Kids Stocking Filler Ideas

kids stocking filler

The days when an apple and a satsuma provoked excitement in a child’s Christmas stocking are long gone! While modern children’s main presents are likely to be something electronic and expensive, most are also pleased by a stocking filled with small but entertaining little gifts, however this can take some imagination. Wares of Knutsford has plenty of useful ideas for a kids stocking filler, number one being that you can’t go wrong with sweets!

Sweet treat kids stocking filler ideas

Have you ever met a child who doesn’t like sweets? The parents may be less impressed, muttering darkly about visits to the dentist, but sweeties are a great catch all gift for kids from toddlers even up to the notoriously difficult teenage years. You could just buy a chocolate selection pack or you could make it a bit more personal and creative. Wares of Knutsford sells a cute teddy bear jar to fill with smaller sweets. In 280ml size, it’s ideal for sherbet pips, floral gums, rhubarb and custard, cola cubes and all sorts of other penny sweets. The clear glass teddy bear shaped glass jar is topped by a yellow hat over a screw cap lid, which comes in a choice of five different colours. The teddy bear jars can be bought singly or in packs of six, 12 or 18, so you can bulk buy and sort out all the kids in the family in one fell swoop.

If sweets really are inappropriate, the jars still look great with nuts or other small savoury treats.

Non-sweetie kids stocking filler ideas

If you’re looking for other ideas for children’s stocking fillers, consider some of Wares of Knutsford’s child appropriate cooking and baking equipment. Younger and older children look to experiment with cooking and will enjoy having their own tools to do so. Stocking fillers need not be big nor expensive, so sets of funky shaped cutters for biscuits, pastry, gingerbread or icing are ideal. Wares of Knutsford has cutters in animal shapes, letters and numbers, hearts and stars, and many sizes of round cutters both fluted and plain edged. With an icing tool set children can decorate the fruits of their labours to finish them off however they wish. You can even wrap the ingredients too and give a recipe plus, more importantly, the promise that you can make it together…

Wares also stocks jam making kits for beginners, which is another way to introduce children to cooking.

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Jam Jar Mugs with Straws Gift Set

jar mugs with straws

Christmas is approaching at the speed of light, so if you haven’t yet begun your Xmas shopping, now’s the time to start thinking about what to buy. Wares of Knutsford has a great selection of gifts, with something suitable for even those who are difficult to buy for.

Kilner jar mugs with straws

This great little nine piece set comprises jam jar mugs with straws, flower lids and a recipe booklet. There are two handled mugs in chunky clear glass for a trendy and creative way of serving anything from summer cocktails to hot chocolate. They are accompanied in the set by four straws at 23cm – two back and white striped and two red and white, two flower lids for a decorative look and to help avoid spillages, and a helpful recipe book full of ideas for summer and winter drinking. The set comes neatly boxed for easy wrapping and is ideal for recipients young and old.

If the nine piece set isn’t quite right, the jam jar mugs are also available singly in pink, blue or green for a more feminine and decorative touch. You can then buy some flower lids separately to add to your gift if you want to and some straws in co-ordinating shades.

If you are looking for a more adult gift, Kilner makes complete home brewing kits for cider, bitter, lager and red and white wines.

Extra special hot chocolate for jar mugs with straws

Whether you’re tucked up on the sofa or outside taking in a bit of very fresh air, there’s nothing as welcoming as a sweet, thick hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day. Make yours luxurious and indulgent and serve it in these funky jam jar mugs with straws for a sense of occasion.

  • 1 pint semi-skimmed milk
  • 1 tablespoon Horlicks
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 1 and a half tablespoons icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
  • 50g good quality dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of sea salt

Heat the milk gently, to just below boiling point. In the meantime, grate the chocolate and mix it together with all of the dry ingredients until well combined. Use around five heaped tablespoons of this mixture, whisked into the hot milk. Keep whisking gently for a minute or two to allow the hot chocolate to thicken up a bit before serving in the glass jar mugs, accompanied by a couple of biscuits!

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How to Make Bitter Gift Set

how to make bitter

Whether you’re buying for a complete beginner or someone who has experimented with home brewing before, a bitter making kit from Wares of Knutsford is sure to keep drinkers happy.

Kilner how to make bitter kit

There are two Kilner bitter making kits. The Complete Bitter Set contains everything you need to make a quality brew at home, including fermentation bucket, thermometer, siphon, hydrometer and ingredients. Alternatively there’s a Make Your Own Bitter kit with all the ingredients only, ideal for those who already have the equipment. The 40 pint pack gives the quality of flavour and texture of premium commercial brews thanks to the best quality yeast and malt blends. The result is a unique tasting bitter and probably a new passion for home brewing!

The process of how to make bitter

The Kilner bitter making kit comes with fully illustrated instructions on how to proceed. The first step is the cleaning and sterilisation of all equipment. Next the bag of liquid malt needs to soften in hot water for 15 minutes before being emptied into the fermentation bucket. Stir in three litres of hot water to dissolve the malt completely, then top the bucket up to 23 litres with warm water to reach a final temperature of between 20-25C. Use the stirring spoon provided to make sure the mixture is mixed up well then add the brewer’s yeast and mix well again.

