English wines – buy your wine bottles!

English wines – buy your wine bottles! 

Corkscrew and bottle of wine on the board

For years, English wines had a very dubious reputation for being overly-sweet and rather unpleasant and unsophisticated. In recent years, however, the English wine industry has very much come of age, with English wines holding their own as a premium product in many markets. In today’s blog post, we take a look at how English wine has grown up, how the industry is developing, and what the best new vineyards are producing.

3.5 million wine bottles a year

It is easy to assume that production of English wines does not amount to very much, as the industry – much like the English themselves – is rather shy and retiring when it comes to overt self-promotion. The producers have evidently been letting their wines do the talking; according to Decanter magazine, there are now over 450 active vineyards in the UK, producing 3.5 million bottles a year. This is an awful lot of glass bottles filled with the fruits of English vines, English dedication and expertise. Decanter estimates that the industry was worth around £100m in 2015, which is certainly not small fry.

Technically, the English climate means that vineyards are possible throughout the country; however, the milder temperatures of the south-east of the country mean that wine production is heavily clustered across Kent and Sussex. When renowned champagne brand Taittinger buys a vineyard in England, it is fair to say that the English wine sector must be doing something right!

What are the best English wines hitting the shelves right now? Boot Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir from Kent-based firm Gusbourne is an award-winning red that holds many top-notch French labels to account; on the white wine front, Denbies’ Noble Harvest has caught the eye of Waitrose, which stocks it alongside a number of superb English whites. Sparkling wine is where it all began for English winemakers and they do not come better than the superlative fizz produced by Hampshire-based vineyard Jenkyn Place. Again, these are available from Waitrose or direct from the producer.

Fill your own wine bottles

If all this talk of English wine has got you thinking, why not have a go at making your own wine? You could try some classic fruit wine recipes, such as plum wine, elderflower wine or peach wine; alternatively, if you have a grape vine growing in a greenhouse or polytunnel, you could even give it a go with your very own grapes. All you need is a supply of suitable glass bottles, some basic fermenting kit, and a lot of enthusiasm.

Have you sampled some spectacular English wines? Share your recommendations with us via Twitter or Facebook.

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Creating a terrarium using a glass jar

Creating a terrarium using a glass jar 

Amazing jar with piece of forest as new life concept

The word ‘terrarium’ conjures up images of giant glass globes sitting unloved in the corner of many a 1970s living room; however, terrariums have made something of a comeback and are proving quite a hit with people of all ages who want to bring a little greenery and gardening into their busy lives. Today’s terrariums do not have to be huge monstrosities cluttering up your space; instead, you can get creative with all sorts of jars and a wide range of plants to make your own unique micro-garden. Read on to learn how to build your own terrarium.

First, pick a large glass jar

It does not really matter what size or shape of glass jar you decide to use for your terrarium, so long as it has an opening at the top that is big enough for you to put in the various components and plants and to position them carefully. If you have the space, a big one-gallon pickle jar would look amazing used as a terrarium; alternatively, if you only have a small windowsill or shelf, you could easily use a smaller jar.

Next, fill that large glass jar

The first thing to put in your new terrarium is something to act as a drainage layer. This could be aquarium gravel from your local pet store, or you could find tiny grit and pebbles in the garden. Next, pour a layer of sand onto the gravel and add a good-quality compost. Take time building up these layers neatly, as you will be able to see them in the finished terrarium. The gravel, sand and compost layers should take up no more than one-third of the jar’s height.

Make a small hole in the compost for your first plant. Carefully lift the plant from its pot and lower it into position, gently firming up the soil around the stem. Less is very definitely more when it comes to terrariums, so don’t be tempted to put too many plants in. It can be fun to create a small scene; for example, you could use tiny toy people or animals or make a miniature park bench.

Once you have added everything, give the terrarium a light mist with a water spray and place in indirect light. A windowsill in full sunshine may well be too much, so think carefully where to put it. Mist gently every day and prune your plants occasionally, if required.

If you have a go at this project, be sure to let us know via Facebook or Twitter.

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Storage in the Home – Plastic Jars

Plastic sweet jar taylor davisStorage in the Home – Plastic Jars

How many times recently have you wondered where you last put something or pondered how your kitchen always seems to be so cluttered? It’s a common situation to find yourself in, and with the school summer holidays in full swing, the clutter is probably reaching crisis levels! When the domestic chaos gets too much, we all tend to have a burst of activity and tidy everything away out of sight. But are we really tidying and getting organised, or are we simply working on the basis of ‘out of sight, out of mind’? In today’s blog post, we take a look at how to set up a proper organisational system for your kitchen and elsewhere in the house, that will keep you on the straight and narrow when it comes to getting everything sorted.

 Plastic Jars for Kitchen Storage

 The key to reliable organisation in the kitchen is to put a system in place. If your larder or pantry is in a mess, take everything out and organise items into distinct groups. Batch canned food together, for example, and put all your home baking ingredients together too. Where items are often stored in the cupboard in packs, like sugar, flour and raisins, for example, it’s a good idea to use a set of plastic jars with lids, to keep everything neat and tidy. Colour coordinated lids are a great idea too, so you can easily see at a glance what type of food is stored in each jar. So, you might choose blue lids for baking ingredients, red lids for dried pasta and rice, and green lids for everything else. Be sure to label all of your jars, so that you know what’s in them - after all, you don’t want to mix up plain and self-raising flour in your next cake baking session!

