chutney recipe jars of caramelised red onion and chilli chutney homemade gift idea

Make it: Caramelised red onion & chilli chutney

Making & DIY, Thrifty

Caramelised red onion and chilli chutney is a great recipe to make this autumn. Once the chutney is sealed in the jars, it will have time to mature to be extra delicious just in time for Christmas.chutney recipe jars of caramelised red onion and chilli chutney homemade gift idea

Getting into a thrifty mindset, it is a great idea to make and prepare DIY Gifts all year round. Have a little stockpile of beautifully-made, special presents, ready to give to your loved ones, family and friends. Making your own gifts can also save you a small fortune at Christmas. It’s easy to believe that the more you spend on a present, the more the recipient will feel loved. The truth is, the more thought and time you put into a present, the more the recipient will KNOW they are loved.

With this gift idea you can put even more thought into the design by personalising and decorating the labels that you stick on each jar.

You will need:

First off you will need clean, sterilised, glass jars with lids. You can shop around kitchen stores or supermarkets during the sales to find cheap, empty jam and preserve jars. You could save even more money by recycling your empty jam and chutney jars.

To recycle your own jars, ensure you wash each jar and lid thoroughly. Then, when you have a good stash, sterilise in bulk, all the jars and lids using sterilising solution. You can buy a pot of sterilising powder for under £2 which will make a few batches of sterilising solution. Available from anywhere that sells home-brewing equipment, or on Amazon – VWP Cleanser and sterilser – 100g


Caramelised red onion & chilli chutney recipe:

(this makes about 3 jars so just double up if you’d like to make more)


10/11 red onions (peeled)chutney recipe caramelised red onion chilli chutney homemade gift
1 red chilli  (de-seeded) or 1 tsp of dried chilli flakes
3 bay leaves
25ml olive oil
350g dark muscovado sugar or dark brown sugar
100ml balsamic vinegar
100ml red wine vinegar
2tsp ground ginger
A good sprinkle of salt and pepper

  1. Cut onions and chilli into short strips and place into a large, heavy-based saucepan with the olive oil and bay leaves. Cook on a low heat for 20 mins, stirring occasionally until the onions are darker.
  2. Next, stir in the sugar, both vinegars, ginger, salt and pepper.
  3. Cook on a medium-high heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is very thick, dark and sticky. You can check if the chutney is ready by taking half a teaspoon of the mixture and popping it in the fridge for 5 mins to see if it is thicker when cool.
  4. Once ready, remove saucepan from heat and take out the bay leaves.
  5. Spoon the chutney, whilst still a little warm, into the sterilised jars. At this stage you can add a piece of cling film over the top of the chutney if you like, to help it to keep for longer.
  6. Finally, seal the jars tightly with their lids and add your own labels. The chutney will mature and the flavours will deepen if you can leave it sealed in the jar for a month or two before opening and enjoying.

You can leave the chutney, sealed in its jar, for a year or two in a cool dark store cupboard – it will still be safe to eat. Once opened, keep refrigerated and the chutney will be fine to eat for a good few months… if it lasts that long!

How to thicken runny chutney

Making chutney is not an exact science and sometimes it can take ages to thicken. The runnyness is due to how much liquid is in the onions that you used and there is nothing you can do other than wait it out.

As you simmer your mixture, the liquid evaporating is what makes the chutney thicker, so keep it simmering and eventually it will thicken.

If you would like to speed up the process, transfer your mixture to a couple of wide-based pans – an increased surface area of the mixture will allow for more evaporation.

Decorating your jars of yummy chutney

There are lots of ways to make the label that you put on your chutney special…

  • You could personalise each jar by writing the name of the recipient
  • You could draw a picture of the ingredients on the label
  • You could write serving suggestions, such as: Great with Sausages, Cheese and in Christmas Sandwiches!
  • You could add the date that the chutney was made
  • You could add 3D embellishing paste to the jars as in this previous article: Make it: DIY gift ideas – 3D embellished glass jars
  • You could add stickers, glitter, whatever… get creative!
If you’re a complete chutney nut, you can, of course, keep the whole batch for yourself and scoff the lot! Enjoy!


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how to make sloe gin sloes blackthorn home brew diy gifts alcohol bottle present home made sloe gin

Make it: Sloe Gin

Making & DIY, Thrifty

Making Sloe Gin is one of the most rewarding pastimes in September/October.

how to make sloe gin sloes blackthorn home brew diy gifts alcohol bottle present home made sloe gin

Freshly picked sloes

Scroll down for a delicious sloe gin recipe. If you are lucky, and there is an early crop of Sloes, you will have time to make lots of little gift-sized bottles of home-made sloe gin, to give away to friends and family at Christmas… Won’t you be popular this year!

