Category Archives: Christmas and Seasonal

cake tins at the ready for Christmas

Traditional christmas cake and slice with holly, snow covered winter greenery, egg nog, gold bauble decorations and foil wrapped chocolate balls over oak background.

Nothing like a good slice of Christmas Cake – try it with cheese!!


 Once upon a time, it was unthinkable not to have a traditional cake at Christmas. The enormous slab cake, packed with cherries, almonds and all manner of dried fruit, would be doused in brandy, smothered in apricot jam and coated in marzipan before the final layer of white icing was applied. The whole cake took hours to prepare and, if truth be told, it was hardly the most appealing cake in the world. As tastes have changed over the years, the traditional Christmas cake has become less of a festive feature and has been replaced in many households by tastier, more unusual Christmas cakes. In today’s post, we have rounded up a few of the more creative Christmas cake ideas we could find to tempt you into the kitchen this Christmas.

 Get those baking tins ready!

 Before we delve into the world of unique and inspirational Christmas cakes, we need to say a word or two about baking pans. Your kitchen creations will only ever be as good as the tools you use to make them, so make sure you have baking pans in the right size and shape for the cake you intend to make. We stock deep cake pans, loose bottom pans, sandwich pans, mini cake pans and even specially shaped pans.

 One contemporary alternative to traditional Christmas cake is a light sponge cake containing orange and cranberries and topped with white chocolate icing. This still has a festive feel, but without the heaviness of the standard Christmas cake. A homemade panettone is another possibility – if you make it yourself, it is certain to taste nicer than the panettone cakes available in the supermarket. A chocolate cake is guaranteed to go down well with everyone, especially if it is styled into a snowy log and covered with sumptuous chocolate icing. If you have children to entertain in the run-up to Christmas Day, why not get them into the kitchen to help you make a gingerbread house cake?

 Baking tins of all sizes

 If you are not planning a big Christmas get-together but still want to make a special cake for Christmas, why not use one of our mini tins or shaped tins? Our smallest loose bottom pan is just 10cm in diameter and we have plenty of choice if you want to make individual cakes instead of one large cake. We even have heart-shaped pans if you fancy making a romantic Christmas cake!

 Whilst traditional Christmas cake is too much for many, mini Christmas cakes, without the marzipan, could be fun, especially if drizzled with icing and topped with a cherry!


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Maslin Pans for Christmas

Maslin Pans for Christmas

Cooked homemade cherry jam in the bowl and in the jar, organic meal and dessert concept

With just a month to go until Christmas Day, it is time to get those thinking caps on, to decide what gifts to give your friends and relatives this year. If there is someone in your life who you find it incredibly difficult to decide on a gift for, don’t worry – you are not alone. We at Wares can help you to find some fabulous gifts that will truly be appreciated by the recipient. In this post, we start off by looking at jam making equipment.

Maslin pans make great Christmas gifts

The beauty of giving a maslin pan as a gift, or any jam making equipment for that matter, is that it can bring so much pleasure for years to come. Jam making is such an easy thing to get into and requires no special knowledge or any real culinary flair. If the bug bites and you find you love making jam, you can let your imagination take over and experiment with more complex recipes; however, for the absolute beginner, it is perfectly easy to rustle up some delicious homemade jam at the first attempt. If the gift recipient is keen to get started with their home preserves straight after Christmas, they can always start by making a batch of marmalade, as Seville oranges are in season at that time of year.

What else, besides maslin pans?

Apart from a good maslin pan, there is very little other equipment that is essential for successful jam making. You need jars and lids to store your jam in, of course, and there are a number of optional extras that can make life easier for the jam maker. A jam thermometer is one good tool, and a jam spoon that can be hooked to the side of the maslin pan is also very handy. If you are on the messy side, you might find a jam funnel helpful when it comes to pouring the jam into the jars.

If you plan on giving an extra special gift, why not choose a jam making kit? Our kits have absolutely everything you need to get started in home preserves, including the maslin pan, thermometer, funnel, jam spoon, recipe book and, of course, jars, lids and labels. Our deluxe kit also includes the rather lovely Preserves book from the River Cottage Handbook Collection.

On the subject of books, a jam or preserves recipe book could be just the ticket if you need to buy for someone who has already started making jam. Check our website for our full range of jam making books.

