EVERY HOLIDAY season it's the same problem: how do you come up with interesting and entertaining holiday presents while staying within your budget?
Fortunately, Maryland is home to a wide variety of food-related treats, many of which make great holiday presents. Our list of goodies has something for everyone on your list, and they won't take a bite out of your budget.
So go ahead and brag a little about your home state. Make it Maryland Christmas.
As far as I'm concerned, you can keep your glitzy, glossy cookbooks. The best recipes, in my opinion, are found in community cookbooks compiled by churches, hospitals and other civic organizations. Ask around. Chances are one of your favorite organizations has its own cookbook.
A church cookbook I'm giving to friends and relatives this year is "The 125th Anniversary Cookbook," which celebrates 125 years at St. Francis de Sales Church in Abingdon. This recently published, plump volume contains the congregation's
favorite recipes for appetizers, soups, seafood, breads, desserts and more. For your copy, send $10 plus $3 postage and handling to St. Francis Cookbook, care of Pat Glassman, 25 Reeds Run Road, Edgewood, Md. 21040.
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's cookbook, "Music to Your Mouth," is $5.25. This handsome cookbook contains recipe favorites from orchestra members as well as members of the Baltimore Symphony Associates, the symphony's fund-raising arm. The cookbook can be picked up at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall before concerts and also during ticket office hours. For more information call 783-8000.
Other great recipe sources are the inexpensive booklets compiled by Maryland companies to promote their products. McCormick & Co. Inc., the Hunt Valley-based spice and flavorings firm, has a beautiful, full-color booklet stuffed with delicious extract recipes. "Add a Splash of Flavor" makes a great stocking stuffer for just $1 for postage and handling. Write to: McCormick/Schlling "Splash of Flavor" P.O. Box 766S, Church Hill, Md. 21690.
Every Christmas my husband mails a box of Old Bay, the classi seafood seasoning, to his friend in Hawaii. This year he's also sending an Old Bay cookbook. For your copy, send $3.50 plus $1.75 in postage and handling to: "Cooking with Old Bay," The Old Bay Co., P.O. Box 1802, Baltimore Md. 21203-1802.
If you're in the habit of giving chocolates, you can cut your budget drastically by seeking out community or neighborhood chocolate companies. Log Cabin Candies Inc. in Fallston has been run by the same family for about 50 years. It sells delicious chocolates with an affordable price tag: about $8 a pound. These treats compare favorably to the chocolates selling in fancy mall shops for prices three or four times as much. Call 879-2525 for more information. Chocolates are shipped UPS.
If you give spirited gifts, try one of the state's many vineyards. Information about Maryland vineyards is available by calling (410) 608-8906.
Anthony Aellen, wine maker at Linganore Wine Cellers in Mount Airy, says his fermented honey wines, Mead and Hydro mel, sell extremely well during the holidays. These traditional yuletide gifts are $6 for a 750 milliliter bottle. The vineyard also sells dry and semi-sweet fruit wines. Special holiday beverages include Holiday Red and Spiced Apple wines. These semi-sweet wines are spiced with cloves and cinnamon and meant to be served warm. Call (410) 795-6432 for more information.
Maryland also has a number of home-grown beers. Theo Degroen, owner of the Baltimore Brewing Co., makes four all-natural, unfiltered beers, including a lager and pilsner. For the holidays, the company will be selling Christmas Double Bock, a hearty winter beer with nine percent alcohol. By comparison, regular beers have 3 1/2 to five percent alcohol. The beers are sold in two-liter bottles. The environmentally friendly containers require a $12 deposit and can be used over and over again. The house beers are $6.50 plus the deposit. The special holiday beer will be $9.50 plus the deposit. For more in formation call 837-5000.
The South Baltimore Brewing Co., owned and operated by Sisson's, the popular Federal Hill restaurant, is brewing up its own holiday beer, Christmas Ale. One-half gallon is $12, which includes the deposit for the bottle. Refills are $7. Call 539-2093 for more information.
The Wild Goose Brewery in Cambridge makes a number of specialty beers, including Wild Goose Amber Ale, which sells for about $5.50 a six-pack and can be found in special
ty liquor stores. Call (410) 221-1121 for more information.
Maryland is also home to a number of food entrepreneurs. Swan Valley in Owings Mills makes delicious peach and apple chutneys; a 10-ounce jar of either is $4.99. The company also makes a key lime curd and lemon curd -- each is $4.85 for a ounce jar. A bottle of bacon dressing is $3.75 for a 9 1/4 -ounce jar. For mail order information call
Calvert Cedar Street Inc. in Annapolis makes a fancy line of condiments, all of which are 100 percent natural and salt-free. The company's best seller is its Bumpy Beer mustard, a tasty spicy-hot, rich and sweet mustard flavored with Maryland's own Wild Goose beer. A jar is $3.50. For something different, try Happy Camper Grilling Sauce, also $3.50 a jar. For mail order call (410) 268-3902.
And Vann's Spices in Towson offers a variety of spice blends. Call 583-1643 for more information. The Chesapeake Bay Seafood Blend is a sophisticated alternative to other seafood seasonings. The no-salt recipe comes from an old Baltimore family, according to owner Anne Wilder.