 Plastic Jars for Storage Elsewhere

 By using plastic jars with lids in other rooms, it’s easy to get a grip on the domestic clutter. Kids will be encouraged to keep their room or play area tidy, if you ask them to put all of their colouring pens, Lego, or toy cars in plastic jars with lids. If you have a craft or sewing room, jars are perfect for storing sewing threads, needles, craft embellishments and all of those other fiddly bits and bobs that just seem to get everywhere. Again, a colour coded approach will make it easy to go straight to the item you’re looking for each time.

 If you’ve used jars for home storage, be sure to show us on Facebook or Twitter, as we’d love to see your ideas!

 

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IDEAS FOR LUNCH ON THE GO IN GLASS JARS

Ideas for lunch on the go in glass jars

 If you go out to work every day, the chances are that over time you’ve tried just about every sandwich shop and takeaway outlet within a one mile radius of your office or workplace. That means you’ve probably tried all manner of sandwiches, wraps, paninis and other lunchtime treats, as you try desperately hard not to get bored of the same old thing every day. If you’re fed up of dull old sandwiches from your local haunt and you’ve had enough of paying a small fortune each week for your lunch, it’s time to look again at taking a packed lunch.

 Packed lunches these days don’t have to involve a Tupperware box with a limp ham sandwich and an apple, as things have got a whole lot more creative recently. In today’s blog post, we take a look at some fresh and mouthwatering ideas for lunch on the go.

 Salads in Glass Jars

food

Salad in a glass jam jar

 Using screw top jars to store fresh salads for your lunch is a brilliant idea. Each day, you can mix things up a little and take a new and exciting lunch to work, using whatever ingredients you have to hand. With your screw top jars at the ready, lunch need never be boring again, and you can even choose a healthier option by avoiding bread and processed meats.

 The key to creating a delicious salad in a jar is to think in terms of layers. Throw all of your ingredients in willy-nilly and you will undoubtedly end up with a soggy and unappetising mess. Layer the ingredients carefully, though, and your salad will still be perfectly fresh and crunchy when it’s time to eat it.

 The first layer to add should be your dressing of choice. Then add crunchy vegetables like onions, peppers, tomatoes, celery and carrots. After this layer, add ingredients that you’d like not to get soaked in dressing, but that won’t go mushy if they do get a little dressing on them. These ingredients might include mushrooms, courgettes, sweetcorn, kidney beans and lentils. Next up are the more delicate ingredients, such as boiled egg or feta cheese, followed by something like rice, couscous or pasta. The very last layer should be any leaf vegetables such as lettuce or spinach, microgreens or alfalfa.

 Choosing Suitable Glass Jars

 Screw top jars are perfect for this kind of salad in a jar lunch, as they will keep everything safe and sound inside the jar, with no leaks or spills. Check out our range of Kilner jars and Mason jars, to find the perfect size for your packed lunch.

 

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The History of Whisky – miniature bottles

Miniature Spirits/Liquour Bottle Mock-Up

The history of whisky

 Whilst the process of distillation dates back to around 2000BC, when it was used by the ancient Mesopotamians to make perfumes, producing alcohol through distillation is a far more recent innovation. The Romans stuck mainly to producing wine and it was not until the 12th or 13th centuries that Italian monks began to produce alcohol from distilled wine. By the 15th century, the manufacture of distilled alcohol had spread throughout the monasteries of Europe, where it was used predominantly for medicinal purposes. Eventually, grains were used instead of grapes, creating aqua vitae, or uisge beatha in Gaelic.

 The first documentary evidence of whisky production is from 1494, when 500 bottles were produced, by order of the king. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries between 1536 and 1541, monks found themselves needing to earn a living. Whisky production moved from the preserve of the monasteries to ordinary locations, with whisky becoming available to the masses.

 In 1725, the English malt tax was imposed, causing the price of whisky to rise dramatically and forcing many Scottish distilleries to operate illicitly, often at night, giving rise to whisky’s nickname of ‘moonshine’. In 1823, the UK’s Excise Act finally allowed Scottish whisky producers to operate legally on payment of a fee.

 Until the 1880s, French brandy was the main distilled alcoholic drink in many countries; however, a devastating vine pest called phylloxera savaged France’s grape harvests, allowing whisky to become dominant.

 From jeroboams to miniature whisky bottles

 As the production of whisky developed over the years, more and more bottle sizes were made available. Whilst a standard whisky bottle is 700ml in the EU, and 750ml in the US, whisky is available in sizes ranging from miniature bottles of 50ml through to jeroboams, which are 3,000ml – the equivalent of four standard bottles. Needless to say, jeroboams are mainly purchased for special occasions or to add to a whisky collection.

 Modern uses for miniature whisky bottles

 Whisky miniatures, along with other spirits such as brandy and rum, were incredibly popular in the 1970s and are still available today. One very popular use for miniature bottles is as wedding favours, with wedding couples choosing to buy their own bottles and decant their favourite whisky into these miniatures to give as a gift to each wedding guest. This is popular across the board, but especially so for weddings where either the bride or groom is Scottish or where the wedding is taking place in Scotland. The long Scottish association with whisky and whisky-making is clearly alive and well today, hundreds of years after the very first whiskies were created.

