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Recipes: Save Money and Win Friends over this Christmas

241692_1620A couple of years ago, I received a jar of jam for Christmas. This may seem like a stingy present but it was actually one of the nicest presents I got that year.

It wasn’t any ordinary shop-bought jam but homemade, wrapped specifically with me in mind and had my name printed on the jar. It was all very personal and completely delicious.

Making your own gifts will save you a fortune and the thoughtfulness will win friends over. Another year, a friend gave me Christmas decorations made out of ginger bread and they looked great – tasty too.

I suppose it’s the simplicity I like, the idea that some craft has gone into the gift – it’s all very Victorian. The person hasn’t just slapped something on the credit card and hoped for the best.  By making your own; you learn a new skill, your friends will think you have hidden talents and you won’t faint when you see your credit card bill in January.

Remember though, if you’re going to just give a pot of jam or condiment as a present, you have to go to some effort or otherwise you will look like a cheap arse.

Planning is essential – you have to factor in how many people are going to receive them, get the proportion of ingredients right, figure out how you are going to personalise them and start collecting the jars now. has 101 Homemade jam, jelly and marmalade recipes for you to check out and there are some great looking chutney recipes on the BBC food site. Here are a couple of recipes to get you started:

How would you feel about receiving a homemade gift and do you have any homemade Christmas gift ideas?

Fig and ginger jam

Makes 2 x 450g/1 lb jars
Taken from the BBC food site, this is a sure bet for any jam fan.


  • 1.35kg/3lb ripe figs, washed and diced
  • 1.35kg/3lb warm preserving sugar (see note below)
  • 1½ tbsp ground ginger
1 cooking apple, peeled and diced
  • 4 tbsp crystallised stem ginger, chopped roughly
  • 5 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 3 lemons, juice only
  • 290ml water
  • Warm, sterilised jam jars and jam pot covers – prepare jars by washing in hot soapy water and leaving to dry and warm in a cool oven – 130C for 10-15 minutes.


  1. Put the figs, sugar and ground ginger into a large non-metallic bowl, cover and leave for 6-8 hours.
  2. Transfer the figs and sugar to a large saucepan or preserving pan, add the apple, crystallised ginger, vinegar, lemons and water. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the fruit is soft and setting point is reached.
  3. Remove the jam from the heat and leave to cool for 20-25 minutes. Pour into the warm jam jars and cover/seal straight away.
  4. Label and store in a cool dark place for 2-3 weeks to allow the flavours to develop.
  5. N.B. To warm the sugar, pour into a baking tray and then heat in a low oven – 140C/275F/Gas 1 for 15-20 minutes before using.

Spiced apple chutney

Makes 4-6 jars
Being one of the most popular chutneys, this is a safe bet as a gift. The tangy, sweet flavour works great with cheddar and would suit any cheese loving friends.


  • 225g onions, chopped
  • 900g apples, cored and chopped
  • 110g sultanas, raisins or chopped dates
  • 15g ground coriander
  • 15g paprika
  • 15g mixed spice
  • 15g salt
  • 340g granulated sugar
  • 750ml pints malt vinegar


  1. Put all the ingredients into a preserving pan. Slowly bring to the boil until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Simmer for 1½-2 hours, stirring from time to time to stop the chutney sticking to the pan.
  3. When it is very thick and you can draw a wooden spoon across the base of the pan so that it leaves a channel behind it that does not immediately fill with liquid, the chutney is ready.
  4. Turn into sterilised jars, seal and cool.
  5. Store in a cool, dark cupboard for two to three months before eating.

Goan coconut chutney

Serves 6-8
If you have a friend who is a fan of Indian food, this interesting sweet and sour chutney is by Madhur Jaffrey, from Flavours of India and goes well with any Indian curry.


  • 115g coconut, freshly grated
  • 110g chopped, fresh green coriander
  • 1 small onion or 2 shallots peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2.5cm/1in piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • 1cm piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar


  1. Put the coconut, coriander, onion or shallot, ginger, garlic, chillies and lemon juice in a food processor. Blend, adding 4 tbsp water as needed to get a thick, coarse paste. You may, if you wish, put this mixture into the container of an electric blender in several batches to get a much finer paste, adding a little water if needed.
  2. Put the coriander seeds, cloves and cinnamon into a clean coffee grinder and grind them to a fine powder. Mix the powder with the coconut mixture. Add the salt and sugar. Stir to mix and taste for the blend of sweet and sour. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

The chutney lasts 24-36 hours. It may also be frozen.


  1. Last year, the immediate females in my family got crocheted scarfs, aparently they went down pretty well. This year, it’s cookie bags for the folks i can’t afford to spend money on but still reckon are great. (though i have yet to figure out how long cookies keep…)

  2. Where are you finding figs at a price low enough to contemplate making jam with them? I only ever see them at Fallon & Byrne and the like for upwards of 50 cent a piece.

  3. Thanks for the great recipes. Can make something different this year now. Always think that presents you can eat are so much better than something that only needs to be dusted.

    I collect nice jars all year round – drives my husband crazy!!!

  4. I’ve seen figs for sale in Middle Eastern Stores around the place and they haven’t been that expensive, I’m pretty sure Spice Land in Portobello has them.