Giving home-made DIY gifts is a great way for you to save money and over the years the savings will add up. Your friends and family will appreciate something that has been made for them by you, everyone who receives something will feel special, and worth your time and effort, and that is a gift in itself.

Of course there is always the option of getting your Grinch on and keeping the lot for yourself.. no one would blame you, as Sloe Gin is purply-red, bottled bliss. One sip spreads a lovely warming glow through your chest, which makes it the perfect accompaniment to cosy winter nights snuggled up on the sofa.

sloe berries berry how to make sloe gin sloes blackthorn home brew diy gifts alcohol bottle present home made sloe gin liqour

Sloe berries – fruit of the Blackthorn

Where to find Sloes

Sloes are the berries of the blackthorn bush, sloes grow in hedgerows all over the UK as a shrub or small tree.

The autumn fruits appear blue at first then they have a slightly cloudy sheen, then turn shiny black. Ready to pick in September/October.

It is best to pick sloes after the first frost, but if you can’t wait that long and there has been an early crop of sloes, simply pop them in the freezer for a few hours before you make your gin.

Just a little warning, don’t try to eat the sloes when you pick them, the fruits are very sharp and tart and not at all tasty. Best to make gin out of them.



How to make Sloe Gin


  • Sloes
  • Sugar (granulated white sugar or caster sugar is best)
  • Gin (shop around to find supermarket cheapest deals or own brand)

Before you start you will need a large, sterilised bottle, jar or demijohn – something that can be sealed (even if you seal it with clingfilm). You could even use the bottles that the gin came in.

how to make sloe gin sloes blackthorn home brew diy gifts alcohol bottle present home made sloe gin liqour

Sloe berries – ready to be washed and pricked!

Preparing the Sloes

Once you have picked your Sloes, wash them to remove any dirt, then place in a bowl. Now comes the fun part… prick small holes in each Sloe. You can do this by daintily taking each sloe and piercing its skin with a sewing needle… or you can get a fork and stab up a bowl of them in a hit and miss, let’s get this done stylee. Either way will work. The idea is that by piercing the skin, the juices will be able to flow into the gin and make a much richer tasting and more beautifully coloured drink.

Making the Gin

  1. Fill a third of your jar, bottle or demijohn with your freshly-pricked sloes
  2. Add sugar, it will fill the gaps between the sloes, up to about the level of the top of the sloes
  3. Pour in Gin to cover the sloes and sugar, up to the top of your bottle, glass or demijohn – If you like, you can add complimentary flavours at this point, such as a cinnamon stick or a few drops of almond or vanilla essence
  4. Seal the jar, bottle or demijohn and give your brew a few swishes to shake the mixture and start the process
  5. Place your Sloe gin in a dark, cool cupboard and give it a few swishes every day for two or three weeks and then you can leave it to stand. The mixture will continue to deepen in colour and flavour and you can leave it for three or four months
  6. After the process is complete your mixture will be a beautiful, rich, purply-red colour. Pour this liquid through a sieve (or a square of muslin) into a measuring jug, and from the jug pour into sterilised screw-cap bottles and seal up, they are now ready to give as gifts. Or… pour the sloe gin into a glass and have some immediately… yum yum!

Once sealed in screw-cap bottles the slow gin will keep for years.. but good luck with that, most will be gone by the new year!

Make use of the leftovers

If you don’t want to waste the gin and sugar soaked sloes that are left over at the end of the process… try eating a couple.. or pour vodka or sherry over them, this time don’t add any sugar, seal up the bottle and swish the mix occasionally over a couple of weeks to make a cheeky sloe vodka or sloe sherry –

how to make sloe gin sloes home brew diy gifts alcohol bottle present home made sloe gin

You can give small bottles of sloe gin as gifts

it won’t have as rich a colour as your first batch of sloe gin, but it’s a great way of adding value to a cheap bottle of vodka or sherry.

Experiment & get creative

You can experiment with the amount of sugar you use each year and with different types of alcohol if you are not a gin fan, there is no set rule when making sloe gin and there are plenty of different recipes out there if you fancy doing a little research.

Get creative if you are making little bottles of sloe gin as gifts, maybe tie a ribbon around the neck or decorate the label with glitter, or perhaps tie a parcel label around the neck and write ‘Drink Me’ on it.

Enjoy, drink responsibly and get used to being incredibly popular – this will tend to happen if you give bottles of home-made alcohol as gifts!
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