Holiday Traditions, Preserved

Homemade and locally sourced food gifts are always savored.

Light up the holidays with gifts of food and drink for your friends and family. The hottest food trend of 2012 has been preserving goodies from garden, orchard, and market. Canning jars, pickling crocks, herb-drying racks, and even food dehydrators have been flying out of kitchenware shops and supermarkets across the country. We haven’t seen this much enthusiasm for do-it-yourself in the kitchen since the patriotic heyday of World War II’s Victory Gardens.

Nothing says “I care” more than a present that shows some personal effort. If you already have your own honey, pickles, jams, or other home-produced items to give as holiday gifts, good for you. However, if the preserving ship sailed without you back in August, when summer produce was at its peak, we’ve got your lifeline for the holidays. Everything you need for spreading New Mexican seasonal cheer, by the pint, quart, or batch, is here: Recipes you can make with items you’ll find in markets, products you can mix and match with your homemade goodies, store-bought items you can personalize, even fun food-related gifts with no calories whatsoever. If you’re not the kitchen or crafty type, we’ve sought out some special preserved treats that have strong, sometimes unexpected New Mexico connections.

Sugar and Spice

The trio of sweet condiment recipes all speak with a distinct New Mexican accent. You can whip up jars of neon-fuchsia Prickly Pear Jelly, without any contact with cactus, or make a Margarita Marmalade that mimics the flavor of our state’s chosen cocktail. How about a jar of cajeta, a goat’s-milk dulce de leche?

Many people love the excuse to bake and eat sweets during December. Instead of the little loaf of pumpkin bread this year, how about giving that special family a knockout cake chock-full of apples, pecans, whiskey, and spices? If the budget allows, you might opt for giving them a new Bundt pan along with the recipe.

And Everything Nice

Dried corn has sustained New Mexicans since well before we were New Mexicans. Package some posole nicely with a few dried seasonings, or make some especially festive corn tortillas dotted with bits of dried green and red chile. The tortillas can be packaged with fun tortilla warmers you can order from our own New Mexico Magazine online store ( Maybe add a favorite New Mexican cookbook to the mix. For out-of-state friends, I plan to package together Tasting New Mexico, my own latest cookbook (also available from the online store), with canning jars filled with dried red and green New Mexican chile.

One of my favorite cookbooks of the year is the beautiful España: Exploring the Flavors of Spain, by James Campbell Caruso, chef-owner of La Boca and Taberna La Boca, in Santa Fe. The Spanish Table ( carries the book, and you can pick up a selection of olives or other tapas ingredients to accompany it.

New Mexico is rich in small producers turning goat’s and sheep’s milk into fresh and aged cheeses. Pick up a selection at your farmers’ market or well-provisioned co-op or supermarket. Some widely available New Mexico pecans or pistachios can accompany the cheeses. A handsome alligator-juniper cutting board made near Silver City, available from the Art Gallery at Casitas de Gila Guesthouses (, the Farm Shop at Los Poblanos (, or Santa Fe School of Cooking (, makes the presentation perfect.

Drinking chocolates are perfect for cold winter evenings. Kakawa Chocolate House, in Santa Fe, blends fascinating elixirs with dried rose petals, herbs, chiles, and more, some from recipes of centuries past. A selection of the packages, perhaps with a pair of the store’s signature cobalt-and-cream glazed cups from Oaxaca and a wooden molinillo for hand-frothing hot chocolate, makes a welcome combo for the choco-lover in your life (

No-Calorie Culinary Specialties

Doodlet’s, one of Santa Fe’s most fanciful shops, specializes in what owner Lisa Young calls “happiness essentials” (505-983-3771). Among her locally made culinary gifts are festive, charmingly retro aprons with southwestern and folk-art themed prints. Fashioned by Anna Dustin, the aprons (sized for adults or children) delighted my two granddaughters last Christmas. Other items to round out food gift packages include bright New Mexico–made, block-printed dish towels, and ornaments in the image of New Mexico’s kitchen saint, San Pasqual.

