How to make a home made Christmas Hamper gift
A home made Christmas
Over the last couple of years our Christmases have become more and more homemade. To start with it was all about economy but it has since turned into a pleasure to take time to make something with your own hands for someone special. A lot of people think that to make a present is just about saving money and it’s seen as “cheap”. Some are even embarrassed to do so and would rather spend money they don’t have to impress friends and family, missing the point of how special the home made gift is. I think it’s a brilliant way of showing someone you care by taking the time and effort to hand make something you know they will love. There is nothing more Christmassy in our house than sitting with a glass of wine watching “Love Actually” or “Elf” whilst threading popcorn onto cotton, making cards and wrapping gifts in our own special way.
Autumn is the perfect time to start planning your home made Christmas, like shopping, do a little each week and soon you will have amassed your perfect Christmas.
Beware! A crafty Christmas isn’t necessarily a cheap Christmas. You need a certain amount of equipment and of course your raw materials, but if you make your list and shop around you can save money, and you can use your basics year after year. A well stocked kitchen, good pair of scissors, tweezers and a glue gun has seen me fine over the last couple of years. The internet of course is a valuable source of information, from how to videos on YouTube to materials via eBay and online stores and of course thousands of recipes can be found online. I am a craft novice and not at all at competition standard, but I love crafting and enjoy even more being able to give my creations as gifts or decorate my home with them.
I would like to tell you about our homemade foodie Christmas. Before I went to work one night hubby asked me to pick up some large Oranges, he did explain what for and show me various videos about making candied orange peel, but to be honest I didn’t pay that much attention as hubby often gets a food bee in his bonnet (prior to candied oranges it was smoking our own fish!). He won’t mind me telling you this as he actually said to me that he knew I wasn’t paying attention and just thought it was another food phase. Well what a fantastic food phase! Whilst I was at work hubby had made magic with just three large Oranges, caster sugar, water and melted milk chocolate. He had researched this with YouTube yielding the best recipe and how to video results. I got home just in time to help dip the oranges in the melted milk chocolate and impatiently wait half an hour whilst they cooled in fridge before being able to try them. Delicious! The next day I took some into work and asked the cast and crew of Mamma Mia! To try them and tell me what they thought – three asked me immediately for the recipe and they all wanted hubby to make more!
They will make lovely little gifts alone or as part of a homemade hamper, and are wonderful served with fresh coffee at the end of a meal. Here’s how hubby made them…
Candied Orange Peel Recipe
Total time around 6 hours
6 Thick-skinned Large Oranges (Valencia or Navel)
4 1/2 cups caster sugar, plus extra for rolling
1 1/2 cups water
500G good quality milk chocolate
Score the orange into quarters, cutting down only into the peel and not into the fruit with a sharp knife. Peel the skin and pith of the orange in large pieces, use the orange flesh for another recipe. Put the orange peel in a large saucepan with cold water to cover, bring to a boil over high heat, then pour off the water. Repeat 4 more times (no need to wait for the oranges to cool in between boiling), you can do it just two or three times if you prefer, the more times you boil the bitterness is reduced, it is a matter of preference. Remove the orange peels from the pan and set aside to cool. When the orange peel is cool to the touch, use a sharp knife to remove any remaining pith and slice the peel into strips about 1/4-inch wide, being careful to keep the strips long and not break the peel.
Whisk the sugar with 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 8 to 9 minutes until the liquid is clear. Add the peels and simmer gently, reducing heat to retain a simmer. Cook until the peels get translucent, about 45 minutes. Swirl the pan to move the peels around if necessary. Drain the peels, roll in sugar and dry on a rack for a couple of hours.
Melt a good quality milk chocolate and when the oranges have set dip them into the chocolate, leaving one end exposed, place on a tray of greaseproof paper in the fridge for half an hour for the chocolate to set. If you have longer leave them out at room temperature to set and the chocolate will remain glossy. Try melting some dark chocolate and dripping it over the milk chocolate for an extra special professional finish.
Making the Cheeky Chilli Pepper Chutney and Pickled and Marinated Veg
Serve as a sweet treat with coffee or give as a gift in a jar with a handmade finish.
You can also make candied Lemon peel in the same way, although the peel will be thinner and tougher and you make need to use a potato peeler to get the rind off the fruit, dark chocolate works best with the lemon. Keep back your Orange or Lemon sugar syrup - it's great on pancakes or in a nice bottle a lovely addition to your gift basket.
Home made Hamper
Two favourite recipes of ours are Jamie Oliver's ‘Cheeky Chilli Pepper Chutney’ and ‘Pickled and Marinated Veg’ (from the 'Jamie at Home' recipe book). They are both very easy to make, totally delicious and were very appreciated last Christmas, the jars were empty by New Year! We give these as gifts in jars decorated with handmade stamped labels and using a small bunch of chilli’s to decorate.
Flavored oils are another favourite, good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil flavoured with chilli, garlic and herbs make a lovely gift, especially when decanted into an unusual bottle and hand decorated. You can’t go wrong with Jam, again very easy to make and as long as you get the fruit in season it can be cheap too. In autumn Blackberry or Blackberry and Apple Jam are fantastic and the ingredients easy to come by. If you are going to give your gift in person on the big day you could also bake some Cranberry and White Chocolate cookies or Gingerbread men as a last minute fresh addition.
Jars and bottles are easy to come by and you can save back empty jam and food jars throughout the year to save even more money. You can buy plain lids (as well as kitchen equipment and jam making kit) from shops such as Wilkinson’s and The Range. Make sure you sterilise your jars before filling and you know how long something will last, especially if you are decanting olives, once the seal has been broken there will be a limited shelf life so don’t give too much. It’s best to have lots of smaller jars that you are sure will be used quickly than larger ones that run the risk of leaving a bad taste in someone’s mouth. Most recipes tell you how long something will last and the best way to store it, or how long something needs to remain airtight to be at its best. Keep in mind how long something may sit under a Christmas tree, some tasty treats will need to be kept refrigerated. You can also put any special instructions on your labelling just to make sure.
The bottles and jars with your home made tasty contents don’t necessarily need any wrapping paper. A combination of Candied Orange, Chutney, Jam, Pickled & Marinated Veg and Oils arranged in a hand decorated basket or garden trug doesn't need wrapping paper. Dress your basket with bright red and green Chillies, holly, ivy and mistletoe. Coloured raffia and pine cones make a lovely decoration and don’t be afraid of glitter a little can go a long way – just don’t go too far! Alternatively for something smaller, a jar or two of your tasty treats simply labelled and with a chilli tag makes a lovely gift.
Finally don’t forget to make enough for yourself, it’s great to give but when homemade tastes as good as this make sure you have enough to treat yourself and to serve to guests over the festive season. Next year I want to have a go at Sloe Gin and Plum wine, now that would really make my hamper pop!
© 2011 mooboomoo