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Baking for a delicious Christmas

Baking for a delicious Christmas

Cropped image of hand removing cookie tray from oven in kitchen

Christmas is just a few short weeks away and soon the house will be full of friends and family, dropping in to exchange gifts and Christmas good wishes or perhaps even staying for a few days over the festive period. With all these extra visitors, it is wise to get organised with a few baking sessions so that you always have a tasty treat to offer around whenever someone calls to wish you a Merry Christmas. Here we look at a few ideas for festive baking success, with some old favourites and some ideas you may not have thought of.

Savoury baking ideas for Christmas

Sausage rolls are, of course, a firm favourite at Christmas-time and are so easy to make. Don’t feel you must make the puff pastry yourself, as shop-bought pastry is very good. For a luxury twist on the humble sausage roll, try pheasant sausage rolls, replacing two-thirds of the sausage meat with minced pheasant breast and adding a small amount of grated carrot and onion, some fresh thyme and a tiny pinch of chilli flakes.

When it comes to savoury treats, we don’t often think of muffins; however, mini muffins do make exceptional party nibbles. Try goat’s cheese and rosemary muffins, or cheddar cheese and bacon muffins. Our 12-hole mini muffin baking tins are the perfect size for canapé-style muffins.

Sweet baking ideas for Christmas

When it comes to sweet treats for Christmas, the mince pie has to top the list. If you really want to go all-out homemade, make your own mincemeat now and it will be ready to use in time for Christmas. Again, we have a range of non-stick baking pans, which are ideal for mince pies, in either traditional or deep-fill sizes.

Muffins also make brilliant sweet treats at Christmas. Try cranberry and orange muffins with a dash of cinnamon or allspice, sprinkled on top with demerara sugar. Make perfect chocolate and cranberry brownies in our 12-hole brownie pan, or go for a traditional Christmas fruit loaf with cherries, mincemeat, almonds, cranberries and just a small splash of rum for festive cheer. We have a wide range of loaf tins for this type of cake, including the latest silicone-based flexible baking tins.

As with everything in life, planning and preparation make everything go smoothly. By getting organised now, and perhaps trying out a few recipes in advance, you can be confident that you will be able to create some spectacular baking creations when Christmas comes around.

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Carving your pumpkin for Halloween

Halloween pumpkin head jack lantern on wooden background

Carving your Pumpkin for Halloween

It is October and that can mean only one thing – it is time to grab a pumpkin or two, a sharp knife and some imagination to create your Halloween pumpkin. To get your creative juices flowing, we have come up with a few ideas for pumpkin carving with a difference.

Pumpkin carving ideas

Nothing beats the traditional pumpkin scary face, with the flickering candle illuminating the creepy head; however, it can be fun to mix it up a little and try something different to really test your carving skills. The internet is full of templates, how-to videos and guides on pumpkin carving for skill levels from novice to expert. If you don’t want to go for the traditional face, why not carve a moon and stars instead, or perhaps a cat’s silhouette? Some people go all-out artistic and carve a phrase or even an entire graveyard scene in their pumpkins!

Whatever design you choose, make sure you draw the outline on your pumpkin first. Take your time scooping out the flesh, cutting slowly and accurately to get the best results.

Using up the pumpkin flesh

It is easy to get carried away with the fun of pumpkin carving without thinking what to do with all the tasty flesh you will scoop out. Pumpkin soup is one answer and makes a tasty reward after you have finished carving. Alternatively, you could pop the pumpkin flesh in the fridge to use the next day in a pumpkin pie, a vegetarian curry, or even pumpkin and orange cupcakes! Pumpkin flapjacks are a firm favourite here at Wares – they make a great mid-morning coffee break treat!

Kitchen knives to the rescue

It is all well and good coming up with a brilliant carving idea, but creating a pumpkin masterpiece requires a sharp knife. If your own kitchen knives are not up to the job, take a look at our extensive range of professional-grade knives and kitchenwares to find the ideal replacements. The Master Class Precis range of knives will last a lifetime and come with a 25-year guarantee; therefore, you can be sure of their quality and performance. The Precis utility knife would be a good choice for pumpkin carving, with the range including knives for every application.

Take care with kitchen knives

If you are using sharp knives or other kitchenwares, it is important to take care and use them safely, especially when children are helping to carve the pumpkin. Whilst the annual pumpkin carving should be a fun affair, there should be no messing about where knives are concerned.

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Making chutney for Christmas presents

Onion pineapple chutney on rustic wood.

