These Are The Sustainable Food Gifts You Want to Buy

From artisanal cheese to one-of-a-kind cast iron pans, we have everything the food lover in your life will love.
FeLION Studio's state-shaped skillets. (Photo: Facebook)
Dec 9, 2015· 3 MIN READ
Jane Lear is a regular contributor to TakePart and the executive editor of CURED, a magazine devoted to the art and craft of food preservation. She was on staff at 'Gourmet' for almost 20 years.

I don’t know about you, but the idea of shopping for Christmas or Hanukkah gifts is enough to send me around the bend this year. Perhaps it’s the Trump mania that’s got me down. Any suggestion of excess gives me a headache, and I just want to go lie down in a dim, quiet room. How much stuff does a person really need?

Well, it depends. If it’s food related, sustainably produced, and something that will be used and enjoyed, then I’m all for it and prepared to pay top dollar. It’s worth it, and, in fact, I want to buy two—one for me, and one for you. So let’s cut to the chase.

Jane’s Gift Picks for 2015

Edwards Virginia Smokehouse Dry-Cured Lamb
Common in colonial Virginia, this charcuterie is also known as "lamb ham" or "country lamb.” It’s a testament to the power of time, temperature, and hickory smoke, and I want some—I mean, I want to give some—right now. Offerings range from paper-thin slices (3–4 oz., $49) to an impressive bone-in dry-cured lamb ($225). While you’re at it, spring for some Virginia salted peanuts; if you’ve never had them, they’ll be a revelation, and you’ll never go back to store-bought.

Anything, Really, From La Vie Rustic
Over the years, Georgeanne Brennan has inspired culinary students both in Haute Provence, where she has long had a home, and in Northern California at her small farm (ditto). At her online store, La Vie Rustic, her exclusive goods range from Sel d’Agrume (citrus salt, made with the zest of her own blood oranges and Meyer lemons; $10) to a charming holiday sampler that's a stellar house gift ($28), a potager set of seeds and maps for spring planting ($38), and hand-crafted earthenware from local artisans (from $45). If you’re a cook, Brennan will make you want to garden; if you’re a gardener, she’ll entice you into the kitchen. In other words, it’s hard to go wrong.

For Crafty Connoisseurs
Those who appreciate fine wines and spirits will enjoy American Spirit, by my former colleague James Rodewald, who crisscrossed the country in search of the finest craft distilleries. Order online if you must, but why not visit your local independent bookstore? Odds are, there’s a bottle shop nearby, and you’ll find the second half of your present there. Rodewald suggests an ultra-premium rye, and one of his favorites is Ragtime Rye, made by New York Distilling Company, in Brooklyn, from grain grown upstate.

Foggy Ridge Cider
Diane Flynt rules this cider house, growing her ingredients—complexly flavored cider apples such as Hewe’s Crab, Harrison, Tremlett’s Bitter, Asmead’s Kernel, and Dabinet—in an orchard in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. A membership in the Foggy Ridge Cider Club ($45) gets you four shipments a year; a holiday package includes six ciders ($70). Individual bottles include Handmade, a lovely Champagne-like cider, and Serious Cider—the No. 1 dry cider in the country, according to The New York Times ($11–$18). The company ships to many states; check the website for retail outlets.

Say Cheese, Please
Artisanal American producers are producing top-drawer cheeses in styles typically available as imports in the past. Below are some favorites.

Alemar Cheese Gift Box, Alemar Cheese Company (Minnesota): This collection of four luscious cheeses (approx. 3 lbs. total; $65)—Bent River (a Camembert-type cheese), Good Thunder (inspired by Reblochon), Fromage Blanc, and Blue Earth (a buttery Brie type)—hits all the high notes.

Up in Smoke, Rivers Edge Chèvre (Oregon): When liberating this rich, well-balanced, just-smoky-enough cheese ($15.99) from its careful wrapping of maple leaves, someone will feel as though he or she has received a very special present indeed. murrayscheese

West West Blue, Parish Hill Creamery (Vermont): This hearty Gorgonzola-style blue cheese (1 lb., $24) is dense, creamy, and earthy. In other words, forget dessert, and serve a cheese course instead.

Fruit and Cheese Trays From Shaker Workshops
These beautiful, practical, versatile cherrywood trays (from $49) were first used in the canning room at the Shaker community in Sabbathday Lake, Maine. The sloping sides increase capacity and provide a better grip for carrying.

Eco-Plastic Market Bag
I’m a New Yorker, and therefore I schlep. And therefore I know tote bags. Aside from the pretty colors and sturdiness of a trusty Hinza (from $38)—a Swedish classic since the 1950s, it’s made from sugarcane-based plastic—is that it’s easy to clean. Take that, E. coli.

Two—OK, Three—More Delicious Reads
I can’t begin to choose favorites from all the books I’ve enjoyed throughout the past year, but I keep going back to Claire Ptak’s Violet Bakery Cookbook, in which seasonality (and great ingredients) trump science, and Maria Speck’s Simply Ancient Grains. Although I may be prejudiced (I was one of 265 contributors), The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets is the ultimate reference for dessert lovers. Yes, like I said earlier, you can order these books online, but why not patronize an independent bookseller? Just sayin’.

Wild Sage Honey From Butterbean Studios
You know people who would never, ever buy this for themselves. That’s where you come in (1 lb., $14). Know what I mean, butter bean?

Beauty, Truth, and Art

At FeLION Studios in Wisconsin, metal designer Alisa Toninato makes limited-edition hand-finished cast iron skillets in the shape of each of the 48 contiguous states in furnaces she and her colleagues built themselves. The pans are, shall we say, an investment; an alternative is a full-color print of the original “Made in America” art installation ($25).