Bottles for Making Bath Products

bath products

Christmas is approaching fast and you can ease last minutes tresses by organising gifts in advance. Going for home made gifts is now trendy as well as practical as economical. You don’t need to worry about duplicating other people’s gifts as yours will be unique, and the attention that goes into producing something home made is always appreciated.

While home made foodie gifts are always popular, this year instead of the usual jams and chutneys, try making your own cosmetics. There are plenty of recipes online and you don’t need lots of expensive equipment – apart from a few affordable ingredients, you then just need some jars and bottles for bath products, lotions or make up.

Making bath products with lavender

You have to be careful when making bath products for other people, because scents you find agreeable may not appeal to others, while some products can irritate sensitive skins. In these cases, lavender is a great all rounder. Its scent is gentle and relaxing, while the essential oil has healing and relaxing properties. A lavender bath soak at the end of the day is one of the best ways to wind down and encourage a good night’s sleep.

To make lavender bath salts, start with a large, clean bowl. Add a cup of sea salt and three teaspoons of wheatgerm oil and stir together well, allowing the salt to absorb the oil. Then stir in eight drops of lavender essential oil and mix well to combine. Finally stir in three tablespoons of Epsom salts to make a really relaxing experience! Adding some dried lavender flowers to the mix looks really pretty but can make it hard to clean the bath afterwards, so use your discretion on this point.

You can go on to use lavender in a whole range of matching products if you like, including a body scrub and body lotion.

Presenting bath products with lavender

What makes your home made products really stand out is presentation. Wares of Knutsford stocks a wide range of pretty bottles for bath products and we recommend, for example, a traditional Bronte jar style for bath salts, with a clip top jar for body scrub and a Nocturne jar for body lotion. These would look great presented as a set or individually, with a pretty printed label tied around the neck with a ribbon. A label is an essential part of the presentation to make sure that the recipient knows exactly what the product is and how to use it! Add a pretty picture of a lavender flower for a professional look.

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Infused Vodka Recipes

infused vodka

Go for maximum creativity on a minimum budget this Christmas with some flavoured vodka recipes. They look good, taste good and help to create a great atmosphere for any occasion! They also create a completely unique and very memorable gift, especially in these seasonal flavours.

Vodka is one of those products that acts as a kind of blank canvas. It responds well to a number of different flavours and the process takes very little time and effort to achieve. However some infusing time is necessary, so get ahead of the Xmas rush by starting your preparations now. The main equipment you will need is a substantial amount of good quality vodka, a large Mason jar for infusing in and some attractive bottles for presentation. Wares of Knutsford has some swing top bottles that are absolutely perfect for the job, and don’t forget you’ll need to think about labelling too – if you don’t fancy designing and printing your own, you can choose from a range of stylish and attractive adhesive labels from Wares.

Each recipe makes enough to fill a 1 litre swing top bottle. The method is the same for the cranberry orange, vanilla and rosemary citrus infused vodka recipes – simply combine all the ingredients in a large Mason jar and screw the lid on tightly. Leave to infuse in a cool, dark spot for two to four days, shaking the jar gently a couple of times per day. For the mint vodka, follow the same steps but only leave the mixture to infuse for 30 minutes. Strain the mixture through a clean muslin cloth to remove the solids and use a funnel to decant into your swing top bottle. Serve over plenty of ice either neat or with a mixer, or use them in baking! The high alcohol content of the vodka means these mixtures will keep for several months without spoiling.

Remember to sterilise your bottles before filling.

Rosemary citrus infused vodka

  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 clementines, in slices
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled, pith removed and sliced
  • 1 litre vodka

Cranberry orange Christmas vodka

  • The zest of one orange, cut into large strips
  • One cup of fresh cranberries, gently crushed
  • 8 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 litre vodka

Minty vodka

  • A bag of mint flavour boiled sweets, such as mint humbug or Murray Mints, crushed
  • 1 litre vodka

Vanilla infused vodka

  • 5 vanilla pods, split
  • 1 litre vodka

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How to Make Limoncello Liqueur

limoncello liqueur

With the Christmas holidays approaching, it’s the time of year when people begin to plan events and stock up on seasonal goods. Mulled wine, Baileys, egg nog and champagne are among the more traditional drinks to serve but you could ring the changes this year with this limoncello recipe – it’s a zingy and refreshing alternative to the sometimes overly cloying classics and will cut nicely through that heavy, after dinner feeling.

All about limoncello liqueur

This lemony liqueur is a Southern Italian and particularly Neapolitan speciality and is one of the most popular drinks in Italy. Limoncello liqueur is also becoming fashionable in other parts of the world and is now to be found on the drinks and dessert menus of smart restaurants and bars in big cities. Traditionally special Sorrento Sfusato lemons are used, also known as Femminello St Teresa lemons, which are sweeter than your average lemon and are grown in abundance in this part of the world. If you’re visiting the Amalfi Coast, you’ll probably notice limoncello being served in little ceramic glasses after dinner. There are creamier versions of the sunshiny liqueur available called Crema di Limoncello and some flavoured with other fruits, such as strawberry flavoured Fragoncello or Meloncello, made with cantaloupe melons.