Making Chutney for Christmas Presents

Giving homemade Christmas presents is a really nice thing to do, both for the giver and the recipient. In a world of easy consumerism, taking the time to create a homemade gift tells the recipient that you have really thought about the gift and have put effort into making it for them. If you have given jams and sweet preserves in the past and fancy trying something savoury this year, why not make a batch of chutneys?

Ideas for filling your chutney jars

Chutney can be made from either fruit or vegetables, or a mixture of the two, and is perfect for using up surplus produce from the garden. If you still have green tomatoes in the greenhouse, with no prospect of them ever ripening, why not turn them into delicious green tomato chutney? Since apple season is in full swing right now, a spiced apple chutney would be a great way to use some up and makes a tasty alternative to apple sauce served with roast pork or cold meats. Plum chutney is another firm favourite and is fabulous spiced with cinnamon.

Try chilli chutney for something that packs a bit of a punch – you can vary the type and quantity of chillies to get the right level of heat in your chutney. No Indian food is complete without mango chutney, of course, and this is surprisingly easy to make at home; in fact, chutney is so versatile that you can get a few jam jars out and simply experiment with all sorts of ingredients to come up with your own unique recipes.

Choosing the perfect chutney jars

Whilst traditional jam jars are perfectly fine for holding chutney, you might like to choose a fancier jar if you plan to give your chutney as a gift. Our traditional glass chutney jar actually has the word ‘chutney’ etched stylishly on the front; in addition, we have a matching ‘pickles’ jar in the same range. Team these together and present them in one of our two-jar gift boxes, set off with one of our vintage-inspired Father Christmas gift tags; alternatively, our hexagonal chutney jars make your chutney gifts look extra special.

Why not make two or three different chutneys and give a mixed set of three jars? Identified with our colourful chutney labels and placed in a presentation gift bag or box, these would look every inch as professional as a similar gift bought from a high street store but with the advantage of being entirely homemade.

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Toffee for Bonfire Night

Fudge candy, coffee beans and caramel on baking paper, served over white tablecloth with vintage knife, jar of brown sugar and old pan

Toffee in Glass Jars for Bonfire Night

With less than one month to go until Bonfire Night, many of you will be starting to think about this year’s bonfire party. In addition to organising the fireworks, building the bonfire and creating a spooky Guy to go on top, it is time to consider what you plan to serve to your party guests. Besides delicious hot dogs with onions, baked potatoes and spicy pulled pork rolls, your guests will no doubt be hoping for some sweet treats. Bonfire toffee is a firm favourite and no bonfire party would be complete without it. Here is a simple recipe for dark and sticky toffee that is just right for 5 November.


500g dark brown sugar
125gm black treacle
125gm golden syrup
130ml hot water
½ teaspoon cream of tartar


1. Line a large flat baking tray with baking parchment and grease thoroughly.

2. Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and heat. Rather than stirring, gently swirl the pan around until the sugar has dissolved completely.

3. Add all the other ingredients and continue to heat, bringing to the boil. Again, don’t stir the mixture but keep it from sticking or burning by moving the pan.

4. Using a jam thermometer, measure the temperature of the mixture. Keep boiling until the temperature reaches 140°C.

5. As soon as the temperature is reached, pour the mixture into the baking tray.

6. Leave the toffee to cool and then remove it from the tray and break it up with a rolling pin. Store in an airtight container ready to serve.

Store your toffee in sweet jars

Once you have made your toffee, you need a suitable jar to store it in ready to hand around on Bonfire Night. Our glass jars are reminiscent of old-fashioned sweet shop jars and are just the ticket. As you will be outside in the dark, popping your toffee in a jar will mean it is easy to pass around to guests without getting dropped or knocked off the table. These jars are available in fun, contemporary colours and will look smart no matter what kind of sweets you store in them.

Plastic sweet jars

In addition to our range of glass jars, we stock a variety of plastic storage jars that look exactly like those sweet shop jars we all grew up with. They come in a range of sizes, with the largest a whopping 4,430ml – perfect to hold enough toffee for an army of excited guests!

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Christmas Mason Jar Ideas

mason jars

There are so many things to make with mason jars, we just love them! There’s so much you can do with them, particularly at this time of year, when they are so useful for small gifts when you’ve run out of ideas or forgotten someone! Use these Christmas mason jars for decorating around your home and keep a few handy for last minute gift ideas.