 

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Homemade face creams for cosmetic jars.

Homemade face creams for cosmetic jars.

 Retinoids, coenzyme Q10, hyaluronic acid – the cosmetics industry seems to create a new term each week for the ingredients contained in face creams. These scientific-sounding terms convince us of the benefits of using these creams and switching from our favourite brand; however, take a closer look at the ingredients listed on a jar of moisturiser and you may find quite an alarming number of chemicals, some of which are linked to quite serious potential health issues. There is little wonder that more and more people are thinking twice about the moisturisers and creams they use on their faces and are looking at making their own, natural alternatives.

 Fill your own cosmetic jars

 If you would like to try making your own natural face creams, the first thing you will need is suitable jars. From our simple 15ml clear glass cosmetic jars to the elegant and sophisticated 50ml Laurence frosted luxury jars, we are sure to have something suitable for your cosmetic creations. Whether you want to start with just a small amount of face cream to try out a recipe or you want to prepare a larger amount to last a reasonable time, we have plenty of jars to choose from.

 Face cream recipes for your cosmetic jars

 Whilst the theories expounded by the cosmetic giants are generally true, such as antioxidants helping to slow down the signs of ageing, the chemicals that companies use in their products can be quite surprising. Some of the best antioxidants can be found in simple, natural products; for example, coconut oil is an excellent antioxidant and has been proved to outperform commercial preparations. Try this simple recipe for a natural and effective face cream that will give noticeable results in super-fast time.

 Ingredients:

 60ml almond oil

2 tbsp virgin coconut oil

2 tbsp beeswax

2 tbsp shea butter

1 tsp vitamin E oil

essential oils (if required)

 Method

 Place all the ingredients in a glass jug, then stand the jug in a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until all the ingredients have melted completely. Pour into glass cosmetic jars and allow to cool; the cream should become firm. Once cool, put lids on the jars and store in a cool, dark cupboard. Use twice daily after cleansing.

 

fresh as spring flowers

fresh as spring flowers

If you have made your own face cream, or any other cosmetics for that matter, we would love to hear from you. Just send us the details, with a photo if possible, to our Twitter or Facebook accounts, and we will be sure to share them with our customers.

 

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Ideas for Yoghurt Pots

Healthy breakfast with Fresh greek yogurt, muesli and berries

Healthy breakfast with Fresh greek yogurt, muesli and berries

Using yoghurt pots in the home.

 Do you find yourself at the yoghurt counter in the supermarket, wincing at the cost of all the yoghurts you buy and fretting about all that single-use plastic that your family’s yoghurt habit demands? If so, it might be worth considering an alternative – making your very own homemade yoghurts. It’s simple and fuss-free, and you can experiment with whatever flavours you like, all at very low cost and without all of that throwaway plastic. In today’s blog post, we guide you through the process of making yoghurt at home, and show you how clip top jars are ideal for storing your homemade creations.

 Making Yoghurt in Kilner Jars

 Before you get started on your yoghurt making, it’s important to ensure you have the right jars for the project. Clip top jars are perfect, as they’re easy to sterilise and they fit neatly in the fridge. You can choose to put your yoghurt in a larger jar, or pour it into smaller, portion sized jars, if you prefer.

 Let’s Fill Those Kilner Jars!

 Making yoghurt couldn’t be simpler. Here’s our foolproof recipe:

 Ingredients

 1.2 litres whole milk

3 tablespoons live yoghurt

 Method

 Successful yoghurt making relies on perfectly sterilised equipment, so make sure you take time to sterilise your pan, thermometer, bowls, spoon and your clip top jars. You’ll also need a container to act as an incubator for your yoghurt, such as a thermos flask, a slow cooker, or a lidded pan placed on a hot water bottle. Make sure your incubator is also sterilised.

 Fill a large bowl with ice, and set aside.

Pour the milk into a large saucepan, and heat the milk until it reaches 80°C (180F), but don’t let it boil. Stir gently during this time, to prevent a skin forming.

 Remove from the heat and place the pan in the ice bath you prepared, stirring from time to time. Let the milk cool down to 45°C (110F). Take a cup of warm milk from the pan and place in a small bowl, then add the live yoghurt to it, stirring it gently to mix it well. Once mixed, add this mixture back to the pan of milk, and stir to combine fully.

 Pour the mixture into your incubator container. If you’re using a slow cooker, heat it beforehand, but then turn it off when you pour in the mixture. Leave it for at least 5 hours to incubate, and then decant into your clip top jars and store in the fridge. Add fruits, nuts, honey or jam to flavour the yoghurt when serving.

 

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THE HISTORY OF KILNER JARS

The history of Kilner jars

 For kitchen enthusiasts and lovers of jams, jellies and preserves, the humble Kilner jar is an iconic symbol of home preserving at its finest. From small pots of lemon curd to gallon jars of pickled eggs, these instantly-recognisable glass preserving jars can handle anything you might like to preserve. In today’s blog post, we take a step back in time and investigate the history of the Kilner jar, with a catch-up on where the company is today and how these fabulous jars have changed over the years.