You will need to use the hydrometer and a trial jar to record the brew’s starting gravity before placing the lid onto the fermentation bucket. This is carefully designed to allow the release of gases during the fermentation process so that the bucket doesn’t explode, so make sure the lid does not snap shut. You then simply leave your bucket to ferment in a safe place.

Alternatives to bitter

If you think you know someone who would enjoy home brewing but maybe not bitter, Wares of Knutsford has some other interesting options. Also by Kilner there are complete kits available for making your own lager, cider, plus Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

If the recipient of your gift really gets the home brewing bug, make sure they know that spare parts and a wide range of other accessories including bottles and caps are available from Wares of Knutsford! The website has a comprehensive home brewing department full of such essential kit as air locks and bungs, bottle brushes, sterilising equipment, demijohns, swing tops, caps and cappers.

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Colourful Mixing Bowls

mixing bowls

There’s no reason why the most practical items in your kitchen should not also be stylish. With Christmas coming up most people are focused on the presents they need to buy other people, but as arguably the busiest time of the year in the kitchen, maybe you should treat yourself to a colourful mixing bowl or two to help you prepare for the inevitable orgy of cooking that Christmas involves…

Traditional Mason Cash mixing bowls

The traditional Mason Cash mixing bowl has become a design classic and has been in use in British kitchens for over 100 years. Its aesthetic and practical properties blend together perfectly while the design has achieved a timeless elegance. Made from chip resistant earthenware, the weight of the mixing bowl is designed to withstand heavy motion during manual mixing while the pattern is there to give some grip on the bowl as well as look good.

The shallow, wide shape is carefully designed for easy beating of batter as well as kneading dough and can be safely held in one arm. The interior is purposely white as this is the ideal background to check the consistency and colour of cooking mixtures.

The Mason Cash bowls come in nine sizes, from small amounts of batter for single cakes or bulk baking – 12cm, 15cm, 21cm, 24cm, 26cm, 29cm, 32cm, 33cm and 35cm. They can be used in the freezer and dishwasher.

Colourful mixing bowls

Whatever the style or colour scheme of your kitchen, vintage, or modern, Wares of Knutsford has a range of mixing bowls to match and complement it. There’s a simple and elegant trio by Natural Elements in soft mint green with pale cream rim and interior that’s stylish enough to grace the table top as well as the worktop. The three sizes of mixing bowl are supremely practical as they can also be used in the oven and microwave and are dishwasher safe.

Bringing a modern twist to a traditional style mixing bowl are Mason and Cash’s Romantic Hearts versions. They are made of classic earthenware in the traditional Mason Cash style and decorated with an embossed hearts pattern, finished in pale cream, pink or red.

Also by Mason Cash, the Zest range features super colourful mixing bowls. Each is embossed with a fruit pattern and finished in a colour to match – zingy green apples, tangy yellow lemons and juicy red strawberries. All are 29cm in size and are dishwasher and freezer safe.

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Roasting Pans and Trays

roasting pans

It’s that time of year – not only do frosty mornings and cold, dark evenings cause a mad craving for stodgy comfort foods but the imminent arrival of Christmas means roasts are well and truly on the menu in most British households. There’s no single special trick to making a delicious roast the way your mum or nan used to, the key is mostly in the preparation and timing, while good equipment always helps.

Roasting pans of meat

First of all, your roasting pans need to be big enough for air to circulate – not only around your meat but also for any vegetables or other items you want to cook with the meat. Too big, however, and your juices are likely to burn. Some roasting trays come with a rack to suspend the meat upon rather than letting it sit in its own juices but this is a matter of personal preference.

It’s worth going for a good cut of meat as you can never disguise poor quality raw material. More tender meats such as chicken and lean pork, beef and lamb respond better to roasting, whereas tougher meats need a bit of moisture while cooking to soften them up.

You then need to work on keeping the moisture in. You can lard up your meat or soak it in a bucket of brine but most people keep it simple by basting regularly.

There are guides available online for temperature and timing but you can use a meat thermometer if you’re not sure when your meat is done. For a really juicy finish, don’t serve your meat straight away but allow it to rest on a platter for about 15-30 minutes, under a sheet of foil to retain the heat.

Buying roasting pans

You may well remember speckled enamel roasting pans as an element of childhood nostalgia. Enamelled pans are a very versatile option – they’re durable, safe to use with metal utensils, suitable for any kind of hob except induction and are oven, dishwasher, fridge and freezer safe. Wares of Knutsford has three high quality, heavy duty enamel pans that should last you a lifetime of roasting – they even come with a 25 year guarantee!

Alternatively, you can choose from three heavy duty stainless steel roasting trays, with fold down handles for easy lifting and high sides to safely contain braising juices. Softly rounded corners allow easy access with a spoon for stirring when making gravy and sauces. These are also oven, dishwasher, fridge and freezer safe and carry a ten year guarantee.