Find more soft goods for the table at Bon Marché, a linens and lifestyle store in Santa Fe’s Railyard. The shop carries the cheery fabrics you may associate with sun-drenched Basque and Catalán villages. The proprietors buy the fabrics in Europe, but dish towels, napkins, placemats, table runners, and other items are fashioned by their crew of artisans here in New Mexico. The tapas towel would be the perfect item to accompany—or even wrap—the España book mentioned above.

New Mexico Creates, a project of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, offers limited-edition, artist-made items like Mike Walsh’s stoneware canister sets with food-safe ash glaze, and Hector Rascon’s carved bulto of San Pasqual. Rascon trained under his father-in-law, the legendary santero Ben Ortega. All Museum of New Mexico shops have selections of culinary-related specialties around the holidays, too. The Museum of International Folk Art, in particular, will be stocked with interesting chocolate specialties when the New World Cuisine exhibition opens this month.

Making Spirits Bright

Distillation and fermentation have been the ultimate preservation method for rye, grapes,corn, and other crops turned into spirits, wine, and beer. All of these made-in-New Mexico products have enough cachet to make an appealing gift. We include a couple of recipe options online, at holiday-drinks, that you could print out on festive paper for gift recipients.

New Mexico now has three distilleries of fine-quality spirits, all fervently working to keep up with the growing demand for their products here and throughout the country. KGB Spirits, Santa Fe Spirits, and Don Quixote Spirits (profiled in our September issue) make an impressive variety of whiskeys, gins, vodkas, and liqueurs. KGB’s Los Luceros Hacienda Gin is so complexly perfumed with juniper and citrus overtones that it makes mixers superfluous. About the only thing I can recommend to blend with it is fresh-squeezed red-grapefruit juice. I’m planning to package Santa Fe Spirits Apple Brandy with a wedge of Old Windmill Dairy MacIntosh Cheddar and the allligator-juniper cutting board.

Del Maguey Mezcal, though not actually made in-state, is a two-decades-old company based in Ranchos de Taos. The location for the corporate headquarters is as unlikely as its CEO, New Mexico contemporary artist Ron Cooper, a visionary who single-handedly revived mezcal’s ancient production methods and has received multiple James Beard Award nominations for his efforts.

These sophisticated, smoky spirits show off the distinctive characters of their varied Oaxaca, Mexico, terroirs. Like any premium spirit, top-of-the-line mezcals are perfect for sipping on their own, or can be shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass as something like a martini, maybe with a couple of jalapeño-stuffed olives. You won’t even need packaging for any of these mezcals. The labels feature the art of late Taos artist Ken Price, and each bottle comes enclosed in a gaily patterned basket of woven palm fiber, distinctive to the particular village of its origin.

Sweet on Bitters

Santa Fe–made Bitter End bitters will transport the cocktail enthusiasts among your gift recipients a long way from angostura. Bill York whips up Thai High, Mexican Mole, and other bottled elixirs from all-natural ingredients, using his knowledge of world cuisines as inspiration. For example, the curry bitter is infused with coriander, cumin, cayenne, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, mustard seed, and black pepper. Buy a single bottle, or a pack with smaller sizes of multiple flavors.

Wine Not?

New Mexico’s wine scene is so robust that you can buy multiples of the same varietal—Mourvèdre or Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling—from different wineries. Another approach is flights: acquiring bottlings of the same wine, perhaps syrah or pinot noir, from multiple years. Team with multicolor or monochromatic handblown wine glasses from Charlie Miner’s Tesuque Glassworks (

For the HopHead

When it comes to beer, how about hefting a couple of growlers (half-gallon, refillable glass jugs) under the tree? Craft breweries can be found all over the state these days, and their output includes special reserves and holiday offerings.