Cold is the key here – limoncello looks and tastes like summer but it must be stored and served ice cold.

Limoncello liqueur recipe

To make about a litre:

  • 150ml water
  • 200g caster sugar
  • Juice and zest of six lemons (unwaxed)
  • 700ml eau de vie or vodka at 40-80% proof

Add the water and sugar to a saucepan and heat gently, stirring all the while, until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat up and allow to boil, then reduce a little to a brisk simmer for 3-5 minutes until the mixture thickens and reaches the consistency of a syrup. Set aside for a while to cool.

While the sugar syrup is still warm, add the lemon juice and zest and the spirits and stir well. Use a funnel to pour the mixture into sterilised bottles, seal and store somewhere cool and dark for about a month. Remember to give the bottles a shake regularly. After a month, strain the limoncello recipe into fresh, sterilised bottles.

The liqueur needs to be put into the freezer for several hours before serving in frozen shot glasses.

You can also use your limoncello in other recipes such as cocktails, ice creams and hot toddys.

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Collecting sand in bottles

sand in bottles

Today we live in a frantically busy world. Family time is at a premium and never has the time spent together on days out and holidays been so precious. Get the kids away from computer screens and games consoles and out into the fresh air – play cricket on the beach, stroll coastal paths and paddle in the sea. Create memories they can hang onto for life – and help them to do so by creating souvenirs and keepsakes…

Sea shells and sand in bottles

Bring part of your day out home with you in the form of natural souvenirs – sea shells, driftwood, sand dollars, pebbles, seagull feathers and beach sand itself don’t cost a thing and can evoke the most amazing memories of beach holidays and family days out. They can also be arranged to form decorative features in the home – and are certainly more attractive than ‘Transformers’ posters on a child’s bedroom!

Decorating with sand in bottles

Consider telling a story of a life lived in sand – collecting sand from all the beaches you visit and displaying it in bottles. You can use decorative bottles and jars in contrasting styles or go for the uniform approach. Either way it’s a very creative and unique art form.

At Wares of Knutford we are always entertained and impressed by how our customers use the jars and bottles and always encourage them to tell us all about it. Their creativity is amazing, and one particularly sweet idea involved displaying sand in bottles on a set of glass shelves in a cabinet, with a map of the world used as a backdrop. Each bottle contained sand of a slightly different colour and was labelled with the location and date of where and when the sand was collection. The result was not only unique but really very stylish. You could arrange something similar at home – try using photos taken at the same beach as your display backdrop, showing the fun you had.

Another cute display feature involved building layers of sand in a large bottle. Each layer of sand was a slightly different colour and was labelled, again, with the relevant location and date. You can expand you display by adding other items such as photos and any other souvenirs collected at the same place.

If you were lucky enough to enjoy a beach proposal or wedding, consider using bottles of collected sand and local souvenirs as part of the decorative theme at the wedding itself or at anniversaries, making the event really personal for you and your guests.

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How to Make Iced Tea

iced tea recipes

Iced tea is consumed in huge quantities and many forms world wide but has somehow never been particularly popular in the UK. This is inexplicable – it’s simple to make, tasty and a much healthier alternative to fizzy, sugary soft drinks. Some iced teas are made from black, white or green tea, while others are herbal infusions, all of which can be blinged up with some fruit flavours. Here’s how to make iced tea recipes in a number of fruity variations.

Fruity iced tea recipes

Pomegranate and hibiscus. A tangy, sweet and sour combination.

  • 12 hibiscus tea bags
  • 1 litre boiling water
  • 250ml pomegranate juice
  • 1 litre cold water

Steep the tea bags for about five minutes in the boiling water, then strain into a large jug. Stir in the cold water and pomegranate juice and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours, until well chilled. Serve with lemon wedges and plenty of ice.

Fruity Earl Grey. A dark and sophisticated iced tea.

  • 3 heaped tsp Darjeeling Earl Grey loose leaved tea
  • 300ml orange juice
  • 150ml apple juice
  • 80ml lemon juice
  • 220ml ginger ale
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint

Brew the Earl Grey in a teapot for about three minutes with boiling water. Add the ginger ale, sugar and fruit juices with the infused tea to a large jug and stir gently until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the mint and leave the mixture to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until well chilled. To serve, remove the sprigs of mint and add plenty of ice cubes. How to make iced tea a bit more adult and exotic? Add a bit of dark rum!

Ginger lemon iced tea with fruity cubes

  • 110g fresh raspberries
  • Ice cube trays and water
  • 80ml runny honey
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 6 white teabags
  • Juice of three lemons

Divide the raspberries between the compartments in the ice cube trays, top up with water and freeze at least six hours in advance.