 The earliest Kilner jars

 The very first Kilner jars were created by a Yorkshire-based glassmaking firm called John Kilner and Co. The firm started business way back in 1842, with the classic vacuum seal Kilner jar introduced in 1900. The firm continued to operate from its Yorkshire factories until 1937, when the patents and trademarks to the Kilner brand were sold to the United Glass Bottle Company. Under new ownership, the range of jars was expanded and the design improved.

 In the 60s, Kilner introduced the two-step lid with its metal sealing band and metal disc lid. This design is still going strong over 50 years later and is one of the most recognisable parts of the Kilner brand.

 In 2003, the Kilner brand was again sold to new owners. The Rayware Group now owns the brand and has worked hard to breathe new life into the range whilst remaining true to the original spirit of Kilner. With a creative design team and stringent quality control processes, Kilner’s preserving jars are just as much of a kitchen classic as they were when they were first introduced.

 Kilner jars in all shapes and sizes

 Back when these jars were first launched, Kilner promoted them as ‘The original and best’. This slogan is still used today on some of its preserving jar range; however, the brand now offers far more than the two-part preserving jars. Kilner fans can enjoy clip top jars and bottles, drinking jars and dispensers, storage jars and twist top jars, and a number of limited edition special designs and gift sets. Whilst the original jars from Kilner were clear glass creations, today’s jars and bottles are available in a number of pastel colours and in frosted and ridged designs.

 

Homemade sliced pickles in mason jars on a kitchen counter

Over the years, the range of jar sizes has also increased. There are now jars to suit every preserving or pickling project you could think of, so why not check out the Kilner range on our website today?

 

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Strainers for jam

Strainers for jam

Strawberry jam cooking encore of sugar.

When it comes to jams and jellies, we all have our own personal favourites, both in terms of flavour and consistency. Some like a traditional strawberry jam with big chunks of fruit, while others prefer a raspberry jam full of seeds or a blackcurrant jam that is perfectly smooth and almost translucent. No matter what fruit you use to make your jam or jelly, it is possible to get a different texture simply by straining the fruit. In today’s post, we take a look at the pros and cons of straining and at the various ways in which you can strain your fruit mixture.

Using a strainer for jam making

Most people decide to strain a jam because they want it to be totally smooth and free of bits of fruit. Whether a super smooth jam is technically a jelly is a question for the purists among us, but there is no denying that this type of preserve makes a very nice change sometimes. Certain fruits, such as blackcurrants and redcurrants, suit this approach much better, while some people prefer to strain fruits that are full of seeds, such as raspberries, so that there are no ‘pips’ in the finished product.

Over in our online store, we have several different options for straining jam. The good, old-fashioned way, as practised by our mothers and grandmothers, is either muslin or cheesecloth. These are both 100 per cent cotton and serve exactly the same purpose when it comes to straining jam.

The tricky part of straining jam is suspending the straining cloth over a bowl or pan for long enough to allow all the juices to flow through. Luckily, there is no need to stand around holding the cloth yourself or to rig up some kind of precarious contraption to try to hang the cloth over the bowl, as we offer three different types of straining kit to make life simple. The first is a straining bag, which has straps that are attached to a hook at the top. This makes it easy to hook the bag up, perhaps on a wall cupboard door handle, to allow the contents of the bag to drip through into a bowl below. The other two kits both work on a different principle – a frame that clips onto the bowl or saucepan and holds the straining bag in place.

Other jam making equipment

In addition to straining equipment, we offer a number of other jam making extras, such as jar lifting tongs, thermometers, funnels and jam spoons.

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Recipe for summer pudding

Recipe for summer pudding Summer fruit pudding

It is easy to think that puddings are exclusively for winter time, cheering us up on cold, damp days with some sweet comfort food. Whilst puddings are indeed a great winter treat, the classic English summer pudding is, as its name suggests, just made for eating during the summer months. In today’s blog, we provide a tempting recipe for summer pudding to delight your taste buds and use up any summer fruit gluts and sliced bread at the same time.

Pudding basins at the ready

Aside from the ingredients, there is one key piece of equipment needed for this recipe: a classic one-litre pudding basin. Our Mason Cash 17cm pudding basin is the perfect size for this recipe.

Ingredients

8 slices sliced white bread, with the crusts removed 500g raspberries 250g redcurrants 100g blackcurrants 175g caster sugar

Method

Remove the stalks from the redcurrants and blackcurrants by sliding the tines of a fork along the stalks, letting the fruit fall into a dish. Also remove any stalks from the raspberries, then wash all the fruit.

Place the fruit, along with the sugar, in a pan and heat gently – just long enough for the sugar to dissolve. Turn off the heat and set the pan aside.

Cut one piece of bread to fit the base of the pudding basin and position further slices all around the sides of the bowl. Place each piece slightly overlapping on the previous piece, pressing down firmly to seal the seams. Press the bottom edge of the side pieces down onto the piece at the bottom of the basin. If there are any gaps, fill these with small pieces of bread. The objective is to ensure that the fruit juices cannot escape.