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Pink Jam Jar Mugs

jam jar mugs

The Kilner range at Wares of Knutsford now includes blue, green and pink jam jar mugs. A fashionable twist on a traditional shape, the handled jars in coloured glass lend an interesting and creative look to anything from cocktails to iced tea or even plain old water – make sure you also supply a colourful straw to drink through!

Buying pink jam jar mugs

The 500ml capacity mugs are sold in packs of three, six or 12 and are hand wash only. Lid are not supplied but as a traditional Kilner jar, you can use your standard flower lids on the mugs too. Remember that Wares of Knutsford uses a flat delivery charge so you can order as much as you like without worrying about the cost of postage and packing.

Wholesale prices are available to business customers, so don’t hesitate to contact us for details.

Decorating with pink jam jar mugs

The new Kilner pink jar mugs are almost too pretty to drink out of, so why not use them for decorating! Exploit the pastel theme by using them to store striped candy canes for Christmas, sticks of rock after summer holidays or lollipops at any time of year. Using such as pretty container is also a great way to disguise the mundanity of some contents – wooden skewers, pencils, make up brushes or even kitchen implements will look strangely elegant and sculptural when packed into the blue, green and pink jar mugs, while remaining easy access for everyday use.

Christmassy pink jam jar mugs

Remember that you don’t have to go with the traditional red, green and gold at Christmas. Icy pastel pink with white and silver looks very modern and fresh when used to decorate the house and table for the festive season. It’s a look that needs confidence and commitment to carry it off so stick to the theme with matching wrapping paper, cards and cake decorations. When it comes to table decorations, you can use your pink jar mugs as ornaments. Put a tea light inside then use pale pink, silver or white ribbon to tie some tiny baubles around the neck in the same colour theme – silver, white and different shades of pink. Place these along the table to cast a warm and flattering glow at dinnertime. Similarly, line the inside of the jar with a small string of tiny, battery operated fairy lights and place on windowsills or in dull corners.

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DIY Christmas Table Decorations

Christmas table decorations

Make your Christmas table decorations unique this year by creating them yourself – not only will you save money but you’ll come up with something far more interesting and individual than the average supermarket decorations bumper pack.

Snowy votive Christmas table decorations

Use your glass jars to make pretty, seasonal homemade Xmas table decorations. Brush decoupage glue (available from craft shops) all around the sides of your jar, then dip into Epsom salts to create the effect of a snow covering. Tie a piece of traditional brown twine around the neck of the jar then use a hot glue gun to attach decorations – a few red berries and green tree fronds, or some lace ribbon with tiny pine cones sprayed with snow. Put a tea light inside and watch the glittery snow effect add a warming glow to your table!

Alternatively use your snowy jar to make a tiny snowman, sticking on a couple of black buttons for eyes, an orange plasticine nose, peppercorn mouth and a few strands of red wool for a scarf – the kids will love it!

Hang doily snowflakes

Paper doilies may look distinctly old fashioned on the table but can make great homemade Christmas decorations! Exploit their similarity to snowflakes by using a small foam roller to coat each side of the doilies with fabric stiffener, available online or from craft shops as a spray. Use enough of the liquid to saturate the paper and leave the doilies overnight to dry, then iron and hang with clear fishing line so they appear to be floating in the air. This looks amazing in front of a window!

Snowy landscape Christmas table decorations

Kids will love these homemade Xmas table decorations, a kind of natural world snow globe that uses upside down glass jars to showcase miniature Christmassy ‘landscapes’. Use tiny polystyrene packing balls or a snow spray to create a good base of ‘snow’ in the lid of your jar – it has to be substantial enough to be visible through the jar once screwed on. Lay the snowy jar lid on a table and create a miniature landscape inside, using tiny tree, pine cone and animal decorations. Pray a little more snow spray and sprinkle a little glitter over the finished product then add the clear glass jar on top. Line along your Xmas table as interesting, alternative centrepieces to flowers or candles.

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Buy Baking Tins and Trays

Baking tins

With summer salads but a distant memory and Halloween out of the way, it’s time to really delve into winter cooking – roasts, pies, stews and sticky puddings are all the kind of comfort food that helps to keep the cold at bay. This Christmas make sure you are prepared for your seasonal recipes with the correct equipment. Wares of Knutsford offers a selection of baking trays to cover all your seasonal needs – spiced biscuits, mince pies, stollen, Yule logs, gingerbread houses and traditional fruit cakes are just the beginning!

Baking tins for Christmas cakes

It’s time to start thinking about your fruit cakes for Christmas. The traditional recipe requires deep, round cake tins, which can be loose based or springform if you like as it can be easier to remove the cake. Either way you’ll need to grease and line the tins properly for the best results, even with a non-stick surface.

To make Yule logs you need flat, rectangular baking trays which must be very well prepared so the cake can be removed intact. Make sure you have a few 12 hole cake tins available so you can make your mince pies in bulk – they freeze well after cooking to save you time later.

Lining round baking tins

To start you will need to grease your baking tins. Then cut your baking parchment long enough to go around the tin and overlap a bit too, and high enough to protrude about three inches above the tin. From the top, fold about an inch of the paper back upon itself and using scissors, cut at an angle up to the fold at half inch intervals all the way along the paper.

