There’s no point in sugarcoating it: The winter holidays will look different for almost all of us this year. For most of us, holiday parties, cookie and gift exchanges, and family gatherings will be smaller, virtual, or nonexistent. But there are still plenty of ways to share the holiday cheer—particularly with food.
Despite concerns early in the COVID-19 pandemic about food and packaging contact that had us wiping down milk jugs with bleach and putting store-bought goods in short-term quarantine, we now know that food and its packaging are among the least of our virus-spread concerns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “Currently, no cases of COVID-19 have been identified where infection was thought to have occurred by touching food, food packaging, or shopping bags.” We also know that food, particularly homemade food, can provide comfort, remembrance, joy, and more. So this year, I think it’s more important than ever that we send food, with love.
Since I’ve been on a pickling rampage most of the year, much to my cookie-loving sister’s disappointment, it’s time to bring some sweets to the Twice as Tasty table. Here are some foods I’ll be shipping to family and friends this holiday season.
What to Send
As soon as my family gathers to open Christmas gifts, platters of cookies begin appearing on every available surface. My niece and nephew paint cutout cookies, my sister sprinkles color on spritz cookies made with the old family press, and George and I roll balls of rum- and vanilla-flavored dough in powdered sugar.
This year, we’ll be keeping some of these treats to ourselves. But others can still be shared because they ship well. Here are some of my favorites:
- Vanilla Bean Cookies. Grandma Tiny’s vanilla-infused cookies are a Christmas tradition. They’re also the perfect cookie for shipping: They need to sit for 3 weeks to develop their full flavor, so there’s no concern about transit time. With a little packing care, their shape makes them unlikely to break.
- Chocolate Rum Balls. I make rum balls every December, and they have the same distance-gifting characteristics as Vanilla Bean Cookies: They taste better with time, and they’re so sturdy I tuck them into my ski-jacket pocket to enjoy on the chairlift.
- Triple Gingersnaps. Ginger cookies feature on many holiday tables, but cutout gingerbread men tend to lose limbs when mailed. Rounds are easier to pack and stay fresh for a couple of weeks. What these lack in cute decoration they make up for in flavor.
- Old-Fashioned Gingerbread Cookies. Cutout cookies can be made mailable by using cutters with compact shapes: think hearts instead of snowflakes. The frosting I suggest is optional, but it’s dairy free and won’t lead to spoilage.
- Snickerdoodles. I don’t think of snickerdoodles as holiday cookies, because my grandmother’s cookie jar was always filled with them for daily enjoyment. But they’re fabulous gifting cookies, with a sturdy shape and a 2-week freshness window.
Other holiday food gifts can be made and packaged for shipping, but some work better than others. I have shipped canned goods, and one Christmas I gifted homemade mustards to family across the country, but shipping food in glass always risks breakage. Better options are homemade granola, spice blends, herb blends, spiced nuts, and salt- or sugar-based herb infusions.
How to Pack
Forget the cute ribbon bows and holiday paper when sending food; your creations will arrive in the correct number of pieces if you pack them with transport in mind rather than under-the-tree appeal. With cookies, the key is to keep them fresh and keep them whole. Choosing the right cookies to send is the first step: sturdy ones like those I mentioned earlier are better than thin, crispy, or heavily filled or decorated sweets. Be sure they cool completely before packaging. Wrap them as needed: Flat cookies hold up well when wrapped in pairs, and rounded ones may work best tightly packed in an airtight container. Once the cookies are packaged, the whole bundle should be well cushioned in a shipping box.
Other food gifts made not need to be handled quite as delicately, but airtight containers or bags are still your best bet. If you do want to gussy up the package a bit, consider adding an informative gift tag or making a cloth gift bag that won’t be crushed in shipping.
How to Send
Shipping options abound—and rise exponentially depending on the speed and care with which you want them handled. Shipping in December means outdoor temperatures aren’t a large concern, but you still want to minimize warehouse time. Plan to send out food gifts early in the week so that they don’t languish over a weekend. Choose a reasonable shipping time: USPS priority mail and UPS and FedEx ground usually take just a few days in the Lower 48 and are suitable for most of the foods I recommend for gifting. If you’re shipping more delicate or temperature-sensitive foods, consider upgrading to express or overnight shipping or even adding a cold pack.
Twice as Tasty
I’ll be sharing more sweet treats this month that can be gifted in person or sent long distances. Next week, I’ll offer up some oatmeal cookie recipes with upgrades that make them special enough for a holiday tray. I’ll also be digging into biscotti flavors later this month, another optimal treat for making and mailing.
Of course, my favorite foodie Christmas gifts this year are my new books! Stellar reviews are stacking up on Amazon, it’s available through local booksellers across the country, and you can order personalized, signed copies directly from me. If you aren’t yet convinced it should be on your gifting list or wish list, check out this fabulous story about the books and the blog in my childhood hometown paper: Battle Ground Native Knows How to Pickle Practically Anything.
Need a holiday gift idea? Get a signed copy of The Complete Guide to Pickling and The Pickled Picnic digital collection, available exclusively through Twice as Tasty. Click here to order.