Herbal and Festive Gifts in Jars and Bottles

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It is better to give than to receive is the age-old adage – and Christmas is a wonderful time to give of course. But, what do you give your friends, family, colleagues or neighbours, especially when the finances are a little tight or you are stumped for original ideas.

I first discovered Gifts in a Jar when I visited a craft fair many years ago, and I thought what a brilliant idea they were – the gift is IN the jar and you get to keep an attractive container as well – recycling at its best.

Irish Cream Liqueur

The craft fair had rows and rows of beautiful jars, pots and containers, all displayed with an astonishing array of delicious and decadent contents – from luxury beverage mixes to herbal bath concoctions, I was hooked. Since then, I always include homemade gifts in a jar on my Christmas gift list; in fact, if I didn’t, I would have an army of friends and family asking where they were this year.

Bouquet Garnis

The possibilities are endless, over the years I have perfected numerous recipes that work very well when arranged in a jar, or an attractive pot, bowl or even a pretty box or bag. There is NOTHING as popular as food or luxury bath products when given as gifts; and the beauty of these gifts in a jar is that the recipient can see how much thought and time went into creating such original gifts – MUCH better than an over-packaged gift box that is all cardboard and no contents.

Cordials and syrups that were made earlier on in the year as well as boozy liqueurs make perfect gifts when decanted into attractive bottles. Top favourites that my family and friends love are Old Fashioned English Elderflower Cordial,for a breath of early summer in winter as well as Old Fashioned Lemon Balm and Lemon Verbena Lemonade Syrup for a citrus lemon sherbet zing, a perfect pick-me-up on a dull day. And, my Home-made Orange Liqueuris ALWAYS received with anticipation and pleasure, and is aptly named “Santa’s Little Helper”!

Ale and Garlic Mustard

You can decant most cake, pie, soup, beverage, biscuit, scone or beauty product mixtures into a jar to be given as a gift, the main criteria is to list the cooking, baking, preparation or serving suggestions and procedures on the label; and, you must also suggest how long and how to store it for optimum freshness. You can use any type of jar or container – again, be sure that the lid has an airtight seal for food mixtures. I find the best jars to use for gifts are Kilner jars, with the rubber seals. However, most jars with a tight fitting lid are suitable, and bags can even be used for beauty products, or even little porcelain pots and bowls.

Herbal Milk Bath (2)

What’s fun about this gift giving idea is that you can be so creative with your labels and how you decorate the jars.  Marinated olives and cheese in oil look wonderful when a wooden serving spoon is attached by a ribbon to the neck of the jar.

Marinated olives

An herbal bath mixture looks so pretty if you tie a sprig or two of dried herbs or flowers to the label……..or a beverage mixture can be presented in a mug with a tea strainer or even a teapot. The list is endless, and you can get the children to help with the labels, paper lids and ribbons etc.

I always buy a couple of sheets of handmade or beautifully decorated paper to cover the lids or to use as labels; each sheet can cost a couple of pounds, but you can get LOADS of covers or labels from one sheet of paper, and of course you can keep what’s left for future gift making projects. I find that garden twine, raffia and old gift bows also make wonderful additions to your jars, and you are recycling as well, which has to be good.

Hearty Winter Soup Mix in a Jar  (1)

I have already suggested several of my favourite Gifts in a Jar for this gift ideas feature – they should cover the most finicky of people, and will definitely be well received by foodies far and wide, but one more idea is Candied Orange Peel,perfect for this time of year and such a unique and pretty gift too. One important fact I must mention is sterile jars and general cleanliness; the jars and containers should ALL be washed before decanting the mixtures into them, and in the case of the food gifts, the jars should ideally be sterilised (in a hot oven before allowing to cool).

The order of ingredients is also a very important, to avoid food spoilage and cross-contamination of ingredients with strong smells. A note on measuring ingredients, some beverage, soup and beauty mixtures are measured in cups – this is any size cup that you wish to use – bearing in mind the size of your jar or container.

Santa's Little Helper

I also find that most of my recipients love the fact that I have made them something home-made and that I have put some thought into it…I really think that Homemade Gifts are the New Black! I wish you all a VERY Merry Christmas and a bright and Happy New Year, but now, it’s time to have fun whilst solving your gift ideas this Christmas with Garlic and Sapphire’s Gifts in a Jar…but don’t get too jarred this festive season!

Home-Made Herbal Stuffing Mix

Home-Made Herbal Stuffing Mix No need to buy a commercially made stuff mix anymore, this is so easy to make and is delicious with all types of poultry and game! It looks very attractive when layered in the jar, and is already to mix and stuff! It not only makes a great gift – but also is a handy way to utilise your stale bread, plus you will always have a tasty homemade stuffing mix to hand.

1 small loaf white bread, preferably stale (175g/7ozs)

4 tablespoons dried onion flakes

3 tablespoons dried celery flakes

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 tablespoon chicken or vegetable stock granules/powder

2 teaspoons dried sage

2 teaspoons garlic salt

Ground black pepper

Cut the bread into small cubes or pulse to make breadcrumbs in a food mixer. Lay the breadcrumbs on a large baking tray and bake for 30 to 45 minutes in a low oven, 100C/200F, until pale golden and dry. Layer the ingredients in a jar as listed, starting with the bread.

Add a label to say: “You will need 240ml boiling water and 2 tablespoons butter. Place the stuffing mix into a large mixing bowl and add the boiling water and butter. Mix thoroughly and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before using. Can be used to stuff poultry or can be oven baked – dot with butter and bake for 30 minutes in pre-heated oven 180C/375F. Store in a cool, dry place and use within 5 days”.

Thanks for reading!