Put the paper into the tin with the folded and snipped edge at the bottom and inside of the tin to make a border around the edge. Use the base of the tin as a template to cut a circle of baking parchment and place this in the bottom of the tin, covering the existing paper border.

The same method can be used to line tins for Christmas cakes, but you should double up on your baking paper with a layer around the inside of the tin and another around the outside. This will help the cake to remain soft and moist throughout the long, slow baking. Similarly use two circles on the base and on top of the cake, cutting a small hole in the top to allow steam to escape.

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Stainless Steel Milk Churns

Stainless steel milk churns

Food is served on anything but plates these days – think pulled pork on wooden trays, cocktails in jars and fish served on hot stones. Plates are apparently no longer cool – however they are, in the real world, necessary and practical, which means you have to find other creative ways of serving your food.

Wares of Knutsford has plenty of imaginative serving ideas, not least of which is our stainless steel milk churn.

Stainless steel milk churns for sauces

Our stainless steel milk churns come in two sizes – mini (95ml) and small (140ml). Each is ideal for individual sized servings of sauces of all kinds, plus milk, fruit juice, cream or even condiments. Whether you are trying to achieve the smart restaurant effect at home or simply don’t like to see jars on the table, the mirror polished finish of the stainless steel milk churns will add a neat and sophisticated touch. From the Master Class range by Kitchen Craft, the traditional shape includes twin handles on the sides to make for easy pouring and the churn is dishwasher safe.

Try filling the churns with custard or cream to serve with apple pie or bread and butter pudding, apple sauce for pork or cranberry sauce to accompany the Christmas turkey. Consider adding a set of smart, polished stainless steel serving spoons for a coherent look when serving food at the table.

The churns are also ideal for steaming milk for a luxurious cappucino at Sunday brunch or for serving condiments at a buffet – mayonnaise, piccalilli etc. will look amazing served in these churns even if they are not home made!

Stainless steel milk churns for decoration

If your home is too compact for a dramatic table display or you simply prefer an understated look, try placing individual blooms or miniature posies into a stainless steel milk churn. You don’t have to worry about messy stems being visible below the waterline and even more old fashioned flowers will look modern rather than blowsy. The best effect is achieved by using one large, wide bloom such as a hydrangea with a few leaves to frame it, repeated a few times down the table. Alternatively a couple of sweet peas framed with some ferns looks clean and simple yet very sophisticated.

If you’re planning your Christmas table, these churns will fit beautifully into a silver and white theme – cover some small, architecturally interesting branches with ‘snow’ powder and place in a few churns along the table. Complement with white and silver tableware for an incredibly sophisticated table!

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Making Jam in the Slow Cooker

making jam in the slow cooker

Everyone loves their slow cooker for its hearty, warming stews and convenient casseroles, but did you know that you can also make jam in a slow cooker? In fact it’s a beautifully easy way to make delicious jams.

Making jam in the slow cooker with blackberries and other berries

The same basic method applies to making jam in the slow cooker for all berry jams, whether you use blackberries, raspberries or blueberries, however you may want to adjust the amount of sugar you use according to taste.

To make two jars:

  • 650g blackberries
  • 450g jam sugar
  • Freshly squeezed juice of one and a half lemons

Add all the ingredients to your slow cooker and cook on the low setting for about an hour, then stir, replace the lid and continue cooking on low for another hour to allow the sugar to dissolve completely. Once the sugar is fully dissolved, turn your cooker to the high setting and leave for another two or three hours. After two hours you can start checking to see if your jam has reached setting point. To do this, place a large drop of the jam onto a saucer that has been well chilled in the freezer. Leave for a minute and then use the tip of your finger to gently push at the drop of jam. If it has formed a slight skin that wrinkles when you push it, the jam has reached its setting point. Otherwise continue to cook on high until you get there.

Once ready, pour your jam into sterilised jars and seal and label while it is still warm.

An alternative way of making jam in the slow cooker

Brighten up your breakfast this winter with a sunny tasting lemon curd on your toast, and making jam in a slow cooker is the ultimate in low maintenance cooking.

  • 125g butter
  • 400g caster sugar
  • Juice and zest of three lemons and one orange
  • 4 eggs, beaten

Melt the butter gently in a saucepan with the sugar, fruit juice and zest, stirring slowly until the sugar dissolves. Pour the mixture into a bowl that’s large enough to fit inside your slow cooker and set aside for ten minutes to cool slightly. Beat in the eggs then make a foil lid on top of the bowl. Place the bowl into your slow cooker pan and pour in enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the bowl, almost like a bain marie. Put the lid on your slow cooker pan and cook on low for about five hours, stirring occasionally, so that the curd thickens. Decant into sterilised jam jars.

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Preserving Pumpkin and Squash

Preserving pumpkin

If you store it correctly, you can preserve squash in excellent condition all through the winter, however sometimes it’s easier to have some prepared and ready to use for when you don’t have time for peeling, chopping and cooking from scratch.

Preserving pumpkin in the freezer

In these cases preserving pumpkin by freezing it is ideal. Peel and deseed your squash or pumpkin and cut the flesh into smallish chunks. Cook in salted boiling water until tender or in the microwave, then place into freezer bags.

