from The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard -makes about 2 1/2 cups, enough for 4 5-oz. gift jars-
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon zest (finely grated on a rasp)
3 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Special equipment: A large, heatproof glass bowl and a pot in which the bowl can rest without touching the bottom
1. Fill the pot with about one inch of water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
2. In a food processor or mortar and pestle, combine the sugar and lemon zest and pulse or mash until the sugar is yellow and the delicious smell of lemon sugar almost knocks you out, about a minute in the food processor or a few minutes in the mortar.
3. Combine the lemon sugar, eggs and egg yolks in the heatproof bowl. Whisk together for one minute to distribute the sugar. Place the bowl over the pot with simmering water and whisk constantly for about 30 seconds, or until the sugar is dissolved.
4. Add the lemon juice and lime juice and cook, whisking constantly for 8 to 10 minutes, until the curd reads 160° F on an instant read thermometer and has the consistency of sour cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.
5. Whisk in the pieces of cold butter one by one until they are completely incorporated. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl.
6. If you are gifting the curd, divide it among four small jelly jars while it is still warm. Then chill in the refrigerator. The curd lasts in the refrigerator for up to a week and also freezes beautifully. Especially since people can get so overfed around the holidays, it’s nice to include a label on the jar that lets recipients know they can freeze it for up to three months.