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With a shortage of funds and an excess of time this winter, I decided to give primarily homemade gifts this Christmas.  It’s something I’d always wanted to do, anyway, since homemade gifts carry so much more personality – a gift made by the giver recalls the giver in a way store-bought presents rarely do.  Tim and I were lucky to receive lots of homemade wedding presents, including a wreath, jars of jams and pickles, a papercut of a hunting falcon, hand-blown glass, paintings, and even a hand-carved dough trough.  Each one is precious to us, and every time we use or look at the gifts we remember their makers.

Apples, cider vinegar, onions, dried cranberries, and fresh ginger

Since I got into canning this year, I decided that one thing I’d make would be chutney. I love chutney, and it works with both meat and vegetarian meals, an important consideration in my family.  I used Sherri Brooks Vinton’s recipe for apple chutney with dried cranberries, found in her excellent book for the beginning food preserver, Put ‘Em Up!

Adding mustard seed

We have exceptionally sweet-tasting well water, but it is so hard it leaves mineral deposits on the boiled jars.

Filling the jars before processing

The chutney turned out to be so good that Tim and I ate it like it was ambrosia.  Luckily, there was lots even after we’d set aside some for giving away.

The finished basket - with bath salts, a hand-knit dish cloth, citrus-beet relish, apple chutney, and totally non-homemade soap.

I also made up batches of scented bath salts, using my stock of pure essential oils and some coarse salt, baking soda, and jars and ribbon I’d purchased from save-on-crafts.  Aside from knitting projects, this was the first “crafting” I’d ever done, and it felt surprisingly girly to be ordering linen ribbon and considering whether I should invest in a glue gun to apply wax seals (I decided no on the glue gun question, since part of the point was to be more frugal).

Recipients of the gifts seemed pleased with them, especially the chutney part.  And I was pleased and proud to give them.  I’m already planning next year’s gift.

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