Decorative things to make with mason jars

Some of the simplest, cheapest and most effective Xmas decorations can be made from mason jars. As a start, take a few jars and cut out a couple of Christmassy silhouettes – trees, reindeers and stars, for examples. Lightly glue them to the outside of the jars then spray the rest of the glass with some snow spray. Carefully remove the sticker, then pour salt into the bottom of the jar to about an inch from the bottom. Sit a candle on the salt snow and watch it flicker through the clear silhouette you have left. These look beautiful on window sills and shelves. Similarly, leave the glass clear except for a bit of frosting around the rim, then tie a couple of pine cones, sprigs of fresh rosemary or Christmas baubles around the rim with brown string or sparkly ribbon. Again pour about an inch of salt snow into the bottom of the jar and light your candle inside it.

You can also create tiny Christmas mason jar landscapes. Lay a snowy base in the bottom of the jar using cotton wool, then stick some small winter figures inside – snowmen, reindeer and elves, for example. Maybe add a twig or a sprig of rosemary as a tree with some tiny red beads as berries. Screw the lid on and cover it with some jute and fasten a ribbon around the lid to decorate.

Gift things to make with mason jars

A visit to the sweet shop and the craft shop can result in some very cute Christmas mason jars which make lovely little gifts. Fill the jars with chocolate truffles, chocolate buttons, chocolate covered raisins or some other small, chocolatey sweets. Stick a strip of brown paper around the body of the jar then stick a couple of eyes and a little red button nose in the centre of the jar. Form a couple of brown pipe cleaners into reindeer antlers and stick them to the lid of the jar, then decorate with a strip of red ribbon around the rim.

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Homemade Gifts for Christmas

homemade christmas gifts

Now Halloween is out of the way, you’re probably starting to think seriously about Christmas gift ideas. Hopefully you’ll find plenty of inspiration from the Wares of Knutsford blog, where we try to provide lots of tips for gift ideas and wrapping all year round. We also firmly believe that home made gifts are best, particularly those with a seasonal flavour, so here are some ideas for homemade Christmas gifts.

Homemade Christmas gifts: Christmas chutney

Chutneys usually need a little time for the flavours to mature, so it’s best to get going this month. This also leaves you less to do next month, when things start to get really hectic! This tasty Christmas chutney works brilliantly with cold meats and cheese, and takes the monotony out of left over turkey sandwiches.

To make about 2.5kg:

  • 900g tomatoes, skinned and chopped
  • 3 red peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 aubergine, chopped
  • 700g onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 300ml white wine or distilled malt vinegar
  • 350g granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon each of salt, crushed coriander seeds and paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Put the tomatoes, peppers, aubergine, onions and garlic into a large heavy based saucepan over a high heat until bubbling. Cover, reduce the heat and allow to simmer gently for about an hour, stirring regularly. Add the vinegar, sugar, salt, coriander, paprika and cayenne pepper to the pan and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring gently until the sugar completely dissolves. Keep boiling gently for about 30 minutes, until the chutney thickens and the liquid has reduced. You will need to stir the chutney regularly to prevent it catching the base of the pan.

Spoon the chutney into clean, sterilised jars while still warm and add a wax sealing disc to the top. Seal and store in a cool, dark place for a month before using.

Homemade Christmas gifts: Cranberry chutney

This is a very easy to make seasonal chutney.

  • 350g fresh cranberries
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 250ml red wine
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest, in strips

Heat the sugar with the red wine until completely dissolved and boiling. As the rest of the ingredients and return to the boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the cranberries have burst. Use the same method as above to bottle up and store in the refrigerator.

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Mason Christmas Pudding Basins

Christmas pudding basins

Like fine wine and Helen Mirren, Christmas pudding is one of those things that just gets better with age, so you need to think about making yours now to give it time to mature for Christmas. Traditional is usually best in this case, so go for a classic recipe, made in a proper Xmas pudding basin.

Christmas pudding basins at Wares of Knutsford

Mason Cash make the best pudding basins we’ve found, and we keep a range of different sizes in stock. They come in the traditional Christmas pudding basins shape, with sizes starting at 11.5cm and going on through 12.5cm, 14cm, 16cm, 17cm, 20cm and 22cm. If you make a lot of puddings, you can also buy a set of seven containing each size. The basins are glazed in white and feature a protruding rim to make tying a lid easy and hold it on through the steaming process, while the vented base allows for the release of air pockets during steaming. While designed for steaming, the bowls can also be used in a conventional oven and are microwave, dishwasher and freezer safe.

A basic recipe for your Christmas pudding basins

These quantities will make about 1.7 litres of Christmas pudding – adjust according to your basin size.

