It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! That, of course, means even more time in the ol’ kitchen!

Once upon a time, I was out there in the rat-race, but it’s been quite a while. It’s definitely age… I just can’t tolerate the crowds, the cranky, demanding people, the lines… any of it. Did I mention age?!?

Now, it’s all about homemade gifts – preferably edible. I would much rather give – and receive – something homemade than a mass-produced whatever from the mall.

For the first ten years Victor and I were together, we bought mounds and mounds of gifts for one another. And then, one year, we realized we were merely buying things for the sake of buying things. We didn’t need anything. And it’s not like we were paying cash for any of it… Credit cards are so convenient – and truly evil.

So we stopped, pretty much cold-turkey. I have to admit it still feels a bit strange, once in a while, but now we tend to buy things for one another throughout the year. Little surprises just because

Now we spend money on things like bottles and jars and mail-order ingredients when I can’t find something locally. Or trays for the cookies we give to neighbors…

This year, we decided to try something different – worcestershire sauce and vanilla. I mean… when was the last time you had homemade worcestershire sauce?!? For me, the answer was never!

I have to admit it’s pretty outrageous. Spicier than your basic Lea & Perins, but with that same bold flavor… It wasn’t difficult to make, either…

The original recipe comes from Cooks Illustrated.

Worcestershire Sauce

  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground clove
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 shallots, minced
  • 1 tube anchovy paste
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced

Toast the spices in small skillet over medium heat, until fragrant, about 1 minute. This will bring out their flavor. Set aside. Whisk vinegar, water, molasses, fish sauce, and tamarind paste together and set aside.

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add shallots and cook until softened and browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add anchovies, garlic, and toasted spices and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Whisk in vinegar mixture, scrapping up any browned bits. Bring to boil, remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 hour.

Strain sauce through fine-mesh strainer and bottle. Keep cool and refrigerate after opening.

Another fun thing we made was Vanilla – from Vanilla Beans and Myer’s Rum.


I actually started this last year right after Christmas. It’s been sitting in the basement aging and mellowing for a year. It’s rich vanilla with a rum kick. I think a few fun desserts will be made with this!

I didn’t use a recipe… I just split about 30 vanilla beans and steeped them in a 750ml bottle of Myer’s, shaking it now and again when I was downstairs… A couple of weeks ago, I straind it, filled the bottles, and added a fresh vanilla bean to each.

It’s definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Now for some cookie baking after canning the pasta sauce!