Add the ginger and the honey to a saucepan with 500ml of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for five minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the teabags and allow to steep for up to an hour. Strain the mixture into a jug and add the lemon juice and 1.5 litres of water. Leave to chill in the refrigerator. Serve over plenty of ice, garnished with fresh mint leaves and lemon slices.

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Make Your Own Glass Bottle Invitations

bottle invites

Making impact is all about exploiting novelty values. In the world of wedding fashion, for some years invitations were focused upon pretty graphics, but there is a cute new way to grab attention for your event in the form of glass bottle invitations.

How bottle invites work

It’s a really simple scheme – you send your wedding invitation as a message in a bottle. Print your invitation as you usually would, then roll it up and seal it in a bottle. However you can get really creative by creating a scene, or a ‘bottlescape’, if you like, around your invitation. Of course you can use glass bottle invitations for all sorts of events apart from weddings – they are easily designed to match the theme of parties for birthdays, anniversaries or even corporate events. Glass bottle invitations are also an easy way to create something unique, eye catching and very personal on a budget.

Themes for bottle invites

This is where you can really go to town. An easy source of inspiration for your bottle invites is the wedding itself – are you going for a certain colour theme, for a retro dress theme, is it Star Wars inspired or being held in a spectacular venue? This is a great starting point and the bottle is an easy way to introduce your theme.

As an example, if you are planning a beach themed wedding you can decorate your bottle to match, with a little sand at the base, a starfish ornament and a few shells. A Christmas wedding invitation bottle can be decorated with a sprig of evergreen, a little tinsel and some tiny baubles. Create a floral fiesta theme by putting some colourful artificial flowers in the bottle and tying some brught streamers around the neck. It’s all about how far you let your imagination take you.

Choosing your bottles

Wares of Knutsford stocks a number of bottles which would be suitable to house invitations. The 240ml vintage style glass oil bottle with cork is easy to use but recreates that traditional message in a bottle feel. The neck is wide enough to allow you to insert your rolled up invitation and decorations, while the composite cork makes it easy to seal but easy to open again too. The bottles come in packs of six, 18 and 36, with larger pack sizes proving even more economical.

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10 Tips for Jam Making

Jam making tips

Some small tweaks can make the difference between average home made jam and really delicious home made jam. Follow these jam making tips to elevate your home made preserves from amateur to Great British Bake Off levels of excellence.

Jam making tips: preparation

1. Start with good quality ingredients. Preserving may be a way of using up unwanted fruits and veg but probably the best of all preserving tips is to start with good quality produce.

2. Sterilise all of your equipment before you begin. Buy new lids rather than re-using old ones as these can harbour germs.

3. Work out if you need pectin. Some fruits – black and redcurrants, quinces, and apples, for example, contain plenty of natural pectin and set quite easily.

Low pectin fruits such as cherries, strawberries and pears will need some help from preserving sugar, which contains added pectin, or lemon juice.

Jam making tips: cooking

4. Don’t boil the jam until the sugar has completely dissolved or it could crystallise in the jar or fail to set properly. Add the sugar once the fruit has softened in the pan and released lots of juice.

5. There’s no dark art to finding the setting point. You can use a thermometer but there’s another simple, easy preserving tip. Before you start cooking, place a couple of small saucers in the freezer. When you want to test your jam, drop a dollop onto one of the cold saucers, leave it for a minute then prod the drop gently with a forefinger. If a skin has formed and wrinkles when pushed, the jam is ready. If not, keep boiling and retest regularly. In theory the shorter the cooking time, the looser the jam and the longer you boil, the firmer the set.

6. Chutney has reached setting point when the mixture parts cleanly and leaves a channel when you drag a spoon along the bottom of the pan.

7. As you cook you’ll notice a scum appear on top of your mixture. This is normal but must be removed before bottling. Either skim off at the end of cooking or add 10 g of butter and watch the scum disperse.

Jam making tips: bottling

8. Bottle or jar your preserves while still warm or hot, into jars which are also still warm or hot from sterilising. Use a funnel to avoid mess.

9. Always label your preserves with details of the contents and the date produced.

10. Remember that sometimes it will go wrong and fail to set or will set too hard!

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The Difference Between Jam, Jelly, Compote, and Conserve?

preserving differences

Human beings have been preserving food for a long time – way before refrigerators were invented to make keeping food easy. Along the way they have made a virtue out of necessity and turned preserving into an art form. It started with drying, salting, smoking and fermenting and developed into pickling and conserving, once sugar became an affordable commodity in the 19th century.

Nowadays we have a number of different types of preserves to choose from. Preserving is done for pleasure rather than to make sure you have enough food to get through the winter months and is becoming an increasingly sophisticated hobby. If you’re going to take your preserving at all seriously, you should learn a little about the differences between types of preserves.