Set aside one cupful of fruit and juice and pour in the rest. Cover the pudding with the remaining bread and place a saucer on top of the pudding. The saucer – or small plate – should fit snugly inside the rim of the basin. Put the bowl in the fridge overnight with something heavy placed on top of the saucer.

When you are ready to serve, go around the edge of the pudding with a knife to loosen it. Turn the pudding onto a serving dish and spoon the remaining fruit and juices over it.

More ideas for pudding basins

If summer pudding is not your thing, why not try a jam sponge pudding or a ginger pudding? Both are lighter than a sticky toffee pudding or a spotted dick pudding, so they are great for summer.

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Mason jar solar lights

Mason jar solar lights  

A Rustic Mason Jar Chandelier in an old barn.

When we think of Mason jars, we tend to imagine them filled with all manner of tasty delights from scrumptious strawberry jam to preserved lemons and pickled gherkins. These iconic jars are ideal for so much more than home preserving, however, and there are so many fabulous and creative ideas for how to use them for craft and home decor projects. Today, we are going to look at one such Mason jar project: how to make solar lights for the garden or porch using these jars.

Solar lights for Mason jars

In past blog posts, we have talked about making Mason jar lights using tealights placed inside the jars. These look fantastic and are great for an occasional outdoor party or evening spent on the patio; however, if you want your lights to work every evening, it makes sense to use solar lights instead.

If you do not already have a Mason jar or two to use for this project, check out our online store – we have a huge range in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Whilst we can’t find a way to make your own mini solar panel to go on the lid of the jars, Mason jar solar lids are readily available on the internet from places such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy. Just make sure you buy the right size solar lids for the jars you intend to use.

These solar lid packs tend to come with a string of LED fairy lights attached. You simply place the string of lights inside the Mason jar and clip the solar panel piece into place before screwing on the original Mason jar outer band. Put the Mason jar in position, ensuring that it gets plenty of sunlight, and wait for nightfall. At dusk, your jar will turn into a pretty light display. Positioned along a wall or suspended from low branches in a tree, these jars will look magical.

Decorating your Mason jars

The LED light strings that are attached to the solar lid pieces for these jars are super-pretty as they are, but you can go one step further by decorating the jar itself. One cool idea is to tape stencil shapes to the sides of the jar and spray frosting paint all over the jar before removing the stencils to leave clear silhouettes to let the light shine through. If stencils sound too difficult, just place paper tape around the jar and spray to give a fun, stripy finish.

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Being creative with plastic bottles

Being creative with plastic bottles 

Close up from a bottle industry

We are all aware of how much plastic there is in the world and how, when it isn’t recycled or is disposed of carelessly, it can end up in our rivers and seas, causing all sorts of damage to marine life and birds. Plastic is a vital part of our lives and it is here to stay; however, with some thought and consideration, it can be a good thing and we can use it to help us lead more environmentally-conscious lives. In today’s blog post, we take a look at some ways in which the humble plastic bottle can be put to good use to help us reduce our eco footprint and live a little more sustainably.

Reusable plastic bottles to help save the planet

The number of single-use plastic bottles that are bought and thrown away each day in the UK is truly staggering. When we are out and about or leading a busy life, it is just so easy to grab a bottle of mineral water or a soft drink from the supermarket shelves without giving it a moment’s thought. We then dutifully pop it in the bin in the street, without considering that it is headed straight to landfill.

The simple solution to this issue is to buy a reusable plastic drinks bottle and make your drink at home to take with you; in fact, most cafes will top up your reusable bottle with water free of charge if you ask. We offer a number of different drinks bottles in our range, including some that are stackable to save space in your fridge. This might seem like a small step; however, it would make a real difference if we all switched to reusable bottles instead of buying single-use bottles.

Ingenious uses for plastic bottles

Our range of bottles includes several designs that are great for helping to reduce your eco footprint and plastic waste; for example, our 250ml domed plastic PET bottle is perfect if you make your own liquid soap. Even if you don’t make your own, you could always buy a larger quantity from a natural products store and decant it into this bottle, which would cut down on the number of bottles you buy over time. Our 100ml plastic PET bottle with spray pump is another great bottle for those who want to make their own toiletries.

If you have other great plastic bottle ideas, why not show us on Facebook or Twitter?

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Pickling strawberries in jam jars

Pickling strawberries in jam jars 

Preserve. Jar with strawberry jam, pickled tomatoes and capers on wooden background

Strawberries are something of an institution in the UK. As a nation that enjoys a brief and rather unpredictable summer, strawberries epitomise our hopes for the season and our joy when the sun comes out to play. Sadly, the British strawberry season is all too brief and we often find ourselves with a huge glut of strawberries in a short time, followed by months of wanting to eat strawberries or use them in cooking but trying to avoid buying imported fruit out of season. As ever, home preserving is the answer. Once you have made a sensible batch of jam, it is time to think about other ways to use up your strawberry crop. In today’s post, we take a look at how to pickle strawberries to make the most of this great summer classic.

Jam jars to the rescue

The first thing you need to do before getting on with the pickling is to select your jars. Most jars for jam making will be suitable, provided they are sterilised and have airtight lids. For a charming vintage look, why not opt for some of our clip top jars or our Mason screw top jars? These jars for jam will look just as good filled with pickled strawberries or other fruit.

