Wednesday, 13 November 2013

An almost free decoration with a real folksy feel! The high winds in our area have brought down a few cones this week - I'm picking them up and leaving them somewhere warmish (anywhere indoors will do) so that they open up a little. Then when they are ready, I glue pom-poms on them (as pictured) - or if you don't want to buy anything, have a rummage through your button tin for tiny buttons and glue on - if your buttons are just plain white shirt buttons, then paint them with any nail varnish colours you have! Alternatively, use any old beads you may have for a real vintage look!
These will look great lined up along the mantel piece, on the hall table or any windowsill.
Happy frugal Christmas!
Need crafty Christmas gift inspiration? Take a look at Free Christmas knitting patterns and Free Christmas crochet patterns!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


This is my first attempt at pickling some (very small) onions and shallots we grew on our allotment. There is a mixture of two types of shallots - you can just see the pinker type in the photo.
I hunted everywhere for a simple recipe without too many ingredients or too much faffing about, so this is a combination of several recipes and methods. Some people added water to their pickling vinegar, come people put all the pickling spice in the jars with the onions, some strain all the spices off and others added decorative spices to the jars, like star anise. 
However, I wanted a fairly ordinary sweet and spicy vinegar that would appeal to pretty much everyone - well, everyone who likes pickled onions that is! Quantities are somewhat imprecise when pickling as I always find I have spiced vinegar left over, but it keeps in a screw top bottle in the fridge and can be used for pickling beetroot as well. So here is my recipe for two large jars of pickled onions:
About 1 kg small pickling onions
1 litre of malt vinegar
4 tsps of mixed pickling spice (the easiest way to get a range of spices, cheaply, I found)
300g granulated sugar (less if you don't want a sweet vinegar)

Put the peeled onions in a large bowl and sprinkle with an even covering of salt (about 30g should be enough) turn the onions over a little to distribute the salt, cover with clingfilm and leave overnight. This is to draw out some moisture from the onions so that they don't go soft when pickled.
Rinse onions thoroughly, leave to drain and sterilise a couple of large pickling jars (very hot water is fine).
Put the vinegar, sugar and spices in a large stainless steel pan and warm gently,  stirring regularly to prevent the sugar sticking anywhere or burning. No need to boil, you just want to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat when done, cover and leave to cool - this will allow the spices time to infuse their lovely taste into the vinegar. When the vinegar is cool strain it through a sieve into a large jug to catch all the spices and then discard them.
Pack the onions as tightly as you can in the jars and pour the vinegar in as near to the top of the jars as you can. Try not to have any onions sticking up out of the vinegar. Seal and keep in the dark for at least 3-4 weeks. The jars do not need to be in a fridge, just somewhere dark and cool is fine.
The you can eat them - just in time for Christmas!