  • 150g each of currants, sultanas and chopped prunes
  • 175ml brandy, rum or sherry
  • 100g plain flour
  • 125g breadcrumbs
  • 150g suet
  • 150g dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Quarter teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Zest of one lemon, grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp honey

Soak the currants, sultanas and prunes in the alcohol in a large covered bowl overnight or for up to a week. When you are ready to use the fruit, mix in all the other pudding ingredients, stirring well to combine. Set a large pan of water to boil and butter your Xmas pudding basin. Scrape the pudding mix into your basins and make a vented lid from greaseproof paper. Wrap the whole lot in a layer of silver foil then put the bowls in your saucepan so that the water comes at least halfway up the side of the basin. Leave to steam for five hours, adding more water to the pan when the level drops. After cooking remove the basins from the pan carefully, remove the foil wrapping and store in a cool, dark spot until Christmas.

When you’re ready, re-wrap in foil and steam for another three hours, then turn out and serve garnished with a sprig of holly and with custard, cream or ice cream.

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Christmas Gift Packaging

Christmas gift packaging

Wares of Knutsford is hoping to make your Christmas gift planning easier this year, with a clever selection of Christmas gift packaging that’s ideal for awkward shapes.

Christmas gift packaging for jars

Home made food gifts are very trendy this year and are a great way to give gifts on a budget but with a really personal touch. However they can be really awkward to wrap. Fortunately Wares of Knutsford has the solution in the form of specially shaped boxes and bags for jars.

The range includes two and three jars boxes in small, medium and tall sizes. The boxes are made from sturdy card stock and arrive flat for easy storage and assembly at home, shaped to hold jars neatly in place and with display windows to show off the contents. They are available in natural and green colours. Co-ordinating shredded paper and jute ribbon are also available.

Along with the boxes, we also stock some handy jute bags specially designed to hold different sizes and shapes of jars. There are bags for two or three jars in small, medium and tall sizes, made from environmentally friendly natural hessian with clear plastic display windows. Each bag has an integrated carrying handle.

Christmas gift packaging hampers

If you want to put together a few small gifts rather than one large one, a hamper or gift box is the ideal way to create impact with your Xmas gift packaging. Our card trays are ideal for creating pretty hampers or gift boxes of food, cosmetics, toys, ornaments or other small objects. The trays are made from sturdy card stock and come flat packed so they can easily be stored at home and assembled when you need them. They are available in square and rectangular shapes, in shallow or deep sided formats and in small and medium sizes, in natural, olive green and burgundy colours. Simply lay a soft backing of shredded paper then arrange your gifts on top. Wrap the finished box in clear plastic and decorate with some ribbon. Fine cut shredded paper can be found in our packaging department in 1kg packs in red, brown, green and vanilla colours to co-ordinate perfectly with our card trays.

Christmas gift tags

Our packaging department also contains a selection of attractive seasonal gift tags to identify your wrapped gifts. This year for Christmas we have gone with the traditional seasonal motifs of Father Christmas, snowmen and robins, but there are also tags in plain white, wood and floral themes which could also co-ordinate well with your Christmas gift wrapping.

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Ideas for Christmas Decorations

handmade christmas decorations

You don’t have to spend a fortune to make your house look like a spread in ‘Homes and Gardens’ this Christmas. A few clever handmade Christmas decorations will make your house look welcoming and festive but also stylish this Xmas.

Handmade Christmas decorations in jars

Seasonal luminaries in Mason style jars are some of the easiest but most effective Christmas decoration ideas. Use them to set your table, on the mantelpiece or windowsill or even in your porch or along your front path.

You will need:

  • Glass jars
  • Pine cones
  • Snow spray
  • Brown string
  • Epsom salts
  • Candle

Start by spraying your snow around the rim, neck and shoulders of the jars – where it would naturally lay if it were freshly fallen! Spray a little snow on your pine cones too at this point.

Use a glue gun around the neck of the jar and wrap the twine around it a few times, keeping the ends of the twine free. Use the glue gun again to glue the ends of the twine around the pine cones so they sit neatly at the top of the jar.

Pour some Epsom salts into the jar to about an inch deep, then use a pair of tongs to put a candle into the jar, on top of the salt ‘snow’.