Fruit and preserving differences

Jam is the catch all term for fruit preserves in the UK but essentially refers to chopped or crushed fruit boiled up with sugar and pectin and left to set. Its consistency is thick enough to spread and there may still be definable lumps of fruit in the mixture. The sugar acts both to help the fruit set and to preserve it. There are official guidelines setting out rules for classing jam against other types of preserves. Essentially jam is about half and half fruit and sugar.

Jelly is a version of jam which has been strained to remove any lumps of fruit. The result is a translucent quality and glossy finish. The fruit is usually crushed, cooked and then carefully strained to ensure as much juice as possible is extracted before sugar and, if necessary, pectin is added and the mixture boiled to obtain a set. Jelly usually contains more fruit juice than sugar.

Then there is compote, which is fruit cooked slowly in a sugar syrup. The fruit should maintain its shape to be considered compote or can be pureed to make coulis. Compotes tend to be used straightaway rather than stored for later and can be mad with sweet or savoury ingredients.

What is not always obvious is that officially, jams are made with a single fruit ingredient. When a mixture of fruits are used or other ingredients such as nuts added, you have a conserve.

Preserving differences between jam and marmalade

Marmalade takes the form of a fruit jelly containing slivers of rind, usually from citrus fruits. Marmalades have a more bitter flavour than jams and are less sweet, cutting through butter to add a freshness to scones and pastries.

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Facts About Peaches

peach facts

The UK has all sorts of delicious native fruits and vegetables which make seasonal eating great fun, but one thing we do miss out on is our own peaches. We have to import them from more temperate climates such as France, Italy or Spain – but they are nonetheless a juicy and delicious summer treat.

Nutritional peach facts

You might think you eat them purely for pleasure, to enjoy the sweet juice dripping down your chin and sticky finger afterwards, so you’ll probably be pleased to learn some of these nutritional peach facts. Peaches are full of vitamin C and beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Even a large peach contains fewer than 70 calories but packs a handy potassium punch and provides you with three grammes of fibre. There’s also a bit of vitamin K, vitamin E and six B complex variants.

Historical peach facts

Peaches originally reached us along the silk road from China, via Persia and brought to Europe by the Romans. They are now grown worldwide, weather permitting, and can be easily raised from seed. Biologically the peach tree belongs to the same botanical class as roses, almonds and apricots and is available in hundreds of different varieties. We are mostly familiar with the yellow and white fleshed varieties. Nectarines are basically a smooth skinned variety of peach.

Buying peaches

Peaches are one of those fruits which must ripen on the tree to develop full flavour and sweetness – they will not continue to ripen once picked. Look for firm but not hard flesh, which gives slightly under pressure. The variation of red and yellow colouring on the skin doesn’t indicate ripeness, but avoid any peaches with green flesh as they have been picked too early. The more scented the flesh, the deeper the flavour of the fruit.

Help peaches soften by keeping them at room temperature and in a paper bag. You can keep soft peaches in the fridge but this will only prolong their lifespan by a day or two.

Using peaches

Always eat peaches at room temperature. You can skin peaches easily as you would tomatoes, by immersing them in boiling water for about ten seconds first. Like apples the flesh will brown when exposed to the air but you can prevent this by putting lemon juice on the surface.

You can stew peaches and eat them with custard or bake them into pies and crumbles, but we think it’s time to bring an old favourite dessert back into fashion: Peach Melba – fresh peaches served with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce.

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Why Isn’t My Jam Setting?

setting jam

Whether you like your jam soft and slushy or shapely and firm, you need to achieve a set of some kind. You can use sloppier jams to spread in a Victoria sponge, to sweeten oats with natural yoghurt or smoothies, while jams that hold their form are better on a cheese plate or used in cooking. Whichever variety you prefer, you need to learn how to set jam. If you have had a few failed endeavours it may be time to investigate the subject a little deeper.

It’s all about the pectin

Pectin is a fibrous material found in fruits and vegetables, in varying quantities. It binds with the sugar in setting jam to give it structure. Fruits with higher natural levels of pectin include apples, cranberries and blueberries, whereas strawberries, rhubarb and pears are much lower in pectin. Lower pectin fruits will need a little help to set, in the form of a pectin additive or by combining them with higher pectin fruits. Apples with blackberries, for example. Lemon juice added to the jam mixture can have a similar effect.

How to test setting jam

There’s no dark art involved in finding the setting point and it is the key factor in how to set jam. You should be able to tell if the jam is approaching its time by dragging a wooden spoon through the pan, then lifting it and watching how the jam drops off. If it is runny and thin and falls right off the spoon, it’s not ready. If it hangs in large droplets and falls slowly, it’s worth testing. There are two easy ways. One is to use a sugar thermometer to make sure you cook the jam to 105C, which it the point at which sugar binds with pectin. Alternatively, before you start cooking, put a couple of small saucers in the freezer. When you think your jam is about ready, put a drop onto a cold saucer and leave it for a minute, then prod gently with a fingertip. If a slight skin has formed on the surface of the jam dollop, which wrinkles as you touch it, then the jam has reached setting point. If not, keep cooking and re-test regularly.