Another Higher Calling for Grapes

The Darland family (profiled in our June issue) makes remarkable aceto balsamico, or balsamic vinegar, from grapes aged even longer than for the wines described above. Made from organic grapes nurtured on their farm in Monticello, near Truth or Consequences, this vinegar is more like alchemized liquid gold. Juice sufficient to make 50 bottles of wine is aged in wooden casks, then concentrated by evaporation for a minimum of 12 years into 130 grams of elixir. I’m telling the Big Guy from the North Pole that I’ve been very good this year, in hopes that he’ll leave one of the precious bottles, on a par with Italy’s best, for me. At $150 per bottle, I may need to do quite a snow job on Santa.


➤Chocolate, Mate, y Más

Advance tickets to New World Cuisine: The Histories of Chocolate, Mate, y Más can be purchased as gifts by contacting the museum’s public relations office at (505) 476-1144, or via e-mail at Curator Nicolasa Chávez and team have put together a blockbuster exhibition about the evolution of world cuisine. I might package the tickets with some New Mexico–made chocolates. If you attend the exhibition yourself, you can pick up the remarkable fair-trade, organic, stone-ground, Mexican-style Taza chocolates. (505) 476-1200;

➤Ho Ho Ho

Santa Fe’s Inn and Spa at Loretto mounts its annual gingerbread extravaganza for the month of December in the hotel’s lobby. Created annually by pastry chef Andrea Glover, the 2012 display will pay homage to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Abominable Snowman, who chases Rudolph and clan through a much-loved holiday TV special. Afterward, the kids in the group can order hot chocolate while the grown-ups order the festive Ristra cocktail, concocted from añejo tequila muddled with red bell pepper and cilantro. (505) 988-5531;

➤Do Good

The ultimate gift just might be one that feeds others. Why not consider a gift to one of our New Mexico food banks, such as the Roadrunner Food Bank in Albuquerque ( or the Food Depot in Santa Fe (, in the name of your friend or family member? Helping others less fortunate may be the best way ever to have a happy holiday.

Gift Resources

The Art Gallery at Casitas de Gila Guesthouses. Gila (near Silver City),
(575) 535-4455;

Bon Marché. 1609 Alcadesa, Santa Fe.
(505) 699-3032;

Del Sol.

Doodlet’s. 120 Don Gaspar, Santa Fe.
(505) 983-3771.

The Farm Shop. 4803 Rio Grande Blvd NW, Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. (505) 983-9192;

Jane Smith Home. 501 Old Santa Fe Trail,
Santa Fe. (505) 988-5670

Kakawa Chocolate House. 1050 E. Paseo
de Peralta, Santa Fe. (505) 982-0388;

Las Cosas Kitchen Shoppe. DeVargas Mall, Santa Fe. (877) 229-7184;

Monticello Organic Balsamic Vinegar; Also available from the Farm Shop at Los Poblanos.

Museum of New Mexico/New Mexico Creates. (877) 567-7380;

New Mexico Magazine Store. (800) 711-9525;

Santa Fe School of Cooking. 125 N. Guadalupe, Santa Fe. (505) 983-4511;

Tesuque Glassworks. 1510 Bishop’s Lodge Road, Tesuque. (505) 988-2165;

Williams-Sonoma. ABQ Uptown, Albuquerque. (505) 872-8406. Mail order: (877) 812-6235;

Wine, Spirits, and More

Kelly Liquors. Various locations in Albuquerque and Belén.

Kokoman Fine Wine & Liquor. Pojoaque. (505) 455-2219;

Quarters Barbecue and Wine & Spirits. Various locations in Albuquerque.

Susan’s Fine Wines & Spirits. 1005 S. St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe. (505) 984-1582;

Cheryl Alters Jamison is New Mexico Magazine’s contributing culinary editor. Read her blog at See Douglas Merriam’s work at

Apple-Whiskey Cake

Packed with some of New Mexico’s finest ingredients.