Alternatively, apply a seasonal sticker to the outside of the jar – reindeer, Christmas tree, snowman etc. Spray glass paint all over the outside of the jar – white always looks good. Carefully peel the sticker off to leave a clear patch in silhouette. Wrap some brown twine around the jar neck and tie neatly in a bow. Pour an inch of Epsom salts into the bottom of the jar and place a candle on top.

Snow jar handmade Christmas decorations

Turn your jars upside down and create a miniature snowy forest.

You will need:

  • Glass jars
  • Small Christmas ornaments and fake fir tree pieces
  • Glitter
  • Epsom salts

Use a glue gun to stick your little fir trees, miniature snowmen, reindeer or other Christmas ornaments to the inside of your jar lids. Allow to dry completely.

Sprinkle a layer of silver glitter in the bottom of your jars, followed by a thicker layer of Epsom salts – about half an inch. Screw your ornamented jar lid on carefully, then tip the jar upside down so the ‘snow’ falls over the ornaments and then lays on the jar lid base as if it were freshly fallen.

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Seasonal January Foods

January foods

For cooking in season January foods provide an excellent counterpart to the fatty richness of Christmas foods. Seville and blood oranges are the month’s star ingredients, to act as a kind of palate cleanser after the excesses and indulgences of the festive season, while January is also an excellent time for cabbage, clams, cockles, forced rhubarb, goose, horseradish, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, mussels, oyster, parsnip, sea bass, swede, truffle, venison and winkles. You should also be able to catch the end of some some pheasant, pomegranates, salsify, whelk and wild duck, all of which are at the end of their season but still plentiful enough to enliven January plates.

January foods for detoxing

About a million gym memberships are opened in January, most of which are abandoned by February. Another way to feel virtuous this January is to embark upon a detox and healthy eating plan. One of the simplest ways to do this is to include a delicious and nutritious juice in your daily menu. If you use foods in season January offers the celebrity diet favourite – not always mouthwatering on its own but an ingredient that works beautifully for a fast nutrition hit in a juice.

January detox smoothie

  • 1 cup each of frozen peaches, kale and coconut water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons hemp protein powder (available from health food shops)

Blend the whole lot together until smooth – you’ll be surprised how well the warmth of the ginger and the sweetness of the peaches offset the rather green flavour of the kale.

January foods for indulging

If you’re less virtuous, try a blood orange tart for an excellent combination of tart sweetness.

  • 200g caster sugar
  • Juice and zest of 3 blood oranges
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
  • 2 eggs and 6 egg yolks
  • 200g butter, cubed
  • 2 blood oranges, peeled and cut into neat, round slices
  • 1 tablespoon demerara sugar
  • 1 pre-made 25cm sweet shortcrust pastry case

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

Whisk together thoroughly the caster sugar, zest and juice, orange blossom water, eggs and egg yolks. Set the bowl over a bain-marie, add the butter and cook, stirring regularly, for about 15-20 minutes, until the butter is melted and the mixture thickens up.

Pour into the pastry case and allow to cool, covered with a piece of clingfilm to stop a skin forming.

Decorate the tart by arranging the sliced oranges on top, then a sprinkling of demerara sugar. Caramelise the surface with a cook’s blowtorch.

Serve with custard or double cream.

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Making Christmas hampers

Christmas hampers

Christmas hampers are a great present when you’re really not sure what to buy. While shop bought versions lack personality,you can make xmas hampers and give them the personal touch, the result is likely to be very much appreciated.

Making Christmas hampers individual

You need to think about what your recipient likes. Your Christmas hampers don’t have to be full of food and drink – their contents can be varied. For example, if you are buying for a crafty type you could make a hamper full of sewing equipment. Gardeners might appreciate a basket full of little tools and implements they can use while working such as knee pads, gloves, plant tags, seeds and a little trowel and fork, for example. Keen cake bakers may prefer a hamper of baking equipment rather than ingredients, so you could consider some specialist baking trays and cutter shapes, a patterned rolling pin and a sugar craft set. Teenage girls would no doubt enjoy a hamper full of make up and so on…

Making Christmas hampers in traditional style

While you can make xmas hampers to suit an individual’s interests, it’s still hard to beat an old fashioned food hamper, full of tasty goodies. To make your hamper extra special, try to add some home made items. A bottle of wine, port or some other tipple is essential, to which you can add some cheese, pate, preserves and some sweet treats.