Filling your jam jars

Preserving strawberries by pickling could not be easier. Here is a simple recipe:

Ingredients

1kg ripe strawberries
500ml white balsamic vinegar
350ml water
110g sugar
4 tbsp salt

Method

Wash and hull the strawberries, then chop them. Pack them into sterilised jars, leaving a little space at the top of each jar. Add the vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a pan and bring to the boil. When the sugar and salt have fully dissolved, pour the liquid over the strawberries. Allow to cool and seal the jars carefully.

How to use pickled strawberries

Once you have pickled your strawberries, there are all sorts of creative ways you can use them. If you have never thought of using strawberries in a salad before, try them tossed over a mixed green leaf salad with a little of the pickle syrup used as a dressing. You can also drop them in a glass of Pimm’s or a homemade cocktail or mocktail, or add them to ice cream for a fabulous dessert. Alternatively, try them as a sweet and sour relish to accompany cheese and biscuits, a ploughman’s lunch, or fish such as mackerel or sardines. Don’t forget that you can also use the preserve syrup once all the strawberries have been eaten.

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The history of jam making

The history of jam making 

various jars of fruit jam on wooden table

Around the world, people have loved jam for a very long time indeed. From the fabulous British traditions of scones with jam and cream to the American peanut butter and ‘jelly’, as they call it, and the exotic coconut jams of south-east Asia, we simply can’t get enough of this sweet treat. In today’s post, we look back at some early jams and their uses to see just how far home preserving has come.

The origins of jam making

Back in Roman times, making jam largely involved preserving fruits in honey rather than sugar. These preserved fruits were often served at the end of a meal as something of a delicacy. It was not until the Crusades, during the 11th century, that sugar was brought back to western Europe; from this point, making jam became much more like the activity we know and love today. It also became much more popular. It is said that Joan of Arc ate quince jam to give her courage before heading off into battle. During the great era of seafaring exploration and trade, sailors would take huge supplies of jam with them on voyages, as they had made the link between vitamin C deficiency and scurvy.

Using jam to prevent scurvy was not the only instance of the sticky stuff being viewed as a kind of medicine in earlier times. Mary, Queen of Scots, for example, ate jam as a cure for seasickness and a variety of assorted ailments.

It is hard to believe that Marie Curie had much spare time during her pioneering research into radioactivity; however, it is said that she was an avid jam maker when she did take time out.

The Women’s Institute, of course, has a long tradition of making jam; in fact, the WI was even awarded a government grant of £1,400 to purchase sugar for making jam to help with food shortages during the second world war. Literally thousands of tonnes of fruit were used to make jam, which could then be used over a longer period than if the fruit was not preserved.

Jam making in the 21st century

Towards the end of the 20th century, home preserving had, to some extent, waned a little in popularity, with people won over by the choice and ease offered by supermarket shopping. This has changed in recent years and jam making is now more popular than ever, with cooks and foodies once again discovering the simple pleasures of creating their own jams and preserves.

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Recipe for strawberry balsamic and black pepper jam

Recipe for strawberry balsamic and black pepper jam 

Fresh juicy strawberries on vintage enamelware on rustic background

Wimbledon is in full swing and the sun is shining, which can only mean one thing: it is strawberry season. If you have a strawberry patch at home or you love going to the pick-your-own farm to gather a huge basket or two of fresh, juicy strawberries, you will no doubt be wondering what to do with them all. A bowl of fresh strawberries and ice cream is all very delicious, but sometimes you need a few extra ideas for how to use them, especially if you have a glut. Strawberry jam is a perennial favourite, but it is sometimes fun to freshen up the traditional recipe and try something a little different. Read on to find out how balsamic vinegar and pepper can add a great twist to your next batch of jam.

Strawberry jam with balsamic vinegar and black pepper 

You might think that this recipe sounds a little peculiar, but you really do have to try it to discover just how good it is. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

400g fresh strawberries
300g sugar
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp water
1 tsp crushed black pepper

Method

Remove the green tops from the strawberries and chop roughly. Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Continue to simmer for 20 minutes, skimming any jam scum from the top. Test the jam for setting point using a jam thermometer or the chilled saucer method – it should be thick and slightly clear. Pour into sterilised jars and seal.

This jam works just as brilliantly with savoury things as it does in sweet dishes. Try it with cheese and crackers, or spread on goat’s cheese on toast. Add it to natural yoghurt, ice cream or crème fraîche for a tasty dessert, or try it as a sauce to go with fresh fish, such as mackerel.

More strawberry jam with a twist

If this recipe has piqued your interest for jazzing up your strawberry jam making, take a look online for more quirky recipes. Try strawberry chilli jam for another variation with a spicy kick, or have a go at strawberry and basil jam, strawberry and mint jam, or even strawberry and almond jam. It is definitely worth looking around your plot to see what you have a glut of and then searching online to see whether there is a recipe available for the combination. Even if there is not a recipe already, there is no harm in experimenting and trying out some unusual combinations. If Heston Blumenthal can do it, so can you!