Preserving pumpkin from autumn onwards

To ensure your squashes will remain in the best condition while stored over winter, first you have to pick them at the right time. As autumn passes, keep an eye on your squash and pumpkins. They should be left to mature still on the plant right up until the first frosts so they become as sweet as possible. Once the frosts arrive you won’t be able to store your squash. While your fruits are ripening, place a board underneath so the bottom doesn’t discolour or come under attack by slugs.

Squashes are ripe when the skin is smooth but tough and when a sharp tap on the side rings hollow. The colour will be deep and rich. Cut your fruit off the plant as high up the stalk as you can using secateurs. Hold the fruit from the bottom rather than by the stalk. Allow the squash to cure in the sunlight or in a greenhouse or cold frame for about ten days, bringing them in at night if you’re likely to get any frost.

You can then place your squashes in a cool (between 10C-15C) and dry but well ventilated space to store them over winter. A well stored squash will keep for up to six months.

Preserving pumpkin in jars

Thanks to a low acid content, pumpkin can’t be canned in a water bath or in pureed form. It must be preserved in chunks, in a pressure canner. If you have a pressure canner, cook the pumpkin as for freezing, but use the chunks and cooking liquid to fill your canning jars, leaving only 2-3cm of airspace at the top. Place the jars in your pressure cooker according to instructions and process for the required amount of time.

The preserved pumpkin flesh is ideal for use in pumpkin pies, jams, soups or even pumpkin bread! Don’t throw away the seeds either when preparing your fruit, as these can be roasted to make a delicious, healthy snack.

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How to Make Apple Juice

apple juice

If you have a juicer tucked away in a cupboard somewhere and have never really got to grips with what it can do, dig it out, give it a clean and get juicing! An easy way to get your five per day, juicing is delicious and fun. If you’re not sure what flavours you like or which fruits and vegetables work well in a juicer, start with apples. They’re healthy, plentiful and combine well with loads of other fruits and vegetables. Of course you could also enjoy the apple juice on its own, but the following recipes show you how to make apple juice in a variety of flavours.

As a general rule, core your apples before using as their pips can contain tiny amounts of cyanide and it’s not a great idea to eat too many, and, if you’re looking for how to make apple juice at its healthiest, try to buy organic – apples can be heavily sprayed and some of the chemicals remain on the skin. You want to leave the skin on to access all its nutritional benefits and organically grown fruit means you won’t have to eat so many chemicals with it.

Apple juice comes out clear or cloudy, depending which variety of fruit you use and what kind of juicer you have. Everyone knows that apples are full of health benefits, and juices are a great way to access their anti-oxidant properties.

Carrot, celery and apple juice

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 apple, cored
  • 1 celery stalk

Wash all your ingredients and chop to the right size for your juicer. Pass through the juicer, adding a little ginger if you want some extra kick.

Grapefruit and apple juice recipe

  • 2 apples, cored and sliced
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and sliced

Pass the fruits through your juicer and drink immediately.

Spinach, broccoli and apple juice recipe

  • 3 apples, cored
  • 3 handfuls fresh baby spinach
  • Handful broccoli stems

Wash all the ingredients and chop the apples and broccoli stems to the right size for your juicer. Serve immediately.

Apple juice with nettles, celery and lemon

You’ll be surprised how sweet and tasty this juice is if you’re brave enough to go and forage for nettles!

  • 3 apples, cored
  • 3 nettle stems, with leaves
  • 2 celery stems
  • Half a lemon

Wash all the ingredients and peel the lemon. Chop everything so that it fits your machine then juice away and, as usual, serve immediately.

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Apple Corer and Peeler

Apple Corer

With Autumn upon us it’s apple pie season. There are so many ways you can use apples in cooking but the process of preparing them can be tedious if you are handling large quantities. How long does it take to peel, core and slice 50 apples, for example? Wares of Knutsford has a solution in the form of a Deluxe Apple Peeler and Corer.

Deluxe Apple Corer

This easy to use device accomplishes peeling, coring and slicing neatly and fuss free. Hold the apple in place with its traditional clamp and turn the handle to remove the peel. Keep turning and the core is removed and the apple is even sliced for you. The device benefits from a suction base to hold it stable on the worktop while in use. You can also use the Deluxe Apple Corer and Peeler on potatoes. This is the easiest way to deal with large quantities of apples when batch cooking tarts, chutneys or sauces.

Apple tart recipe

  • 3 dessert apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons Demerara sugar
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 300g ready prepared puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons apricot jam

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a baking sheet, then leave in the oven to heat.

Toss the apple slices in the lemon juice to prevent them from browning then mix in the sugar and cinnamon and leave aside.

Roll out your pastry to disc with a diameter of 26cm and a thickness of 4mm. Use a knife to lightly score a 2cm border around the edge of the disc. Lay out the sliced apples in neat decreasing circles within the border. Glaze the pastry border with beaten egg and knock it with a knife a little bit to encourage it to rise. Chill the tart in the fridge for 20 minutes before baking.

