20 December 2012

Gifts From Our Kitchen

Well, this year was a big one.

One of the biggest things that happened in 2012? --- My boyfriend and I decided to live together. That's a very big thing. This is our first Christmas together in the home we share, and I'm really excited!

My own family is a continent away - but I have him, and his family, and more people than I could ever imagine I'd have in my life to give Christmas presents to. Many of them, I've never even met before. So, what do you give to people you don't know? FOOD. Give them food! Everybody likes food.

We've decided on three jarred foods to give in Christmas hampers this year. All are tried and tested recipes that we absolutely love. Along with other yummy edibles, like oatcakes, shortbread, and some whisky from our friends at the Benromach Distillery, we have packaged up tons of my Chilli + Apple Jam, and two new recipes as well: an UNBELIEVABLE Caramelised Balsamic Red Onion Chutney, and a completely out-of-this-world Salted Caramel Sauce. With hand-written labels, these make the most adorable, homey, happy gifts!

They're all SO easy to make! If you're struggling for last-minute gifts, put these in your top 3! Particularly the salted caramel sauce, which is pretty quick and hassle-free.

Are you wondering how to make your labels stick like that? It's so easy. Just write them out on paper, brush the back with milk (!!) and let dry. It works just like glue, but comes off easily when you wet them with water. This is a far better method than using glue or stickers, and using a brown recycled-paper envelope really adds to the homespun feel of the jars.

Chilli + Apple Jam
makes 1 jar, plus a little more, depending on your jar size!

4 large-ish apples, any kind will do (I use Bramley or Granny Smith)
6 red chillies (2 de-seeded, chop the rest with seeds & ribs included)
150g (3/4 cup) sugar

Roughly chop up the apples (no need to peel or core) and place in a saucepan with some water.  Simmer gently until the apples are completely cooked through, adding more water if needed.  The water will boil off when you're not looking, and it's ok to add more.  Bear in mind that you're looking for about a cup of liquid in the end.

Allow the mixture to cool completely, then strain out solids using a mesh strainer or cheesecloth. At this point you should have about 1 cup of liquid.  ***

Place juice in saucepan with minced chillies and sugar.  Heat over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.  Crank up the heat to high and boil away until it starts to turn jammy.  Test a few drops on a chilled plate to see if the jam has firmed up enough. Bottle and you're done!

Caramelised Balsamic Red Onion Chutney
from Fraser Doherty at The Guardian and the SuperJam Cookbook.
makes 4-6 jars

8 red onions
1 red chilli
2 bay leaves
25ml olive oil
200g brown sugar
150ml balsamic vinegar
150ml red wine vinegar

Cut your onions and chilli into short, thin slices and put them into a pan with the bay leaves and oil. Cook gently over a low heat for about 20 minutes.

Once the onions are dark and sticky, add the sugar and the vinegars and simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the chutney is thick and dark.

Pour the chutney into hot, sterilised jars and let it cool. Ideally, you should leave it for a month or more before you eat it, to mature in flavour.

Salted Caramel Sauce with Fleur de Sel
from Lick My Spoon
makes 1.5 cups

1 cup sugar
85g (6T) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup single cream
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (use Fleur de Sel if you're feeling fancy!)

Heat sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir to help the sugar dissolve, but stop stirring when the sugar comes to a boil. Swirl if you like - basically you don't want to disturb the mixture while it's caramelising.

When the liquid sugar hits a dark amber color, add all the butter to the pan. The mixture will foam up and thicken. Whisk until the butter has melted. Once the butter has melted, remove from heat and add the cream. The mixture will foam up again - keep whisking and get those lumps out. Add the salt and whisk some more - you should have a very smooth, silky sauce with no lumps or salty grains left visible. Whisk and whisk some more, especially if you're using a coarse sea salt like fleur de sel or maldon. The sauce will thicken as it cools, so don't worry if you think it's too thin at this point.

Pour into sterilised glass jars, and you're done! The sauce may separate a little - just advise recipients to give it a stir before using.