Patience with setting jam

You can’t rush a good job! Sometimes jam takes its time reaching a set. Even if it seems reluctant to set in the pan, sometimes a week in the jar produces a better result.

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Facts About Raspberries

raspberry facts

Gloriously scented, succulent, juicy, bold and bright raspberries are like late summer jewels, closing the season before autumn mists set in. Like most berries you can bake them into cakes, ripple them through ice cream, make them into jam or puree them into sauce, but probably the best way to eat them is as nature intended, on their own – or maybe dusted with a little icing sugar and drizzled with cream…

Nutritional raspberry facts

Raspberries are great sources of vitamins C and A, packing an antioxidant punch. Eat them too for access to some useful phytochemicals such as ellagic acid, believed to help prevent cancer, and beta-carotene to protect the heart. A raspberry snack will also provide you with a useful helping of iron and potassium and some fibre.

Historical raspberry facts

Raspberries are believed to have originated in Asia and are known to have been cultivated in ancient Roman times. They were made popular in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries after English and French growers improved and hybridised the varieties available.

One of the little known raspberry facts is that they are one of the few soft fruits that thrives up in Scotland and are now an important industry for the country. Over 15,000 tonnes of raspberries are grown in Tayside every year.

Scientific facts about raspberries

Like pears, apricots and almonds, raspberries are part of the same botanical family as roses. They aren’t strictly berries in the scientific sense, being an aggregate fruit made up of individual sections each containing a seed, whereas berries are a single fruit containing many seeds. While raspberries are usually seen in a hot pink colour, they can also be grown in orange, yellow and purple colours.

Buying raspberries

Look for plump, dry raspberries with a uniform colour. If the berries still contain the hulls they will not have ripened properly and will taste rather tart. Raspberries are a particularly delicate fruit and should be handled carefully. Avoid washing them if you can as they can lose their shape and get damaged easily when wet. Raspberries don’t last once ripe so you will only have a day or two to eat them at their best, but they do freeze well. Spread the berries out on a tray so they are not touching each other, freeze then transfer to tubs or bags once solid. Frozen raspberries work very well in smoothies or baked into muffins without any need to defrost first.

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How to Sterilise Jars

sterilise jars

Sterilising jars removes nasty bacteria which can not only spoil your preserves but even make you ill, so don’t neglect this essential step. You can easily sterilise jars in the dishwasher by running through the hot cycle, but if you don’t have one or prefer to sterilise manually, there are various other methods you can use.

Before you start sterilising jars, make sure there are no chips and cracks which could harbour harmful bugs and micro-organisms. Do not use damaged jars because they could shatter when they get hot.

Wash any jars you plan to use – including lids – in hot, soapy water and rinse well. Once your jars are clean, you can move on to sterilising.

How to sterilise jars in the oven

This is one of the easiest ways to sterilise jars. Lay your jars out on a clean baking sheet lined with paper and put them into the cold oven. Turn the oven on to 110C and leave for 20-30 minutes. Carry out this process as you are making your preserves as you want the jars to still be warm when you fill them.

How to sterilise jars in water

You can buy special water sterilising baths but you can also sterilise jars in water without any special equipment. You’ll need a large pan, with the base lined with a tea towel to keep the jars stable. Stand the jars in the bottom and fill the pan with enough water to cover them. Bring the water to a boil and hold it at a rapid boil for ten minutes. Use tongs to remove the jars from the pan and allow them to dry upside down on a clean tea towel. Again you should fill the jars while they are still warm.

How to sterilise jars in the microwave

Fill your jars about halfway with water and microwave on full power. You can stop microwaving after the water has reached boiling point and bubbled away for a good minute. Use tongs to remove the jars, then swill the water around a bit and allow to drain. Once again, fill while still warm.

Baby equipment sterilising tablets

You can use baby equipment sterilising tabs on your jars but they can leave a chemical flavour behind, so are probably best used on strong flavoured pickles or chutneys rather than more delicate jams or curds.

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All About Blackberries


Their rich, glossy appearance belies the delicacy of these bramble fruits, which are also packed with vitamin C and dripping with juice. Eat them raw now, while they are in season, or make jam and cook them to freeze for later.

Buying blackberries

Blackberry factors to take into consideration while buying are that the fruit should be dark and plump, and not mouldy or squishy. Check the berries at the bottom of a punnet as they can be easily crushed and you want to go for intact fruit where possible. If you have to wash them, do so very carefully as blackberries are easily squashed. Just rinse gently and carefully drain.

If you need to store the berries, try to lay them on a flat surface rather than leaving them in the punnet, and keep them in the fridge for no more than a couple of days. Remove them an hour or so before you eat them as they are most flavoursome at room temperature.

Cooking blackberries

These berries lend themselves well to cooking, either stewed with a little sugar and crème de mure, pureed for sauce or baked in pies and crumbles with other fruit.

However you could also consider more sophisticated blackberry factors, such as this blackberry Italian zabaglione.