Carefully slide the tart onto the prepared, preheated baking sheet and cook for 20-25 minutes, until it is golden brown at the edges. Heat the apricot jam gently in a saucepan and brush it over the tart gently to create a glaze. Serve the tart warm with a dollop of creme fraiche.

Alternative apple corer and peeler devices

If you don’t cook apples in large quantities, you can try more basic peeling and coring devices. Wares of Knutsford can also supply a stainless steel corer with a black nylon handle and a number of simple peelers. If you prefer your apples chunky, there is also a Deluxe Apple Corer and Wedger to cut wedge segments in one swift, smooth motion.

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Buy Herb Mills Online

herb mill

Nothing lifts your home cooking like using fresh herbs. They add a depth and flavour that dried versions can’t touch and look fabulous in your garden or in pots on your window sill. Wares of Knutsford stocks some useful herb mills to save you time when preparing your fresh herbs.

Plastic herb mill

One of the simplest but most useful little gadgets sold by Wares of Knutsford is this white plastic herb mill and mint cutter. It’s a quick, safe and effortless way to grate fresh herbs – simply turn the handle on the side to rotate the internal stainless steel blade for perfect chopped herbs every tie. It’s dishwasher safe, suitable for any leafy herb and can be used left or right handed with a useful detachable handle. This will soon become an indispensable part of your kitchen kit and makes a great gift for keen cooks.

Professional herb mill

This stainless steel cutter by Kitchen Craft makes short work of chopping herbs. It features a comfortable handle atop a set of rotating blades, is dishwasher safe and comes with a 25 year guarantee. It’s a small and neat kitchen tool that’s easily stored using the integrated hanging loop. Use the cutter to achieve perfectly chopped mint, coriander, basil, sage or parsley, for example.

Herb scissors

This fantastic little device has a number of uses. With five stainless steel blades and a comfortable soft grip, non-slip handle, it will save you time chopping chives and will even moonlight as a document shredder!

Hachoir

The traditional way of chopping herbs at speed, an hachoir offers elegance and control. Wares of Knutsford sells three different kinds of hachoir. The single bladed hachoir is simple but competent, with a handle at each end of the arced stainless steel blade. It’s 18cm long, comes in a display box and is dishwasher safe. There is also a twin bladed option at 14cm for even quicker chopping.

If you’re planning to give an hachoir as a present, go for the gift boxed set, with a double bladed cutter and shaped 25cm beechwood chopping board.

Fresh herb sauce

A lighter, fresher alternative to creamy sauces, this will add an Italian flavour to your roast chicken or turkey.

  • 85g watercress
  • 50g fresh parsley
  • 50g walnuts
  • 150ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Chop the watercress and parsley with a herb mill and pulse the walnuts in a blender until finely chopped. Mix all the ingredients together until well combined and season well.

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How to Store Juice

store juice

There are few flavours sunnier than freshly squeezed orange juice, or more energising than freshly pressed apple juice, but the problem is keeping juice fresh. In theory, you should drink fresh juice within a few minutes of squeezing it, but sometimes it’s necessary to either drink on the run or save your juice for later. The following advice will help you in keeping juice fresh for longer.

Go organic

The key is to maximise the nutritional content of your juice, so you need to aim for the best raw ingredients. Organic fruits and vegetables are said to have a higher nutrition content, so they should produce the healthiest juices, particularly for those fruits which are juiced with their skins.

Choose your juicer carefully

Different kinds of juicer can result in some juices that stay fresher for longer than others. Citrus juicers or centrifugal juicers work using friction and produce some heat, which can degrade the juice slightly. These juices will not store as long as others. Masticating juicers work slower and don’t produce the same levels of heat and friction, so the results will hold their freshness for a little longer, perhaps as much as 24 hours.

Store juice in a bottle

You could re-use plastic milk or water containers to store juice but sturdy, screw cap glass bottles are safer and more hygienic. Sterilised 1 litre mineral water bottles or similar styles are ideal, with tight fitting lids to avoid leakage.

How to store juice in jars

Decant your juice into jars as soon as it is produced, filling the jar close to the top to avoid leaving too much airspace – ideally no more than 1mm. Don’t worry if a little of the juice squirts out of the top of the jar when you seal it, as this just helps to minimise airspace inside. Just give the jar a quick wipe afterwards. Refrigerated the jar of juice straight away, and when you’re taking it out with you use a cool bag to maintain the cool temperature.

Drink up

While these steps will help you to keep your juice in the best possible condition for as long as possible, don’t put off drinking it for too long. The sooner you drink it, the healthier and more delicious it will be. Once the jar is opened, drink the juice in one go rather than resealing the lid and saving some for later.

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High Quality Casserole Dishes

casserole dishes
Wares of Knutsford offers a wide range of casserole dishes, an essential part of healthy comfort food cooking to keep you cosy and warm this winter.