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Sterilising glass jars and lids

Sterilising glass jars and lids New EMBOSSED JARS 2

If you are a seasoned home preserves enthusiast, you will already be aware of the importance of properly sterilising all your glass jars and lids before filling the jars with your delicious jams, pickles and preserves. If you are a beginner to the world of preserving, you may wonder what all the fuss is about or you may be unfamiliar with how to properly sterilise your equipment. In today’s post, we explain why sterilising your jars and lids is so vital and offer some handy hints on how to do it with the minimum of fuss.

Why sterilising jars is so important

To the naked eye, a jam jar might look perfectly clean and the lid might appear spotless. This does not mean that it is sterile, however, as germs and bacteria could be lurking inside the jar or on the lid. If you use jars or lids that have not been sterilised properly, there is a good chance that your preserves will spoil or go off, leaving you with nothing to show for your efforts. There is nothing more disheartening than having to throw away jam or chutney because it has grown mouldy or turned rancid, so take this step seriously whenever you make some homemade preserves.

Top tips for sterilising jars

Sterilising glass jars and lids is simple and quick to do, so there is no excuse for skimping on it and just hoping that your jams or pickles don’t perish. Heat the oven to 140°C. Wash your jars in hot, soapy water, then rinse them thoroughly to remove any soapy residue. Stand each jar on a baking tray and place the tray in the middle of the oven until the jars are completely dry.

Sterilising jar lids cannot generally be done the same way, so you may prefer to use the water bath method for both jars and lids. Set the lids and any rubber seals – if using Kilner jars – to one side and place your jars in a large pan with enough water to cover the jars completely. Bring to the boil and keep at this heat for 10 minutes. In a separate pan of water, add the lids and rubber seals and heat to around 82° for 10 minutes. Higher temperatures could damage the lids or rubber seals, so be careful.

Sterilising jar lids is just as important as sterilising the jars themselves, so don’t be tempted to concentrate only on the jars. If you sterilise your jars but not your lids, your preserves will still be at risk of perishing.

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Lemons in the home

Lemons in the home 

Bowl with fresh lemons on blue wooden background. Top view

Whilst few of us aspire to a fully self-sufficient lifestyle, more and more people in the UK are switching on to the joys of making their own pickles and preserves, baking their own bread, and preparing simple and nutritious meals by hand, rather than relying on processed food from the supermarket. Once you take the plunge with home cooking and home making, it can become quite addictive, as you realise that it’s not nearly so complicated or time-consuming as you first thought. One area that often gets overlooked, though, when switching from supermarket products to homemade, is that of household chores and cleaning. In today’s post, we take a look at how you can use lemons and other simple items in a variety of cleaning tasks, for a natural, chemical-free alternative to harsh shop-bought cleaning products.

Household tips using lemons

Lemons, or lemon juice, can be used in all sorts of clever ways to clean and disinfect around the home. If your kitchen bin is a little smelly, for example, try rubbing a lemon over the inside surface, or spraying it with lemon juice. If you’ve had a calamity with your microwave, and the sides are coated in food splatters and gunk, try this simple lemon trick to get it squeaky clean in no time. Pour about 150ml of water into a Pyrex jug, then squeeze the juice of a lemon into it, and then add the lemon peels. Place the jug in the microwave and heat for about three minutes. Leave the microwave door closed for another five minutes, to let the lemony steam work its magic on the microwave walls. Take the jug out, and wipe the walls, ceiling and floor of the microwave with a damp cloth. Hey presto, your microwave will be sparkling clean.

More household tips using other simple ingredients

Whilst a simple lemon can work wonders, sometimes it needs to be combined with another item, to really pack a punch, cleaning-wise. It’s easy to make a simple lemon-based cleaning spray, using lemon peels, white vinegar and herbs. Take a large mason jar and collect old lemon peels in it, until it’s about half full. Throw in some fresh herbs, and then top up the jar with white vinegar. Seal the jar, and allow it to stand for at least two weeks, but longer if possible. Over that time, the lemon and herbs will infuse into the vinegar, to give you a zingy, fresh liquid. After the two weeks, strain the liquid into a spray bottle, ready to use. You can use this spray just like any other household cleaning spray.

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Summer drinks in glass drinking jars

Summer drinks in glass drinking jars 

Fresh watermelon smoothie drink in mason jar on black stone.

What could be nicer than time spent outdoors during the summer months? Whether in the back garden, out in the countryside or at the beach, we Brits relish getting out and about when the sun shines. Long walks in the countryside, days spent sunbathing at the seaside and time whiled away pottering in the garden all have something in common – they are pretty thirsty work! When the thermometer starts to climb, it is important to stay hydrated; therefore, today we have put together some great ideas for refreshing summer drinks to tempt you.

Our range of glass drinking jars

If you are drinking outdoors, whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks, there is always the problem of how to avoid spilling your drink. With glass drinking jars and glass drinks dispensers, you can ensure that your drink stays exactly where it is supposed to be! Our drinking jars typically have a screw top lid and a drinking straw, making them perfect for outdoor use – there is no spillage involved and no nasty critters floating on the top of your drink! Check our online store to see a huge range of drinking jars and glass drinks dispensers in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

What to put in those glass drinking jars?

