Christmas is closer than you think, and while it’s not quite time to trim the tree just yet, this is a great time to start thinking about the gifts that will go under it.
Shopping in December is notoriously stressful; busy car parks, long queues and heavy bags can turn Christmas shopping into a chore.
The easiest way to manage stress during the festive season is to avoid it altogether – this year, get a jump on your Christmas planning in advance so you can spend December enjoying time with the people you love most.
Now is the perfect time to begin planning and working on any homemade gifts for friends and loved ones. They’re a great way to show you care, save some money and give a gift to the person who has everything.
Need inspiration? Here’s a few simple and inexpensive make-ahead Christmas gifts to get started on now.
Good quality extracts are surprisingly pricey, while cheaper alternatives are often filled with synthetic ingredients. You can make your own with some vanilla pods, vodka and patience; leave it to set and then create your own label or use a decorative bottle. It’s the perfect gift for anyone in your life who loves baking.
The extract needs to infuse for at least a month before it’s ready, but the longer you leave it to set the better the flavour will be. Start now to have yours ready in time for Christmas.
- 5 Vanilla Pods
- 8oz Vodka
- A clean jar or bottle
How to do it:
- Rinse your vanilla pods to make sure there is no residue on the outside of the pods. Run a knife lengthwise down the side of the pod to split it. You can leave the pods connected at either end for presentation, or if you can’t fit an entire pod into your jar, cut it into smaller pieces.
- Place your pods in a jar and pour over the vodka. Make sure your pods are completely submerged – push them towards the bottom of the jar if necessary. Seal your jar and shake well.
- Store your jar of vanilla pods in a cool, dark place to infuse. The back of the shelf in your kitchen cupboard works well. Leave your extract to infuse for at least a month, shaking it from time to time.
- Once the fermenting period is over, you may want to transfer your extract to a new jar or remove the vanilla pods. Simple strain the extract into a different bottle – if you want a perfectly clear extract, strain through a coffee filter to remove the small flecks of seeds.
Gin is back in fashion; this year alone John Lewis reported a 100% increase in gin sales this, while the Wine And Spirit Trade Association reported in March that sales of British gin rose more than 181% in the last two years. Impress the gin-lover in your life with a special bottle of Sloe Gin. It’s easy to make and if you get started now will be ready to enjoy for Christmas.
- 1lb sloes
- 225 grams caster sugar
- 1 litre of good gin
How to do it:
- Prick the skin of the sloes all over with a sharp needle to help release the sweetness of the berries. Another method would be to freeze your berries overnight, then let them thaw slightly. Place them into a large steralised jar.
- Pour your choice of gin over the berries and fill the bottle. Carefully pour in the caster sugar – less sugar will create a tart liquor, while extra sugar will help your gin taste fruity and sweet.
- Seal the bottle tightly and shake gently to mix the ingredients. Store in a cool, dark space – if you can, lay the bottle on its side.
- Turn the bottle every day for a week and then once or twice a week thereafter for the next two months.
- Strain your gin mixture through a muslin cloth and pour into bottles.
Sloe Gin image via flickr user Poppet with a Camera
Do you have any ideas for make-ahead Christmas gifts?