Cast iron casserole dishes

The classic dishes for casseroles are made of heavy duty cast iron, thanks to its durability and heat distribution properties. Giving an efficient and even spread of heat, your stews and casseroles will be evenly cooked, avoiding hot spots. The Wares of Knutsford versions come with a red exterior vitreous enamel coating and cream interior for hygiene and impermeability. Available in 2.5 litre, 3.8 litre and five litre sizes, the dishes can be used in the oven, on all kinds of hobs, under the grill and in solid fuel ranges. A pair of wide handles and a round knob on the lid makes them easy to lift and use while the dishes are dishwasher safe and come with a fifteen year guarantee. Not only do these dishes cook beautifully, they are also attractive enough to go from the oven straight to the table for serving.

Stoneware casserole dishes

Another popular material for casserole dishes, stoneware is also durable and easy clean. Wares of Knutsford’s Rayware Gourmet Kitchen Collection of dishes for casserole comes with a smart white finish including an integrated handle that won’t disgrace any table and is suitable for baking and roasting food along with casseroles and stews. The Rayware Gourmet Kitchen Collection is safe to use in the oven, dishwasher, freezer and microwave, making it ideal for both amateur and professional cooks and comes with a free recipe idea. Sizes include a mini 0.25 litre dish, 2.25 litres, and three litres.

The Harvest Round Casserole range is more rustic and traditional looking with a rich, brown country kitchen style exterior glaze and white interior. It comes in 1.5 litre and three litre sizes, with a domed lid and integrated handle. It too is oven, microwave, freezer and dishwasher safe. A number of matching brown pottery oven to table items are available including roasting, pie, flan and gratin dishes.

The Mason Cash Terracotta casserole dish range is particularly interesting and stylish. A soft terracotta, matt exterior is complemented by a glazed interior for easy cleaning. This range of dishes is ideal for rice based recipes or slow cooking and, long with a deep, 2.5 litre lidded dish includes three open dishes that can also be used for tapas and pies.

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The Best Vegetables and Fruits for Juicing

vegetables and fruits for juicing

Juicing is a quick and easy way of accessing the nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables when you don’t have the time or inclination to prepare and eat them. Experimenting with juicing can be great fun but you’ll soon find that some fruits and vegetables are better than others for juicing.

The best vegetables and fruits for juicing

Apples

Packed with antioxidants, apples also combine well with a number of other vegetables and fruits for juicing, making delicious and interesting flavour combinations.

Pineapples

Their anti-inflammatory properties make pineapples one of the healthiest fruits, while their flavour adds a tasty tropical kick to your juices. Pineapples are also an excellent digestive aid, thanks to the enzyme bromelain, which helps the body to digest protein.

Carrots

Carrots add a surprisingly sweet flavour to juices and boast a number of health benefits. Apple and carrot juice is a tasty and super nutritious blend.

Citrus fruits

Great all rounders in the nutrition stakes, a sharp tasty citrus juice is also one of the most refreshing ways to start the day. They work best when squeezed in a special citrus juicer, as the peels are not particularly tasty or beneficial to the health. Citrus juices also make a great addition to other juice blends and smoothies.

Kale

Not everyone loves to eat their greens, so one of the best ways to get a bit of kale in your diet is by adding it to a juice blend. The same applies to spinach, another nutrient packed dark green leaf.

Peppers

Colourful and anti-oxidant rich, peppers add a crisp taste to juice blends.

The worst vegetables and fruits for juicing

Fruits and vegetables for juicing need a sufficient water content and the right consistency. Some of our most delicious fruits and vegetables are versatile in many other ways but are not shown off to their best by the juicer.

Avocados

Often labelled a superfood, healthy avocados are great in the juicer, simply because they have no juice… However you can blend avocados to make super nutritious smoothies instead.

Bananas

Pretty much the same advice applies to bananas. They are full of nutrients but their creamy consistency is best used to sweeten smoothies.

Papaya

Papaya is a great digestive aid, helping the body to break down proteins. It can be juiced but its mushy texture works far better in a blender for smoothies.

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The Healthy Carrot

health benefits of carrots

Few people need to ask ‘are carrots good for you?’ because we all know that carrots are one of the healthiest and most versatile vegetables. They have so many applications in cooking, even for making cakes, and are an excellent ingredient for juices, plus they taste delicious. But what exactly are the health benefits of carrots?

Nutritional health benefits of carrots

Carrots are packed with useful nutrients including high quantities of vitamins C, D, E and K plus vitamins B1 and 6 and pro-vitamin A. They are a source of important minerals including biotin, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and other trace minerals. While most people focus on the orange roots, the greens at the top of the carrot are also edible and contain lots of useful calcium, magnesium, potassium, protein and vitamin K.

Carrots are also rich in phytonutrients, which are great little chemicals for healing the body. Alpha, beta and gamma carotenes, lutein, lycopene, xanthophyll and zeaxanthin have all been found in carrots.

The most famous nutrient in carrots is carotene, a powerful healing antioxidant that is also the source of the bold orange colour of the vegetable. It has been suggested that carotene can help to protect against cognitive decline.

Wider health benefits of carrots

As an alkaline vegetable, carrots are favoured by those concerned about acidity in the blood and blood sugar levels. Their detoxifying effects can supposedly help to protect against acne, asthma, psoriasis and other skin problems and ulcers.

