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So, Christmas is just a few days away and you still haven’t gotten everyone crossed off your gift list? I know I still have a few people left as well and am dreading the last-minute trip to the store where I, and the rest of us procrastinators, will be facing bare shelves and surly shopkeepers. Instead, I propose raiding the pantry for the perfect present with a hand-made touch. Any of these make great gifts by themselves or package a few in a basket for festive food gift that will rival any of those overpriced jobbies from the mall.

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– Steak sauce/spice rubs – A former co-worker used to make what he called Magic Dust, a low-sodium spice rub that rivaled store-bought spices. Steak or barbecue sauce is easy to make with a few simple ingredients. Package it in a recycled glass pop bottle for a unique gift.

– Baked goods – Skip the standard cookie and fruit cake fare and surprise your friends and family with a loaf of home baked bread. If you’re not ready to tackle that, homemade crackers are easy to make with just a few ingredients.

– Pickles – The week before Christmas all those late-summer days spent sweating in the kitchen pays off. Every year, I wrap ribbons around jars of pickles, relish, dilly beans and other canned goods and pass them out to my friends.

– Jerky – Same goes for the jerky I spent all fall making. One tray of the deep freeze is full of shrink-wrapped dried goose, elk and antelope, some of which will end up in stockings on Christmas morning.

– Sausage – Christmas week is all about multi-tasking. Not only am I trying it meet end-of-the-year deadlines for poor-planning editors (Love you guys!) and get the house clean for Christmas Eve guests, I also have the Little Chief working overtime. Today, when the salmon comes out, a stack of summer sausage chubs will go in for some last-minute additions to Santa’s nice list.

– Smoked Cheese – After the sausage is done, a few bricks of cheese will go in the smoker to be packaged with the summer sausage in gift boxes for friends.
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– Meat** – If you’ve had a good fall and have a freezer full of game, consider sharing the wealth. An inexpensive cooler filled with choice cuts of game, along with a few handwritten recipe cards, is a great way to introduce non-hunters to wild game and maybe get them interested in hunting, which would be the best gift of all.

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