Pickles and chutneys go down well in any hamper, as they are an ideal accompaniment to the inevitable Christmas leftovers. There are plenty of delicious recipes available for chutneys, jams and other preserves on the Wares of Knutsford recipe section if you don’t have a tried and trusted recipe of your own. Having made your preserves, the key is to make them look attractive to go into the hamper. Here again Wares of Knutsford can help with a huge selection of jars. Apart from the standard, plain round jars with lids, there are a number of decorative shaped jars to make your home made produce look professional and appetising.

This includes a pretty label describing the contents, and perhaps a jar cover, tag and ribbon. In a hamper you could reasonably include home made pickles, a home made onion and tomato chutney and a home made jam, for example. If you’re really crafty, you could fill the hamper entirely with home made efforts.

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Home Brew Gifts for Christmas

Home brew gifts

It’s difficult to support some hobbies – dangerous extreme sports, collecting pet snakes or mud wrestling, for example, can be quite off-putting to some people! If you know someone who indulges in such unpalatable pastimes, Wares of Knutsford can help you to encourage them in a more savoury direction this Christmas, with a selection of home brew gifts to hopefully pique their interest!

Home brew gifts by Kilner

Kilner’s complete kits for homebrew gifts come with everything the amateur or experienced home brewer needs to produce their own, unique tipples. There are complete kits for cider, bitter and lager which include both equipment and ingredients for 40 pints of lager or bitter and 35 pints of cider plus an illustrated instruction manual. The brewer needs only add water plus a little care and attention.

The Complete Starter Kit contains all the equipment for those who already have access to ingredients and can be used for beer or wine making.

The ‘Make Your Own’ kits contain all the ingredients necessary for those who already have their equipment. There are kits available for bitter, lager and cider plus Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio wines.

These kits are an ideal introduction for those who are interested in home brewing and are supplied in a neat box that’s easy to wrap!

Home brew gifts and accessories

If you are buying for someone who has already discovered an interest in home brewing, Wares of Knutsford can supply a wide range of accessories and essential items. All the basics can be found in the ‘Home Brewing’ section of the website, including thermometers, sterilising equipment, trial jars and cappers plus a huge range of bottles and caps. There are traditional brown beer or green and clear wine bottles, plus a variety of more unusual and exotic shapes which make great gifts on their own.

Sloe gin home brewing

Home brewing isn’t just confined to beer or wine. Sloe gin is a gloriously old fashioned drink that’s making a modern comeback, and there is a Sloe Gin Gift Set from Kilner that would make a great Christmas present for someone who would enjoy harvesting the natural fruits of the hedgerow to make a warming winter tipple. The kit is suitable for making any kind of fruit liqueur and includes the necessary equipment plus a recipe card.

If you’re really lucky you might even get to taste the results of your homebrew gifts!

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Sloe Gin Gift Set

sloe gin gift set

Wares of Knutsford would like to propose a sloe gin making kit by Kilner as the answer to some of your more taxing Christmas present buying dilemmas.

Why a sloe gin gift set?

Sloe gin is a very traditional, warming winter drink. Its ruby red colour is obtained by picking sloes after winter’s first frost, so usually towards the end of October or the beginning of November, and bottling them with gin and sugar. The skin of each ripe sloe has to be pricked to allow the juice to be released. According to folklore this should be done by a thorn from the blackthorn bush that hosts the fruits or with a silver fork, never any other metal. The sloes, gin and sugar are allowed to infuse for three months before the liqueur is drained, when the sloes can be discarded.

Good sloe gin has a very distinctive, almond like aroma and flavour, while some spices can be added for a Christmassy twist. A glass of glowing sloe gin is a very old fashioned pleasure that appears to be making a comeback in modern times. It is usually drunk after dinner, as with port, and is served neat or over ice. Believe it or not, there’s a Sloe Gin World Championship competition held in Frant, East Sussex every December, plus annual sloe gin making competitions in Knighton in Powys, at Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire and in Dorstone, Herefordshire.

Sloe gin gift set by Kilner

If you know someone who is into home brewing and needs a new project or someone who enjoys trying unusual foods and drinks, a sloe gin gift set by Kilner could be an ideal gift for them this Christmas.

The eight piece set includes all the equipment needed to make sloe gin or a range of other fruit liqueurs. The set includes a two litre, round Kilner glass jar, four 250ml bottles for the sloe gin, a 50cm x 50cm muslin cloth for straining, a plastic funnel and a recipe card. It comes in a neat box for easy gift wrapping too!

The recipient will need some gin and some sugar, while the other essential ingredient – the sloes – can be picked from the hedgerow! If the sloe gin making bug takes hold, spare parts and extra accessories can be bought from the home brewing section of the Wares of Knutsford website.