The arterial build up of artherosclerosis might be improved by carrot consumption while a high pectin content is alleged to reduce blood cholesterol levels. Constipation can be improved by drinking carrot and spinach juice or eating the whole vegetable raw to access its fibre content, while carrots’ anti-inflammatory properties can have a beneficial effect upon arthritis, gout and rheumatism.

As a diuretic, carrot juice can help to alleviate water retention, particularly for pregnant women.

Carrot juice is also sometimes taken to combat thread worms in children.

Above all, we are told that eating carrots can help you to see in the dark – and it’s almost true! The beta-carotene in carrots is transformed in the body to rhodopsin, a purple coloured pigment that can assist night vision. Beta-carotene has in fact also shown a preventative effect against senile cataracts and macular degeneration.

So you don’t really need to ask ‘are carrots good for you?’, you simply need to eat them – don’t get carried away though! Excess consumption of carrots has been implicated in a condition called carotenemia, which creates an orange tinge on the skin…

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The Difference Between Juicing or Blending

Juicing or Blending

There’s a lot to be said for drinking your food, particularly if you need fast, tasty nutrition on the run. However it’s wise to consider the possibility that by sticking to food in this form only, you could be missing out on certain nutrients or dietary necessities. The essential difference between juicing v blending is that juicing extracts liquid from fruit or vegetables while blending up a smoothie retains the whole content.

Juicing or blending: all about juicing

The main benefit to juices is convenience. They are a clean and easy way to get your nutrition while on the move – which is no problem if you stick to low calorie, low sugar vegetables. However if your juice is fruit based and you drink a lot of it, it’s very easy to exceed you recommended sugar intake without even realising it. This is mostly because extracted juice doesn’t contain any of the fibre that makes fruits and vegetables so valuable.

However juicing does have some other benefits. That same lack of fibre makes juices far easier on your digestive system. With so little digestive work to do, your body can focus on taking all all the important nutrients and enzymes from the juice, avoiding the heavy feeling of fullness that eating whole foods can give you.

Juicing or blending: all about smoothies

The main argument for blending is fibre. An inescapable truth of juicing or blending is that smoothies retain the fibre that juices leave behind. You get the same fibre from drinking a smoothie that you do from eating the complete fruit or vegetable. Smoothies make it easier to obtain this nutrition if you can’t chew or don’t have time to prepare your fruit an vegetables another way. The higher fibre content in smoothies means you feel fuller and so are less likely to overload on sugar, while the fibre performs its usual job of slowing down the way your body absorbs and processes sugar. A good smoothie can act as a complete meal replacement.

Another advantage with blending is that you can add healthy supplements that aren’t easy to eat on their own – spirulina, wheatgrass and other nutritional powerhouses that don’t fit easily onto a fork can be comfortably blended into a tasty smoothie.

Ultimately both methods have their pros and cons. One advantage common to both is that by disguising the taste in juice and smoothie blends, it’s easier to drink some of the super healthy vegetables that aren’t appetising to everyone in their original form – have you ever tried making children eat raw kale, for example…?

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The History of Apples

best apples

The apple is probably the most popular fruit to be eaten in the UK. It has a long history and massive cultural significance. The apple probably arrived in Europe via the Middle East and its cultivation in orchards was known of in ancient Greece, while evidence it grew wild in Neolithic Britain. However it was the Romans who introduced sweeter and tastier varieties to England.

Apples in England

The occupation of Britain by the Romans was followed by Jute, Saxon and Danish invasion, and the abandonment of many early orchards. The Norman Conquest saw the introduction of a number of new varieties of apples such as the Costard. The cultivation of new varieties began and new orchards were developed on monastery grounds. By the Middle Ages the Costard could be found all over the country.

Apple production in England foundered somewhat during the period of the Wars of the Roses and the plague, until Henry VIII began a project to find and cultivate new varieties. Cultivation remained haphazard until the agricultural revolution of the 1700s, when the science of pollination arose great interest among nurserymen of the time. Apple cultivation reached a height of popularity in Victorian times, with the introduction of lots of new varieties and a focus on flavour. The famous Cox’s variety was introduced by 1850, and the Bramley by 1876.

Post war UK apples

After WW1 apple growing became a commercial concern, seeing the development of higher yielding production methods and pest and disease control. Post WW2, new root stocks resulted in lower height apple trees, changing the process of harvesting UK apples by removing the need for long ladders and making collection from the ground easier. A further benefit was greater yield thanks to better sunlight penetration.

EEC membership removed importation restrictions, increasing the competition faced by English apple growers and seeing a rise in popularity of the Golden and Red Delicious and Granny Smith varieties, which thrived in the warmer foreign climates. Lower yielding English versions were bred instead for flavour and were unable to compete commercially with cheap imports. The last quarter of the 20th century saw English apple production shrink dramatically.

Since then, growers in the UK have worked on the cultivation of apples that were previously imported and have had great success with the Braeburn and Gala among others. The British climate that produces a lower yield also cultivates the best flavour, and some 1,900 plus varieties of apple are now grown in the UK. UK production has risen and now accounts for nearly half of the total British apple market.

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