Gifts from your kitchen are an ideal choice for loved ones who won't able to be with you this holiday season. Cakes, cookies, breads and candy will bring a taste of home to wherever they are enjoyed. First to come to mind are members of the armed forces, but there are many others--students, members of the foreign service, or those who live in other parts of this country--who will also appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Some of your favorite recipes will ship well. Select ones that are appropriate or use those included in this article. To ensure your culinary gifts arrive in good condition, use the following guidelines.
According to "Better Homes and Garden's Christmas-Time Cookbook," moist quick breads will stay fresh longer and travel better than yeast breads. Bar cookies are a better choice than more thin, or tender varieties such as sugar or spritz. Fudge and caramels are good choices of candy for mailing.
Ceil Dyer, author of "Gourmet Gifts" points out that solid cakes such as pound, fruitcake or unfrosted bundt cakes ship well. She recommends avoiding iced or delicate cakes.
Careful Job of Packing
Once gift items are baked, the best damage insurance during shipping is a careful job of packing. Begin by totaling covering the item with plastic wrap, then foil. This is relatively easy in the case of cakes and breads. Bar cookies and fudge can be wrapped without cutting; delicate cookies should be individually wrapped and packed in layers with cushioning between.
Place the items in a sturdy corrugated carton that has all the flaps intact so it can be securely closed. Since new cartons are not always available, used cartons are acceptable if checked for flaws. Be certain to carefully mark out all old addresses to eliminate any confusion. The carton needs to be large enough to hold the item or items you want to ship, as well as plenty of cushioning material.
The U.S. Post Office suggests using polystyrene, excelsior or shredded newspaper for cushioning. It should slightly overfill the container prior to closure. That way even after it settles the item or items will be prevented from moving around during shipping. When several items are in the same package, they must be protected from each other too.
"Betty Crocker's Christmas Cookbook" (Golden Press: $14.95) advises not to use popcorn or cereal products as filler. They can absorb noxious fumes from airplane engines and become unsafe to eat.
Sturdy tape should be used to close the carton. Pressure sensitive, filament reinforced tape or reinforced paper tape 2 inches to 3 inches wide is recommended by the Post Office and United Parcel Service. Masking tape is not acceptable because it has a paper base and breaks easily. For extra strength, start the tape on the side of the carton adjacent to the closure.
Print the Address
Clearly print the address directly on the box or a firmly affixed label. Use a felt tip marker or ball point pen to prevent smudging if it gets wet. Include the full address, including ZIP code.
UPS suggests putting a duplicate label inside the box. If the outside address becomes unreadable, they will open the package to find the second. They also suggest adding a telephone number to the label if the package is to be delivered in out-of-the-way places such as ranches or farms. This permits them to call ahead to say they have a package to deliver.
String or twine should not be used on the outside of packages. This can get caught in machinery used in transporting packages to destinations.
Packages destined for foreign countries, APO or FPO boxes, Hawaii and Alaska need to be mailed through the U.S. Post Office. Those addressed to places within the "lower 48" states may be sent by either the U.S. Post Office or United Parcel Service. Both have package size restrictions, but these should not be a problem for the size boxes you will be mailing. If there is any doubt, give them a call.
Mail early to be certain packages arrive on time. UPS recommends shipping all packages by Dec. 13. Dates for shipping to foreign countries vary depending on the distance and mode of transportation, so the following is simply a guide. Call your local post office if you need additional information.
Military surface mail to Australia and the Far East needs to be shipped by Oct. 18 (airmail, Nov. 4); Middle East, Oct. 28 (same by airmail); Central and South America, Europe, Greenland and Iceland, Nov. 1 (airmail, Nov. 4); Caribbean and West Indies, Nov. 18 (same by airmail); Alaska and Hawaii, Nov. 25 (same by airmail).
International surface mail to Africa, Australia, the Middle East and Far East should be mailed by Oct. 18 (air parcels, Nov. 25); Central and South America and Europe, Nov. 4 (air parcels, Dec. 2); Caribbean and West Indies, Nov. 11 (air parcels, Dec. 11).
Comparisons in Mailing
Surface mail is less expensive than sending packages by air. Call to make some comparisons before mailing.