½ cup candied crystallized ginger, chopped
¾ cup bourbon or rye whiskey, 
preferably New Mexican (divided use)
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, 
plus more to grease pan
2½ cups all-purpose flour, 
plus more to dust pan
1 cup pecans
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground canela (Mexican 
cinnamon) or other cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1¾ cups dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 pound tangy apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, then coarsely grated on box grater or in food processor
½ cup granulated sugar


This cake actually originated from Melissa Clark, one of my favorite New York Times food writers.I’m grateful to her for such a stunning idea. It was the hit of my Christmas open-house spread last year. Yes, you’ll have a collection of dirty dishes from the preparations, but the cake is well worth it, especially since it can be made at least a day ahead of gifting or serving. (To adjust for altitude, see the note following the recipe.) You can use any Bundt or tube pan to prepare the cake, but using the Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Heritage Bundt Pan (available from Las Cosas Kitchen Shoppe in Santa Fe), as we did here, sends it totally over the top.

Mix together ginger and ¼ cup whiskey in small bowl and let stand at least 10 minutes.

Heat oven to 325° F. Grease and flour standard-size 12-cup Bundt cake pan.

Toast pecans in small, heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 4 minutes. When cool, finely chop pecans.

Whisk together in bowl 2½ cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, canela, nutmeg, and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together sour cream and vanilla. Drain off whiskey from ginger into sour-cream mixture and whisk again.

In stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat together 2 sticks butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Stop and scrape down mixture as needed to combine well. Beat in eggs singly, mixing each in for about 30 seconds. Add flour and sour-cream mixtures to mixer bowl in three stages each, alternating between mixtures. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in ginger, apples, and pecans. Batter will be thick.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake about 70 minutes, until medium brown. A toothpick inserted in center of cake should come out clean.

Cool in pan 20 minutes, then run paring knife carefully around inside of pan. Invert on baking rack, remove pan, and let cool about 10 minutes more. Place cake on platter or cake stand. Make 20 slits around cake’s surface with paring knife.

Stir together in small pan remaining ½ cup whiskey with granulated sugar. Warm over low heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Spoon whiskey mixture slowly all over still-slightly-warm cake. Let sit until room temperature. Serve, or cover cake to keep for up to one day. Once cut, it will remain flavorful for an additional couple of days.

Altitude adjustments: At 7,000 feet, the approximate altitude of Santa Fe, reduce baking powder by ¼ teaspoon and baking soda by teaspoon. Add 1 tablespoon of water to sour-cream mixture. At about 5,000 feet, the altitude of Albuquerque, reduce baking powder by teaspoon and baking soda by a big pinch. Add 1½ teaspoons water to sour-cream mixture.

Blue Cornmeal Scones

Delicious holiday morning breakfast bread.
Yield Makes 1 dozen


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup stone-ground blue cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ sticks unsalted butter, well chilled and cut into small bits
1 cup buttermilk
¾ cup dried currants
Turbinado sugar or other crystallized sugar


These breakfast breads would be a nice addition to a gift jar of Prickly-Pear Jelly, Cajeta, or Margarita Marmalade. In fact, I’ve sometimes packaged chilled discs of the uncooked dough with baking directions and the recipe, for someone to pop in the oven on Christmas morning. The scones were inspired by those served at the now-closed Galisteo Inn, a ranch hacienda in the New Mexico village of the same name. The scones’ nubbly texture is enhanced by the cornmeal, and buttermilk and currants help keep them moist.

Heat oven to 400° F. Butter baking sheet.

Whir together in food processor the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Scatter butter over dry ingredients and pulse mixture just until it resembles coarse meal. Pour in buttermilk and pulse mixture until just combined. Turn dough out on floured work surface and scatter currants over it. Gently pat out dough, then fold it back over itself about a half-dozen times, until smooth. (A dough scraper helps with this.) Use a light hand and don’t overmix. Divide dough in half and pat out again into two ¾-inch-thick discs. Cut each disc into 6 plump pie wedges.

Transfer scones to buttered sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 12 to 14 minutes, until golden. Serve at room temperature.

Altitude adjustments: At 7,000 feet, the approximate altitude of Santa Fe, reduce baking powder by ¼ teaspoon and add one tablespoon buttermilk to dough. At about 5,000 feet, the altitude of Albuquerque, reduce baking powder by 1/8 teaspoon and add 1½ teaspoons buttermilk.