  • 400g blackberries
  • 140g golden caster sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 3 tablespoons marsala or sweet wine

Gently crush the berries and stir in 25g of the sugar. Divide half of the mixture between six serving glasses, reserving the rest for later.

Make a bain marie by placing a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Add the egg yolks and scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod into the bowl with the rest of the sugar. Beat the mixture until light and airy with an electric whisk, then add the Marsala wine and keep whisking for another 10-12 minutes, until the mixture is foamy and thick and the whisk leaves a trail. Add a layer of the mousse to the serving glasses, then another layer of fruit, topped by a final layer of mousse.

You can also try a blackberry milkshake – useful when you’re trying to convince kids to eat fruit! You’ll need 400g berries – ideally fresh but frozen would work too – 1 small banana, three scoops of vanilla ice cream and 300ml whole milk. Add the lot to a blender and whizz for a few minutes until smooth and thick. Serve immediately.

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The Art of Jam Making

jam making

Is jam making an art or a science? Well the commercial jams you find in the shops are definitely more of a science – a bit chemical and unnatural. However making jam at home results in an entirely different product – a bit lyrical, beautiful and definitely artistic.

The history of jam making

Jam didn’t become really popular until the 19th century because sugar had been too rare and expensive up to this point. Fruit was sometimes preserved in honey to make a kind of jellied sweet. However the arrival of West Indies sugar made jam a much more affordable treat and an essential for the working classes, whose bread was rather dark, coarse and unappetising.

Commercial jams even then contained less fruit and more sugar, whereas a homemade version tends to use the opposite ration and is far more flavoursome and satisfying as a result.

Jam making basics

Jam is essentially a very simple mixture of fruit and sugar, thickened by strands of pectin weaving its way through the mixture. Start with a equal quantities of fruit and sugar and play with the recipe until you find the ratio that best suits you but be careful – if you cut out too much sugar the jam won’t set and if you use too much it will go hard.

Almost any fruit can be preserved as jam but you usually get better results from less ripe fruits – over ripe fruit contains less pectin and acid. Some fruits naturally contain lots of pectin for an easy set, such as quinces, grapes and blackberries, while for others you will need to add some pectin to make the jam set – rhubarb, apricots and strawberries need extra help. Lemon juice can have the same effect in some cases.

Start by heating your fruit gently until it is tender but still holds its shape. If your fruits are moist they can be cooked alone but for drier fruits you’ll need to add a little water. To release pectin from the fruit you will have to bring it to the boil. Strands of pectin fibre are what hold jam together and can be added by using special preserving sugar, by adding lemon juice or by mixing higher pectin fruits with lower pectin varieties.

When you add the sugar, allow it to dissolve completely, stirring regularly, before bringing the mixture to the boil. You can stop stirring now and allow to bubble away for five to 20 minutes or so before checking for a setting point.

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Fruits in Season September

Fruits in season September

After a summer of crisp, light salads and vegetables, autumn brings with it richer, fruitier flavours. It’s a great season for preserving, with blackberries, blueberries, figs, damsons and plums plentiful, plus plenty of vegetables and herbs.

Fruits in season September shopping

Probably the most popular among September fruits are blackberries, great to eat raw and drizzled with a little sugar and cream, adding extra flavour to an evening martini then baked into crumbles and pies with the first apples of the autumn season.

Wild blackberries are the sweetest and most flavoursome but if you don’t have a handy hedgerow nearby you can try a ‘pick your own’ farm or a farmers’ market. While you’re there, keep an eye out for cabbage, pears, pumpkins, apricots, aubergines, beetroot, chicory, courgettes, fennel, French beans and globe artichokes. September is also a great month for crabs, grey mullet and oysters!

Fruits in season September cooking

Liven up your breakfast routine by adding delicious September fruits to the menu – try this cinnamon French toast and plums mixture:

Plum compote:

  • 250ml cranberry juice
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 500g fresh plums, halved and stoned
  • 1 stick of cinnamon

French toast:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 60ml whole milk
  • Half a teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 thick slices of bread – slightly stale works best for French toast
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Dissolve the sugar in the cranberry juice in a large, heavy based saucepan, heating gently and stirring regularly. When the sugar has fully dissolved, add the cinnamon stick, bring the heat up so the mixture boils and allow it to simmer away for a few minutes until syrupy. Add the plums and keep cooking gently for about ten minutes. When the plums are soft but still holding their shape, take the pan off the heat, set aside and cover to keep warm.

Make the French toast by whisking together the eggs, milk, sugar and ground cinnamon in a large, flat dish. Soak the bread slices for about two minutes on each side until they soak up all the eggy mixture – be careful that the bread doesn’t fall apart when you remove it from the liquid. Fry the bread in the melted butter for a couple of minutes on each side until golden and no longer soggy – you may need to do this in batches Serve topped with the plum compote.

