Christmas Hampers..

I'm making up hampers for our extended families for's the place to share your tips and ideas...

What I have planned is:

Peppermint ice
Sloe gin
Mulled wine syrup
and then chuck in a bottle of wine....

We're also making some pomanders, lavender stuffed hearts and stars, pom pom garlands, cinnamon sticks and ribbon.

Any more ideas??

Also a cheap source of bottles for the sloe gin and the syrup?

I'm making the sloe gin this mum and dad picked me 1.5 pounds of sloes the other day!



  • WilkieWilkie ✭✭✭

    Home made chutney?  I have a recipe for a very good chutney.

    Home made lime marmalade - much nicer than shop stuff.

    A small(ish), iced, Christmas cake?

  • Oh marmalade would be nice...a neighbour of ours gives us Christmas cake (this year he's given us 2 so far...payment in kind for when MrGFB helped him out in his garden when the neighbour's knees were bad) - I was thinking about quartering them and putting them in too...I have six hampers to make up.
  • We did this last year and will be doing it again this year. The reaction was pretty good.

    You could make hedgerow jelly, there are still a few blackberries and crabapples out there.

    Once you take the sloes out of the sloe gin, you can make them into sloe gin truffles. Or sloe gin jam.

    Rose-hip syrup might be an idea, it's crammed with vit C and is a natural anti-inflam. It goes well over ice-cream, a nice mixer with rum or just have it diluted with hot water.

    Biscuits are good too. We made shortbread Christmas trees, Amaretti biscuits and cheese biscuits. This year we'll also be doing Christmas biscuits for tree decorations.

    Fruits in alcohol go down well too.

  • Individual Chrstmas puddings are dead easy to do.  Tesco's do some individual pudding moulds that are ideal.  3 hours steaming for the initial cook and then only needs another half hour or so to warm through.

    I was just about to start googling to see how to make individual Christmas cakes- I don't know how the cooking time would vary from making a conventional large one.

  • Great ideas image

    Any idea how to get the cheap preserving bottles? Cheapest I can see if about £4 each x6 x post and package (to Northern Ireland) so not a cheap gift.

    I've ordered 20m of cellophane off amazon for a fiver image
  • NessieNessie ✭✭✭

    <sneaks in and adds name to GFB's family>

    You could also chocolate-coat nuts and top them with crystalised flowers.

    Marzipan shapes?

    Pine cones make nice decorations too.

  • GFB, have you looked at Wares of Knutsford? I did lots of research on the cheapest places for jars and bottles when I started my business back in the Summer. Wares hold a wide range of bottles, but Jam Jar Shop is cheapest.

    For gifts tho I tend to recycle old bottles. A good soak to get the label off, then perhaps go over the bottle with some sticky stuff remover (Lakalend, or Amazon).
  • A friend of mine makes individual sized Christmas cakes for people who live on their own and don't want a big one.  She makes a standard square cake then cuts it up before decorating.  That way you don't need to change the recipe at all.  She then decorates each one individually and personalises them for the person they are going to.
  • WilkieWilkie ✭✭✭

    Wilkinsons sometimes have things like bottles and jars, pretty cheap.

    Good idea on the cake, SC!

    I have cooked small ones occasionally, using a small bowl to cook it in - I think I gave it an hour or two.  Just keep and eye on it and stab it with a skewer from time to time, cover it with brown paper to keep it from burning.

    Biscotti are good - very cruchy and full of almonds, they keep very well. 

  • WilkieWilkie ✭✭✭
    Oh, and buttered brazils.  image
  • ... and lebkuchen  also works well.
  • BookyBooky ✭✭✭

    I've been making small Christmas cakes for years - I bought some mini loaf tins that work really well, but I've also make them in muffin tins. I did muffin-sized cakes on Sunday with surplus cake mixture. I didn't adjust for the large tin size so made too much - the muffins will not make it until Christmas image

    You don't have to alter the recipe at all, just reduce the cooking time down. It's dificult to say exactly because it depends on the size of the tins, but 1-2 hours is usually plenty. Just jab them a few times with a skewer until they're done.

    +1 for re-using jars. It's far more economical and green (recycling is fun! image) and if you ask people to donate jars you'll soon have a mountain of them to use. You can always print labels for them, tie them with ribbon, etc. to make them pretty.

    I think a mix of sweet and savoury is good. So chutneys/pickles as well as jams, and maybe some savoury biscuits - oatcakes/ herbed shortbread (rosemary is really nice).  

  • Thanks for all the pointers on mini-cakes.  I'll start soaking the fruit this evening. 

    IIRC someone told me one year they'd bought xx jars of Tesco value lemon curd as a way of sourcing jars.