If you have not already gathered some sprigs of elderflower to make elderflower cordial, now is the time to do so before the blooms go over. Nothing is more evocative of a British summer than a cool glass of homemade elderflower cordial with ice cubes and perhaps a sprig of fresh mint, so try to make some before the elderberries form and it is too late.

Homemade lemonade is a simple summer drink that many of us have already tried; however, you can give it a special twist by adding raspberries to make a pink lemonade that looks fabulous and tastes sublime. You can also experiment with other fruits added to homemade lemonade, as it is very accommodating to additional flavours. Pineapple lemonade is exotic and really refreshing, whilst ginger and mint lemonade has a grown-up taste that is hard to beat.

If you are looking for some ideas for alcoholic summer drinks, rhubarb gin is definitely on trend. With a hint of sharpness and a gorgeous pink tinge, it is bound to go down very well at garden parties and barbecues. Another fabulous idea is to mix prosecco with limoncello and add frozen raspberries or strawberries in place of ice cubes. Add a spring of fresh mint and you have a very elegant summer drink that will have party guests queueing up for more.

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Honey for beauty

Honey for beauty 

A jar of pure amber colored local honey glistens in the sun, inside the jar is also a piece of the honeycomb it came from.

Since the earliest civilisations, honey has been used around the world as both a sweetener and an ingredient in medicines and cosmetic preparations. A beehive can produce anything up to 60lb of honey in a season, yet a single bee will produce just one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. With such incredible statistics and such health-affirming properties, it is no wonder that honey is so popular. In today’s post, we will avoid talking about how good it is to eat; instead, we will focus on how to use honey in homemade skincare preparations.

Our range of aromatherapy jars

If you would like to try your hand at making your own cosmetics and skincare products, you will need some jars to store them in. We stock a huge range of pharmaceutical jars and aromatherapy jars to suit everything from lip balm to body scrubs. We have amber glass jars, clear jars and frosted jars to give you exactly the finished look you are after. Why not browse through our collection and get set for making your own preparations?

Filling those aromatherapy jars

Honey can be used in so many ways as part of your skincare routine and has almost magical properties when it comes to moisturising and nourishing your skin and nails. Always ensure that you use raw honey in any cosmetic preparations, as processed honey has been pasteurised and much of its natural goodness will have disappeared.

If your nails and cuticles could do with a little TLC, try mixing raw honey with coconut oil and apple cider vinegar in equal parts. The honey will moisturise and nourish the skin, the vinegar will soften any hard skin and the coconut oil will protect and condition your skin, leaving your nails and fingers revitalised and rejuvenated.

Honey also works brilliantly as a facial cleanser and is ideal for all skin types. Here is a recipe for a homemade honey face wash that is quick and easy to prepare:

fresh as spring flowers

75ml raw honey
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp almond oil
10 drops lavender oil
10 drops lemon oil
6 drops geranium oil

Method

– Soften the honey, along with the water, in a saucepan over a very gentle heat.
– Add the essential oils and stir thoroughly to combine.
– Pour into pharmaceutical jars, or a soap dispenser, ready for use.

Always remember to shake this mixture well before use, as the honey tends to sink to the bottom.

If you have your own honey-based cosmetics recipes, why not share them with us via Facebook or Twitter? We would love to hear about them!

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Longest day of the year – enamel plates for picnics

Longest day of the year – picnic time 

Fresh juicy strawberries on vintage enamelware on rustic background

It seems like no time at all since the days were short and the temperatures distinctly chilly; however, here we are in the middle of June and approaching the longest day of the year. The temperature might leave something to be desired, but there can be no doubt that the evenings are long and leisurely, making them perfect for that favourite of summer treats – the picnic. Whether you head off to the countryside for a full-day picnic extravaganza or simply pop down to your local park one evening after work to eat out in the evening sunshine, picnics are a fun way to do something different and enjoy the simple pleasure of being outdoors. In today’s post, we extol the virtues of enamel mugs, plates and bowls, and show how they can come into their own on picnics and trips to the beach or country.

Enamel plates to the rescue

If you have made do with paper plates on picnics, you will know that they are not without their limitations; for example, they are typically quite flimsy and do not fare very well if you want to pour a dressing on your salad. In contrast, enamel plates and dishes are ideal for picnics. They are almost indestructible, solid and reliable, and can be easily wiped clean ready to take home.

We stock a huge range of enamel dishes, plates and mugs from iconic manufacturer Falcon. With flat plates in a variety of sizes, plus rice plates, soup plates and breakfast plates, you will be sure to find the perfect items for your picnic needs.

More than just enamel plates

In addition to a huge range of plates from the Falcon range, we stock enamel mugs, coffee pots, tea pots and dishes. These are all perfect for picnics and camping trips and are sure to give years of reliable service. Our Falcon enamel mugs come in white, blue or red, all with a contrasting coloured rim. The vintage-inspired coffee pots come in red, blue and green, with the teapot available in the same colours and in white and cream.

It is easy to stick to things such as sandwiches and cocktail sausages on a picnic; however, with the help of some enamel dishes, there is no reason why you can’t rustle up some more imaginative things to take with you. Why not make a picnic pie with a sausage and egg filling, seasoned with fresh herbs picked from the garden? Alternatively, make a healthy curried chicken and mango salad for a zingy and appetising picnic meal.

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