Friday, 22 October 2010

The Hamper Project

Time to dig out the old winter coat (yes, that's sadly singular), and think about what I'll be putting in this year's Christmas hampers.

Convincing myself every year that creating hampers of homemade edible goodies is a thrifty gift idea, I blindly purchase ingredients and packaging (who can resist the Le Parfait jars?), only to find each hamper has cost me about £40. Nevertheless, I carry on regardless.

Preserving is the first task that springs to mind, though how keen is everyone on chutneys? I have at least half a dozen unopened jars gathering dust from Christmases past. Perhaps jellies are closer to the mark: cranberry, damson, redcurrant, or mint.

Ideas so far are tending towards crowd-pleasers: fudge, chocolate brownies, pesto, shortbread, spiced nuts, chocolate truffles/salt caramels, pickled shallots, and parmesan crisps.

I'd like to add a few shop-bought treats too, maybe some Neal's Yard Dairy cheese, a small bag of Monmouth coffee, a chunk of Parmesan wrapped in greaseproof paper, a pretty bottle of chilli oil from the local Chinese supermarket, or a good salami.

I'll follow up with more 'Hamper Project' posts as we near C Day and I get cooking.


  1. Good call on the hampers. I agree it ends up costing more than you think in the end, but I think the home made and thoughtful aspect makes it worth it.

  2. Am I allowed to make requests? Seriously, sounds like a wonderful idea, and would be a very lovely present...

  3. Ooh, I want one of your hampers please - they sound wonderful, even if there is a jar of chutney lurking there somewhere. Sounds wonderful and puts my poor attempts well in the shade.

  4. I too love the idea of home made presents, though I seldom get hampers as that makes it all too expensive.

    Oddly enough, a lot of my oldest friends are not really food lovers, and I get the distinct impression that a jar of homemade jam or chutney is viewed with distinct lack of enthusiasm, as though it's a cheap present, because you know, I haven't spent money on it. Of course, anyone who has ever actually done this knows that it costs a great deal more to produce a single jar of jam at home, working on the tiny scale we do, than for even the high end smaller scale producers who buy jars and ingredients in bulk! Not to mention that, for me, putting in my own efforts and time to make a gift like this for someone is very much something I would only do for those I love. It's far easier (even if weren't also cheaper) to go to the shops and buy something and wrap it up. I give far more of myself by buying jars, ingredients, choosing recipes, making them, designing and creating the labels...

    Your hampers sound wonderful! Hope their recipients understand what a gift they are getting!

  5. Michelle: Absolutely. And they're a pleasure to make, not a chore. Need new ideas for how to contain the gifts, as baskets are too pricey. Let me know if you have any ideas.

    Matt: Of course! Bring it on...

    Choclette: Well, this time of year is full of good intentions. Whether I'll produce a fraction of what I listed is questionable. More hours in the day, and a kitchen surface larger than a handkerchief would help. What will you be making?

    Kavey: Hi there. I agree. I'm dropping the wicker hamper idea. Might pretty-up boxes instead, or give individual items rather than a basket-full. Which of your foodie gifts have had the most enthusiastic reception (from your non-foodie friends)? Will you be making gifts this year? I wonder whether our jams and chutneys from years past are lurking lonely and neglected in friends' cupboards...

  6. Hello!

    I'm planning edible gifts again this year, although I might go easier on the chutneys than in previous years. I'm pretty sure I've caught a glimpse of one of my painstakingly made jars lurking at the back of someone's cupboard. Chilli jam (I use the recipe from 'Nigella's Christmas') always goes down very well, and I had to make an interim batch this summer to keep my dad quiet for a few months.

    Nigella's cranberry curd was very well received when I made it a couple of years ago, but it'll only keep for a few days so needs to be made at the last minute before giving as a gift. Fudge was popular last year too, even with my non-foodie friends; Hope & Greenwood's book is a good source of inspiration for sweet treats.

    This company are great for thrifty alternatives to wicker hampers: – I use their recycled cardboard boxes, tarted up with red or gold ribbon.

    Looking forward to plundering your posts for inspiration! xx

  7. Hi Sarah!

    Good tip re. chilli jam. I found some cheapo Kilner-style jars in Ikea that I need to fill with something yummy.

    I'm already planning to plunder the Hope & Greenwood book - either for the crumbly vanilla fudge recipe, or the honey and ginger one. There are a few good recipes for pickles and preserves in the Leon Cookbook, and my grandmothers 1970's 'Gifts from the Kitchen' has lovely recipes for sweets and nutty treats. I need to get started soon, as everything will need to be made well in advance (last minute cooking doesn't mix well with new mother-dom!). Good luck with your own hamper project, and let me know what makes the final cut.