Category Archives: Handmade Holidays

Pitcaithly  Biscuits

This biscuit recipe is based on an old bannock recipe that I have.  There’s a lot of nonsense out there written about bannock on food blogs and we all know how I love to set things straight.  First off, bannock describes the shape of the bake.  It is a round, flat loaf.  So it can be savory or sweet. It can be baked in a skillet, or in the oven.   The only requirement is that it is baked into a flat circle and cut into wedges when served.  So it’s really just a word the Scots use for scone or shortbreads.

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Handmade Holidays


One of the ways to simplify the holidays is by assessing your resources as far as gift giving goes. I am not going to go into the larger debate of the necessity of this custom. It is a long standing tradition dating back to antiquity and it makes me happy. Enough said.

The trick is not to let it stress you out. If you have more money than time, it probably isn’t a good idea to stretch yourself by starting a lot of projects. There are plenty of craft shows and local merchants to support this time of year. I actually plan on listing some things I have for sale locally, here on the blog next week.

That is definitely not the case around here this year. I have next to no budget, but I have time on my hands. I have been Pinterest-ing up a storm, looking for homemade gift ideas that I can make from my herb closet and the  piles of neglected craft supplies around here.

Take for example today’s project. I already had the materials kicking around. So for the price of one of these at the store, I can make six. (Honestly, I had the stainless steel straws, too. I planned on doing this last year.) There are a lot of patterns out there for crocheting cozies and sewing the covers, but I wanted to keep it quick, simple and cheap.  I have a lot of old wool sweaters saved, so I used the sleeves to sew these.

If I were going to give these as gifts, I would tuck them in a basket with a beverage tea blend that would be good cold, although you can use these like insulated mugs for hot beverages, too.  Another fun thing to give with these would be a bitters blend and some sparkling water.

I will post a few of my projects on here over the next few weeks.  But I have a few ideas on the blog in the Handmade Holidays category. also.

Candied Orange Peel

I love orange peels more than I enjoy eating oranges. I use dried orange peels in my tea blends. I even clean with vinegar I’ve infused with orange peels.

Candied orange peels are like a dream come true for me, because I can literally snack on my favorite part of the orange. They replace an after dinner mint as a good digestif, too.

Making this confection doesn’t take as long as you might think.
To begin with you will need to have some sort of simple syrup made up ahead of time to candy orange peels the way I do.   Yesterday I made pine syrup because of Kiva’s post the other day.  In the past, I have used chocolate syrup and vanilla.  Chocolate is probably my favorite, but I have a sentimental attachment to chocolate oranges.

Now you will need some organic oranges.  I started with four today.  Peel the oranges with a vegetable peeler to get strips that are fairly free of the white pith.


Try to use just the decent size strips. Some will break and peel but don’t worry this pile of pith and bits of peel goes into a chocolate-orange bitters recipe. I tend to run cold, constitutionally, so orange peels are one of my favorite bitters due to their warming qualities.


Once you have your strips of orange peel you are going to want to blanch them. To do this put them in a saucepan of cold water and bring the water to a boil. Strain this water off and blanch them again. This will mitigate some of the bitterness, although honestly I like bitter so I only blanch mine once.


You can use the water you strain off for decocting a beverage. I have a pan with some pine, rosemary and astragalus, simmering on the stove.

Once you have your blanched orange peels you are going to want to put them in a saute pan, cover them with simple syrup and cook them until they become a little more translucent.


This takes some experimentation. If you cook them too long, they start to curl up and are very brittle. You want them to be a little chewy.  The rule of thumb is about three minutes, but it really depends on the size of your strips.   After they have simmered in the syrup, remove them and roll them in sugar, making sure both sides are coated.  Leave them on the rack to dry for a bit, then store in a covered container.