If you’re not among those folks who gather holiday gifts all year long as they hit sales, travel the world or act on inspiration, the light’s beginning to dawn that your Santa list needs attention, and soon. But in this age of downsizing and getting rid of excess, you don’t want to give more stuff. The easy solution? Consumables. Yummy goodies to eat. Everyone loves a treat for the belly. And a raft of Kentucky-made edibles is but a short drive or a quick mouse-click away.
Abbey of Gethsemani
While you might not think to visit a monastery for holiday gifts, the Abbey of Gethsemani – a medieval-looking monastery south of Bardstown that dates back to 1848 – supports itself by providing spiritual retreats, farming and making fruitcake, cheese and fudge.
Lest you assume fruitcake is fruitcake and is best used as a doorstop, the Wall Street Journal rated Gethsemani Farms’ fruitcake as “best overall” in quality and value. Chocked with fresh ingredients, these “dense, moist and spicy” cakes are aged in Kentucky bourbon. You can get them without it, but why would you want to? The same applies to the monks’ bourbon-laced fudge, which comes in eight flavors, including chocolate, mint julep and butter walnut.
A nice cheese selection is detailed on the website (gethsemanifarms.org, 800-549-0912). Better yet, take a scenic drive to shop in person.
Rebecca Ruth Candies
Pack up the family and head to Rebecca Ruth Candies in Frankfort (rebeccaruth.com, 502-223-7475) for a factory tour. In 1919, Ruth Hanly Booe and Rebecca Gooch gave up substitute teaching to start a candy-making business, which several years later, developed the first bourbon balls. Aren’t we glad? These days, the company specializes in those liquor-infused delights. Aficionados can even choose their faves: Makers Mark, Evan Williams Single Barrel or Buffalo Trace balls. Teetotaler varieties are available.
Ordering online from Rebecca Ruth is easy, though you’ll miss those sweet samples.
Broadbent B and B Foods
Another household word among food purveyors is Kuttawa-based Broadbent B and B Foods (broadbenthams, 800-841-2202), which has been curing old-fashioned country ham, bacon and sausage for 106 years and shipping to salivating customers for 54. Broadbent hams started snagging Grand Champion honors at the Kentucky State Fair in 1967, and the tradition continues.
All hams are aged, hickory smoked and dry cured, and available cooked or uncooked. Bacon can be smoked over hickory, maplewood or applewood, and can even come nitrate-free. See the website for sausage options. You can savor the smoky smells in a walk-in market on site or jump for joy when a package arrives at your doorstep.
Moonlite Bar-B-Que Inn
Speaking of smoked meats, you can also order the barbecue that Kentucky Living and Kentucky Monthly readers voted best in the state. You’ll get big Santa points for a gift from Moonlite Bar-B-Que Inn (moonlite.com, 800-322-8989) in Owensboro. In 1963 Catherine and Pappy Bosley, with no experience in the restaurant business, sold their house in order to buy a barbecue joint that became so successful it’s still owned and run by the family.
Tummy-pleasing mail-order selections include sliced or chopped barbecue pork, mutton, beef or ribs in sauce, and burgoo by the gallon. You’ll definitely want to sample the goods at Moonlite before choosing presents for your friends.
An even older family business, Weisenberger Mill in Midway (weisenberger.com, 800-765-2139) has been “the baker’s choice” since 1865, when it started making wheat flour and cornmeal. South Elkhorn Creek still provides water to run the mill’s turbines. Currently, the sixth generation of Weisenbergers runs the operation, offering more than 70 milled items, including flours; complete mixes, such as banana bread, biscuit, cornbread, hushpuppy, muffin and pizza crust; and breading blends for chicken, fish, meat and veggies.
A Weisenberger gift will cut the recipient’s holiday kitchen time in half, and you’ll get the credit.
Mom Blakeman’s Creamed Pulled Candy
In her Lancaster kitchen, Maxine “Mom” Blakeman began making creamed pull candy back in the 1940s. A restaurant owner, she shared this Christmastime goodie with patrons and neighborhood children. In 1961 her good friend Harlan Sanders, who began Kentucky Fried Chicken, encouraged her to market her confection.
Today, Mom Blakeman’s Creamed Pulled Candy (momblakemanscandy.com, 800-542-4607) is still located in Lancaster. Family-owned and operated, the company has added new flavors of the melt-in-your-mouth candy, including chocolate, peanut butter, peppermint, and of course, Kentucky bourbon, all packed in pretty holiday tins. Maybe when you deliver this gift, your recipients will share.
Elmwood Fine Teas
A cuppa tea is definitely for sharing, especially if it’s from Elmwood Inn Fine Teas (elmwoodinn.com, 800-765-2139). Though the Elmwood Inn Tea Room in Perryville closed its doors in 2004, tea mavens Bruce and Shelley Richardson have morphed its success into wholesale tea and publishing businesses now based in Danville.
Among its array of black tea blends are such exotics as chocolate mint, Indian chai, Southern pecan and – here it is again – bourbon. Go-withs include English tea biscuits in luscious flavors like a chocolate and raspberry combo, and jams such as strawberry-basil. Or present a gift certificate to the country’s longest-running tea school.
Giving food is a win-win-win: your giftee gets an unexpected tummy-pleaser, you receive accolades for selecting the perfect present, and you feel proud to be supporting a Kentucky business. Merry shopping … and tasting!