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Jars for Blackberry Jam

blackberry jam jars

As part of our focus on seasonal eating, Wares of Knutsford has been highlighting blackberries this week, including various tempting recipes both sweet and savoury. However blackberries are most commonly used to make deep, richly coloured jam.

Blackberry jam jars at Wares of Knutsford

We are very proud of the scope and variety of jam jars we offer here at Wares of Knutsford, and we believe ours is the best selection on the internet. If you are looking for blackberry jars for preserving as the summer draws to a close, we have sizes ranging from 30ml miniatures up to 725ml and al sorts of shapes from the familiar basic jam jar to decorative options to give as gifts.

Basic jam jars are ideal for home use and conform to the conditions for competition entry. If you are preserving in bulk you can opt for the money saving bargain pack of 192 jars, including lids. These offer significant savings on smaller orders, and are ideal for small businesses or for groups who choose to take advantage of economies of scale and get together to place a bulk order.

Square jars are a simple, minimalistic and modern option and come in 130ml, 200ml and 293ml sizes, and can be bought in 192 jar bargain packs, great to keep and use yourself or to give as a gift, while deluxe, hexagonal, octagonal, vintage, globe and gourmet jars offer a more upmarket look.

Apple and blackberry jam jars

This is a classic jam combination – not too sweet, not too tart and very satisfying.

  • 500g cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 500g blackberries
  • 1 small lemon, juiced
  • 1kg jam sugar

Before you start, put a couple of saucers into the freezer – you’ll need them later to check for a setting point. Put the fruit with the lemon juice and 100ml water in a preserving pan or large, heavy based saucepan and heat gently for 10-15 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and the fruit softened. Add the sugar and stir in, then bring the mixture to the boil. Keep on a rapid boil for about five minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Take one of your frozen saucers and drop a teaspoon of jam onto the surface. A minute later, gently push the jam with your finger – if the surface wrinkles, the jam is at setting point. If not, keep boiling the jam and testing regularly until the jam is ready to set. Allow to cool for an hour before pouring into clean, sterilised blackberry jam jars.

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Blackberry Nutrition Facts

health benefits of blackberries

Lower profile than apples and oranges, there is a blackberry nutrition powerhouse going on under those luscious, dark skins!

Nutritional health benefits of blackberries

Like most berries, blackberries are full of antioxidants and dietary fibre. Loads of vitamin C should also help to keep the doctor away! You’ll get 35% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C from 100g of brambles, plus helpful quantities of vitamins A, E and K and beta carotene, lutein and zea-xanthin. Along with all those antioxidants are the minerals copper, magnesium, manganese and potassium In fact if you eat enough blackberries, you could possibly live forever…

Blackberries are great for weight loss too at just 43 calories per 100g, while plenty of soluble and insoluble fibre will help to keep you feeling full and blood sugar levels stable.

There’s also a very scientific list of phytochemicals available in the humble blackberry – do you know what anthocyanins, quercetin, ellagic acid, pelargonidins and kaempferol can do for you? Well apparently they can help to protect you against inflammation, cancer and neurological diseases.

Using the health benefits of blackberries in food

Like any fruit, the health benefits of blackberries are at their best when they are fresh. However if you don’t have a handy hedgerow available to pick them from, there are plenty of other ways to access blackberry nutrition. At this time of year comfort food is making its way back onto our tables, in the form of crumbles. This is one of the most delicious but also one of the most indulgent way to use blackberries and we think there are plenty of equally tasty but far more virtuous options to choose from. How about using blackberries to brighten up cabbage in a savoury recipe?

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 small red cabbage, cored and sliced into thin strips
  • 5 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons soft light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spices
  • 1 tablespoon redcurrant jelly
  • 175g fresh blackberries

Gently cook the onion in the butter until it softens – about ten minutes, then stir in the cabbage, sugar, vinegar, spices and half of the redcurrant jelly plus 100ml of water. Season and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover with a lid and allow to simmer for about 40 minutes. Add the blackberries to the pan and leave uncovered as it continues to cook for another 5-10 minutes – enough time for the blackberries to break down a little. Serve with game and mashed potato.

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New In – Grecian Style Jar

Grecian jar

We have some fabulous new products at Wares of Knutsford this season, including these Grecian style jars which can evoke a sun soaked, summery atmosphere even in dreary Britain.

1700ml Grecian jar

This large, clear glass jar is shaped elegantly in the form of a classic urn, with curved sides, narrowing at the neck, and decorative handles. It comes with a white, screw top lid and is sold singly or in packs of six or 12 – remember larger pack sizes offer better value!

212ml Grecian jar

You can also buy a smaller version of the Grecian jar in the same shape. The 212ml Grecian style jars can be bought in packs of six, 12 or 18 and come with screw top lids in a choice of five colours: gold, silver, black, white or green.

