Giving apples and apple-themed gifts to teachers is a well-established tradition. However, apples aren’t the exclusive preserve of educators. January 1st is National Apple Gifting Day, a friendly revival of the once-common British tradition of passing along small gifts to friends and family to mark the New Year. It’s safe to assume that most of your friends are unfamiliar with this obscure food day, so it’s an opportunity to have some fun.
There are several ways to give a gift of apples in one form or another. One of the simplest is packing a half-dozen perfect apples from your favorite greengrocer into a decorative gift box lined with tissue paper. Tie the box with a ribbon, and it’s a suitable hostess gift for any New Year’s Day visit.
If your hosts have children, you can make things a lot more interesting. Wash the wax from the apples’ skins and push heavy lollipop sticks into their cores. Dip the apples into melted caramels, then decorate them by rolling the sticky surface in a variety of garnishes. Chocolate chips or shavings, crushed cookies, chopped nuts, shredded coconut and mini M&Ms are all good choices. Stand the finished apples on wax paper or parchment circles, and put them in a gift box.
There’s no reason to confine your gift-giving to uncooked apples. A well-made apple pie, apple tart, baked apple or apple dumpling is welcome almost anywhere, especially by hosts who’ve been run ragged making food for others over the holidays. Dried apples are another alternative. Some stores carry attractively packaged gift boxes of dried apples, or you can prepare them at home and arrange them on a small tray. For adults, apple cider or Calvados, the French apple brandy, are also options.
The most interesting and traditional apple gift might be an old-fashioned pomander. You’ll need a symmetrical, firm-fleshed apple and a bag of whole cloves to make one. It requires patience, but pomanders are a simple gift to make. Simply take your apple and stud it all over with the whole cloves, packed together as tightly as you can get them. The apple should be barely visible once you’re done, buried under the cloves.
In the days before chemical room fresheners, pomanders were hung in closets and other areas where bad smells might accumulate. The oil in the cloves is antibacterial and will keep the apple from spoiling as it dries. The gentle aroma of apples and cloves will slowly permeate all the clothing in that closet, giving them a clean, fresh scent.