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Festive Chutney

festive chutney

Love it or hate it, come Boxing Day there are the inevitable Christmas dinner leftovers to be dealt with. After the excesses of the day before, the simplest and most delicious way to achieve this is to offer up some cold cuts with cheese and leftover vegetables, then add some festive chutney and a light, healthy salad. Now’s the time to start thinking about making your Christmas chutney, to allow it to mature not only to bling up your leftovers but also to give as a stocking gift to friends and family.

Apple and tomato festive chutney

The sweet spiciness of this chutney is ideal for cutting through the richness of traditional Christmas foods or to jazz up bland foods.

  • 1kg apples – peeled, cored and sliced
  • 450ml water
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1kg tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 85g sultanas
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 560ml malt vinegar

Bring the water and the apples to the boil in a large saucepan, then reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring regularly, until the apples are soft. Add a little more water if the level seems low.

Wrap the yellow mustard seeds in a small, clean piece of muslin and tie up with string, then add to the saucepan with the rest of the ingredients. Keep stirring until the sugar dissolves then bring back to boil before reducing the heat again and simmering, stirring occasionally, for three hours. The chutney should thicken up nicely in this time. Remove the mustard seed parcel and decant the chutney into clean, sterilised jars. Seal and store in a cool, dark place until ready to use.

Caramelised onion festive chutney

This is a sophisticated Christmas chutney, ideal for making use of the onions in season now.

  • 7 red onions
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 red pepper – grilled, peeled, de-seeded and diced
  • 1 red chilli – de-seeded and diced
  • 270ml Balsamic vinegar
  • 50ml red wine vinegar
  • 220g soft dark brown sugar
  • 7cm cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • olive oil

Add the onions – all peeled and chopped, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and rosemary to a large pan with some olive oil nd cook gently for about 20 minutes. The onions should be soft, sticky and golden. Stir in the chopped pepper and chilli and cook for another couple of minutes then add the vinegars and sugar. Stir well and leave to simmer until the mixture thickens up. Store as above.

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What’s in season in December?

December produce

Seasonal food in December isn’t just about Christmas dinner – there’s lots to enjoy this month from vegetables such as turnip, leeks and parsnips to clementines, cranberries and pomegranates. It’s also a good time of year for nuts, game and fish.

Wild December produce

It’s not just the shops that are full of colourful abundance at this time of year. There’s plenty of wild December produce, whether you enjoy the traditional country pursuits that allow you to come home with a brace of pheasant or some hare, or more gentle ramblings that result in a handful of chestnuts, wild mushrooms or walnuts.

When picking, go for heavy chestnuts with smooth, shiny shells. The picked nuts will dry out and shrivel slowly but the ageing process can be retarded by storing them in a cool, dark place such as the refrigerator. Chestnuts feature in some delicious recipes but they do have to be peeled first, which can be a pretty tedious process. The easiest way to accomplish it is make a slit in the shells and semi-cook the nuts by boiling for 20 minutes or roasting for a quarter of an hour. After this the shells should open up fairly easily. Underneath there’s a brown membrane which can be a bit fiddly to remove and is best done with the nut still warm.

A rich chestnut puree is the ideal accompaniment to turkey or goose in the wintertime.

  • 1 kg peeled chestnuts
  • 500ml whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 100ml cr*me fraiche

Add the chestnuts and milk to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the salt, reduce the heat and cook gently for 45 minutes. Drain the saucepan and mash the chestnuts. For a more crunchy consistency use a vegetable mill. Add the creme fraiche, stir and check the consistency. Add a little milk if you prefer a looser texture.

December produce in the shops

Of course you don’t have to forage your own! When you are in the supermarket, keep an eye out for the following seasonal food in December:

Fruit and vegetables

Brussels sprouts, carrot, celeriac, celery, clementines, cauliflower, chicory, cranberries, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, leeks, marrow, onions, parsnips, pomegranates, potatoes, quince, red cabbage, salsify, satsumas, shallots, swede, tangerines, truffles, turnips, wild mushrooms.

Meat and fish

Cod, coley, clams, duck, guinea fowl, goose, grouse, haddock, halibut, hake, hare, John Dory, lemon sole, monkfish, mussels, mackerel, oysters, partridge, pheasant, plaice,pollack, rabbit, red mullet, scallops, squid, skate, sea bass, turkey, turbot, venison.

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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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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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