(Adapted from A Real American Breakfast,
© 2002, Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison.)

Prickly-Pear Jelly

Prickly-Pear goodness, without the stickers
Yield Makes 2 pints or 4 half-pint jars


Two 12-ounce bottles prickly-pear syrup
1½ cups sugar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon butter
¾ cup water
6 ounces liquid pectin, such as Certo


You can have all the prickly-pear goodness without the prickers and stickers. Simply start with a couple of bottles of prickly-pear syrup made from the lush, berry-like juice, and add a little canning magic. The finished jelly glows more brightly than a Christmas-tree light.

Sterilize 2 pint or 4 half-pint canning jars.

Combine syrup, sugar, lemon juice, butter, and water in medium saucepan. Bring to rolling boil over high heat. Pour in pectin, stir well, and continue boiling 1 minute (or other length of time if specified by pectin manufacturer), stirring constantly. Skim off any foam with clean spoon, though butter should decrease its formation.

Pour jelly into jars, leaving at least ¼ inch of headroom. Cover, cool, and refrigerate, or process in boiling-water bath for longer storage. The jelly can take up to a day to set. It keeps, refrigerated, for several weeks.

Ingredient Note: Prickly-pear syrup can be found in some supermarkets and gourmet stores, or purchased from A&J Farms ( or Santa Fe School of Cooking (

Margarita Marmalade

You are not likely to find this tequila-laced version on the Queen's tea table
Yield Makes about 3 half-pints


6–8 medium limes
Approximately 3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons tequila, preferably silver
1 tablespoon triple sec or Cointreau


Zest limes, measuring 6 tablespoons to ½ cup lightly packed peel. (Strips of peel should be no wider than about ¼ inch.) Using a sharp knife, peel off white pith left behind on limes and discard. Chop “naked” limes, eliminating seeds, and measure 1 1/3 cups of pulp.

Place zest in heavy, nonreactive saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil over high heat, boil 1 minute, and pour off water. Add chopped pulp and 3 cups water to pan and let mixture stand lightly covered at room temperature for at least 4 hours, up to 24 hours.

Sterilize 3 half-pint canning jars.

Bring mixture to boil and boil until fruit and zest are tender, about 10 minutes. Measure fruit and its liquid and add equal amount of sugar. Bring mixture back to full rolling boil and boil until it jells, which may be as little as 3 more minutes, since it’s already hot. Spoon a teaspoon of marmalade onto chilled saucer and let sit about 10 seconds, then tip saucer a bit. If liquid separates and runs like water across plate, it is not yet done. Test every minute or two, until marmalade holds a soft shape. Stir in tequila and triple sec or Cointreau.

Pour marmalade into jars, leaving at least ¼ inch of headroom. Cover, cool, and refrigerate, or process in boiling-water bath for longer storage. Store upside-down for first few hours to evenly distribute fruit. Marmalade takes at least several hours to set. It keeps, refrigerated, for a month.


A dulce de leche that moved north from Mexico
Yield Makes 1 pint or 2 half-pint jars


1 quart fresh goat’s milk, or 2 cups canned evaporated goat’s milk plus 2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


A dulce de leche that moved north from Mexico, cajeta’s distinction is its light tang of goat’s milk, which adds an edge to the caramel. Include a note with the jar suggesting it as a topping for ice cream, as a dip for apple slices, or a drizzle for pound cake. Natural-food stores and farmers’ markets are good places to find goat’s milk, though today it’s also available in many large supermarkets.

Sterilize 1 pint or 2 half-pint canning jars.

Combine milk, sugar, corn syrup, and salt in large, heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat. When mixture boils, stir in baking soda, which will cause it to bubble up merrily. Lower heat so that bubbles appear and break only occasionally at the edge. Cook until rich golden-brown, syrupy, and reduced by at least half: 1 to 1½ hours. Stir in vanilla extract before removing from heat. Pour into prepared jar, cool, cover, and refrigerate.

(Adapted from The Border Cookbook, © 1995, Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison.)