A print version of this article first appeared in the November, 2007 issue of Nougat Magazine. It is still early, but some of you may already be sweating: What if you can't finish all those hand-knit sweaters or hand-turned rolling pins on your holiday gift list -- again? Fear not! You have plenty of time to buy delicious gifts that will amaze and delight your loved ones (or your business contacts), while also supporting Kentucky farmers and the Kentucky economy.
Here are three gift basket options, selected from the many now available online and in Kentucky stores. (See online contact information at the end of this article.)
At Kentucky Soaps & Such, pride in Kentucky and commitment to fine Kentucky products shines everywhere. Many of the pleasing "baskets" from this beautiful store are actually enamel-coated metal bowls, filled with fine Kentucky foods. The bowls -- simple, solid, pleasing to see and touch -- echo wash basins found on the back porch of any Kentucky farm house 75 years ago, and at the same time look ready to join the Museum of Modern Art's design section.
The gracious people at Kentucky Soaps & Such invite you to buy online, by phone, or in person. They will make up baskets to meet your specifications and budget, or you can choose from appealing prepared baskets with themes like "Breakfast in Kentucky, " "Backyard Bar-B-Q," and "Kentucky Bean Soup Dinner."
The beautiful KS&S store on Stanford's Main Street offers familiar fine Kentucky products like Old Kentucky Candies or Weisenberger Mill's Corn Bread Mix along with new options like Rattlesnake Hill Farm's Chipotle Garlic Jelly, Kentucky Bison Company's Buffalo Jerky, and Bourbon Barrel Foods' Bourbon Smoked Sea Salt. I can't reveal holiday secrets, but I predict chipotle garlic jelly will constitute a December Surprise for a certain son at our house.
Make your own Sunflower Sundries gift boxes during their open house on December 1 and 2. Jennifer Gleason, Sunflower's delightful founder and proprietor, says she will be serving complimentary homemade soup and bread in the store to fortify you as you shop. Choose from herbal soaps, traditional fruit jams, coarse-grained mustards, and fine vegetable pickles. If you don't want to have that much fun, Sunflower Sundries will make up gift boxes for you if you email them from any page on their website.
I first "met" Sunflower Sundries through Gooseberry Jam, an intense, tart-sweet spread I enjoy sharing with Dad, age 95. Dad grew up with gooseberries, and still wades through the mean thorns on his own gooseberry bushes when the red-tinged green fruits look promising enough.
For a couple of years, I luxuriated in Sunflower's Blackberry, Plum, Black Currant, and Rhubarb Jams, all made with locally grown fruit. I eventually found a grown-up taste bud and graduated to mustards. Now Sunflower Sundries' richly flavored Sherry Mustard and Hot Garlic Mustard (not too hot) have knocked Grey Poupon right off our refrigerator shelves. Every Sunflower Sundries product I have tried has been excellent.
CSA Subscriptions: The Ultimate Basket
Bundle together all the names in a family and buy them a "subscription" to weekly farm-fresh foods in 2008. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscriptions are pre-paid investments in a share of a farm's bounty for a growing season. Half-shares are available from some CSAs.
Many CSAs sell produce only, while others offer options to include farm eggs or sustainably produced meats.
A national organization, Local Harvest, now lists too many CSAs serving Lexington for all to be included here ' and that is great news for central Kentuckians! At least three CSAs that deliver in Lexington will likely have waiting lists in 2008, thanks to the proven quality and reliability of their sustainably grown products: Elmwood Stock Farm (Scott County), Terrapin Hill Farm (Mercer County) and Three Springs Farm (Nicholas County). Get in line early by calling now. In addition, the new Sustainable Agriculture program at UK will likely repeat its brand new CSA, which limits subscriptions to those inside the UK community.
This year, Kentucky producers are giving all of us the gift of options. Whether we want to invest less than $5 in a handmade soap or write a check with a couple of zeros to feed six people for 20 weeks in 2008, the producers are ready for us. Enjoy sharing the abundance.