Our Grecian style jars look great filled with any kind of jam or chutney, but we recommend going Mediterranean…

Balsamic fig and roasted grape chutney

  • 450g seedless red grapes
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 orange
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 black chai tea bags
  • 450g dried figs, trimmed and quartered
  • 12 large black olives, pitted and quartered
  • 12 large green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons good quality Balsamic vinegar
  • Half a teaspoon sea salt
  • Quarter of a teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220C. Toss the grapes in a teaspoon of the olive and lay on a baking tray, then roast for about ten minutes, until plump and shiny. Set aside to cool.

Pare long, thin strips of peel (orange part only) from the orange, then extract a third of a cup of juice from the pared fruit. Set these aside for later.

Add the remaining oil to a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the garlic, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the tea bags with two cups of water and bring to the boil. Remove the tea bags from the pan, squeezing first to extract maximum flavour. Add the figs to the saucepan, cover and reduce the heat, simmering for about ten minutes until the figs soften. Remove the pan lid and keep boiling until the liquid is reduced and syrupy – this should only take two or three minutes. Add the remaining ingredients including the grapes, orange peel and juice and stir in well. Ladle the mixture into the Grecian jars and seal. The chutney can be stored unopened in a cool, dark place for up to a month and should be refrigerated once opened.

Delicious with goat’s cheese on lightly toasted bruschetta…

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Free Preserving Magazine

preserving magazine

As part of our endeavours to assist you in your preserving adventures, here at Wares of Knutsford we have put together our very own new quarterly free magazine! ‘The Good Life’ is available now from our website.

What is ‘The Good Life’ preserving magazine about?

Well, every quarter we will publish a free copy of ‘The Good Life’ preserving magazine, packed with information and tips about preserving, household management and usually a few cheeky recipes too. The Autumn 2015 issue is out now and covers preserving in wartime Britain, sterilising jars and the principles of jam making, freezing and pulping fruit, freezing in jars, French preserving and glassware, Mrs Doubtfire’s household management and some autumn recipes. There’s also a handy 10% discount code in the magazine, to be used on your next Wares of Knutsford online shopping session!

‘The Good Life’ is published seasonally to help you take advantage of food at its best, cheapest and most nutritious. A copy of our seasonal produce calendar is included to help you see at a glance which foods are in season at any time of the year.

We have created ‘The Good Life’ to both help and entertain you, and because we love to share the knowledge and experience we have learned from our 20 plus years of preserving. Whether you are an amateur or professional preserver, restaurateur, allotment gardener, artisan seller or home brewer – or if you can’t even make beans on toast but are interested in food – we hope and believe that you will find our magazine interesting.

How do I get a copy of ‘The Good Life’ preserving magazine?

The process is simple – just click on the link on our home page, then enter your information to sign up for our monthly newsletter and ‘The Good Life’ will be sent to your email address for download. Otherwise you can ‘purchase’ a copy – this is a free magazine so you add a copy to your basket and go through the checkout process but will not be charged to receive ‘The Good Life’. You will receive and email from us with a link to click on to download your free copy. You can also browse a virtual version of the magazine online from our website.

Contribute to ‘The Good Life’

We love to hear from our customers and are constantly amused, amazed and impressed at how creative you all are. If you would like to share your recipes, knowledge and experience with other preservers in our magazine, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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New In – Set of Nesting Jars

Nesting Jars

One of the newest and best additions to our extensive range of jars at Wares of Knutsford is a trio jar set, which we think will look a treat in any kitchen.

228ml Trittico Nesting Jars

This trio jars set features clear glass 228ml shaped jars designed to nest neatly together in a perfect circle. This is a neat and attractive way to both store and display jams, jellies, curds, pickles, chutneys or any other kinds of preserves. The nesting jars would also look great with dried fruits, nuts or seeds too to make a healthy snack set that’s airtight to preserve the contents in their best condition. The jars are available with five different colours of vinegar proof lids: black, white, gold, silver or green.

We think they make lovely gift too!

How to use your nesting jars

While Wares of Knutsford is a preserving superstore, we know our customers use their jars in a number of different and amazingly creative ways. Here are some ideas for using the trio jar set, best placed on a revolving tray to display a different side every day.

Create a pretty display for a child’s bedroom with the trio of jars. Make a different little animal environment in each jar. You can create a bird’s nest effect on one with some small twigs, straw, moss and feathers and top it with a little bird ornament. In another jar lay a base of sand and add a lizard, a hamster or a small camel figurine to represent the animals of the desert. In the third jar add a little soil, grass and leaves and top with a small model of a snail, a fox or other woodland animal.

You can also make a set of good wishes. Lay a base of ‘clouds’ in the bottom of each jar made of cotton wool and put a little fairy in each holding a tiny banner with an inspirational message – for example, ‘if you can dream it, you can do it’, ‘don’t let anyone dull your sparkle’ and ‘today is the day’. Turn the jar nest around to show your child a different inspirational message every morning, to help them to start their day in the right frame of mind.

However, if you’re not the crafty type, remember that everyone appreciates the love and thought that goes into preparing home made preserves, which remain a timeless, traditional gift.

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