So I mentioned in my last post that I was going to do a little series on gifts on the cheap. Of course, I'm not going to tell anyone these gifts cost less than a fiver each, and neither should you. It's the thought that counts. And the effort you put in, of course.
So the next couple of posts are probably my most favouritest to have worked on recently: gifts in jars. I know mason jars have trended all over every design/ party/ diy blog recently and are probably passe by now. I'll be honest with you, I'm not quite sure of the difference between a mason jar and a plain old jam jar.
One Christmas I nearly bankrupt myself financially and effort-wise buying new jars with gingham print lids and hand writing each individual label. You can do that too of course, and it does add a nice uniform touch to your gifts if you are batch cooking. But since this is all about the free and thrifty I would suggest you start recycling instead. Bonne Maman jam comes in jars with those pretty checked lids, baby food jars are great for little treats and my favourite are Douwe Egberts coffee jars because they have glass lids and look adorable with just a spot of ribbon and a tag (plus I get through at leat two a month). For this post I reused those little glass ramekins you get with Gu Souffles:
Whether you're repurposing your jars or not, they will all need to be sterilised. There are a couple of ways to do this; first in a medium dishwasher cycle, handwashed and dried out for 10 mins in a low oven or using your baby sterilising equipment. Once sterilised not even a finger can touch the inside of your jar, once sealed your contents are safe. If you're filling jars with hot content (such as jam) the jars need to be warm (i.e straight from the dishwasher) or they will crack.
Pesto has got to be one of the most overused ingredients in my kitchen, and for years I would buy jars of the slimey greeny grey overpriced stuff week after week. Then I came to my senses, started making it fresh and never looked back.
Traditional pesto is made with basil, lemon juice, parmesan, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and pine nuts. I will tell you now, pine nuts are ludicrously expensive and not at all in keeping with the thrifty theme. I opt to leave them out mostly, but I had a pinch left over and they look nice scattered over the top of whatever dish you are adding your pesto to.
I don't know whether to give quantities here, I never measure, just chuck it all in a blender, add oil until it's the right consistency and keep tasting. One garlic clove is usually enough, two shop bought packets of basil, or the majority of leaves from a fresh plant. You also get that feeling of smug satisfaction if you grow your own!
And of course, you don't have to use basil. In fact the pesto photographed here is spinach pesto (an entire bag's worth), rocket is good too and I've even seen dandelion pesto. Anything leafy will work, and you can mix a bit of whatever you have.