    More ideas/details on individual Xmas cake

  • Anyone got a tried and tested sloe gin recipe? I was just going to google.
  • I had a hideous sloe gin hangover at the weekend.  I'll check with the hostess as to what her recipe is (it was very nice and a little too more-ish).
  • I shall be including some chocolate dipped candy orange slices and a christmas based spicy meat rub of herbs etc.
  • E mmyE mmy ✭✭✭

    I think i've found my home for the next couple of months! I'm trying to make a hamper this year for my extended family but having been running short on ideas!

    @Wilkie - could you pass over your chutney recipe?

    I was thinking of making packs of homemade biscuits and jams in a nice box. I've been saving up my old jam jars especially image

  • Good place for jars

    I'm very impressed with all this organising - we're not good at making stuff but do have lots of chutney at the moment so could maybe do my parents a chutney hamper.

    I'll confess that a couple of years ago we brought a small one for the MiL as she is so hard to buy for.  There are still 2 individual puds tucked in her biscuit cupboard (we check what she needs before we take her shopping as her list is not always reliable).  It does mean that I have a small hamper though as she was having a clear out and gave it to Mr USB to get rid of image

  • Sloe gin and other fruity liquors

     Take about a kilo of plums, damsons, sloes etc. With plums damsons and cherries, stone a dozen of them, put stones to one side. Prick the fruit extensively with a darning needle. Put into a large jar with about 1litre of 40% (must be at least 40%) gin, vodka or brandy, and 250g of granulated sugar (adjust according to taste, less if you prefer it less sweet). If using plums, damsons or cherries, add the previously stoned fruit and smash the stones, adding these too. Shake for a bit and then leave on a warm window sill for two-three weeks, shaking every day for a week or so, or until all the sugar has dissolved. Leave to mature for as long as you can, around 2-3 months ideally, before straining the liquor and removing the fruit.

    Don't discard the fruit. It makes a very tasty compote apparently, tho I fear I wouldn't be terribly productive if I splashed it on my morning porridge. The fruit can also be used in chocolates too.
  • If you're using fruit that have been exposed to frost, there's no need to prick them.
  • What we do with the sloes is freeze them for a few days and that "bursts" them - like a frost.

    (I am ridiculously excited about Christmas already!!)

  • WilkieWilkie ✭✭✭
    Emmy_bug wrote (see)

    I think i've found my home for the next couple of months! I'm trying to make a hamper this year for my extended family but having been running short on ideas!

    @Wilkie - could you pass over your chutney recipe?

    Apple, Date and GInger Chutney 

    1.5kg brampley apples
    2 garlic cloves, very finely sliced
    250ml cider vinegar
    750g granulated sugar
    250g stoned dates, chopped
    100g sultanas
    50g fresh ginger, peeled and grated
     ½ tsp salt
    ½ tsp ground allspice
    pinch of cayenne pepper

    Peel, core and slice the apples. Place in a large pan with the garlic and vinegar. Cook gently until the apples have broken down a bit, but there are still some pieces of apple. Stir in the sugar, dates, salt and spices. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon into hot, sterilised, glass jars.  

    Keep in a cool, dark, dry place for about 2-3 weeks before eating, although it’s pretty damn good straight away.

    I re-use jam jars, and if you fill them while the stuff is hot, and put the lids on straight away and tighten them up, then as the chutney/jam/whatever cools, it shrinks and pulls the "safety button" on the lid down, and you know you've got a good seal.  You don't need wax disks if you do this. 
  • maybe a bit late but I made apple cider vingar this year as well as sloe gin, rhubarb jam, apple butter, apple chutney. (ok so I had a loy of apples). I make stockings for my family and always throw in spices like nutmeg and cinnamon sticks.

    I like the idea of making gingerbread men and other biscuits.

    Might try the chutney recipe above, mine was Domestic Goddess women.

  • You can use the leftover fruit from the flavoured spirits as a fantastic base for a boozy trifle.

  • I made biscotti for my hampers last year, and this year am thinking of doing layered cookies in jars. Basically you layer up the dry ingredients for a nice cookie recipe, and include the recipe and cooking instructions with the jar.

    I've also got apple chutney and marmalade, and will put in bits like home made hot pads, If I get enough time (ha!) I'm thinking of making a knitted then felted market bag to put the whole lot into instead of having to find baskets

     Dunelm Mills have a good selection of jars...the Kilner type, jam jar ones and chunky ones with rubber seals.

  • It's bottles I need really not jars...I've found nice ones in Ikea but the nearest one is 75 miles off...I must see if anyone is travelling up that way before Christmas....I like the thought of biscotti
  • lakeland do slow gin bottles I think
  • BookyBooky ✭✭✭

    For foodie gift ideas - link

    It's a pretty good website. I can spend hours on there image

  • I have a recipe at home for Baileys .... sadly its only as good as the shelf life of the cream   image
  • WilkieWilkie ✭✭✭
    In my experience Baileys doesn't hang around long enough to go off image
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