Having been a finalist in 2017 in the Christmas Hampers section on Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas TV show and being considered a bit of an expert on foodie gifts. I thought it was high time I did a post on how to make the perfect Christmas hamper.
First and foremost what is a Christmas hamper?
The word hamper actually comes from Medieval England from the word Hanaper which was a container used to store important documents. there was even a Clerk Of The Hanaper in the government!
So hanapers started off as document carriers and now have morphed into hampers that can contain anything at all, especially food!
History of the hamper
Hampers have been with us for a very long time, going right back to the time of William the Conqueror. But the idea of hampers originally came from France where baskets full of treats were given as gifts and this came over to England by the 11th century.
But it wasn’t until the Victorian era that the Christmas hamper really took off in style. Of course, it was the Victorians who were the leaders in the Christmas hamper race as with most things we relate to Christmas.
They were originally something that the wealthy would give to staff as gestures of goodwill and thanks for all their hard work throughout the year.
The hamper would contain foodie goodies to allow the servant to enjoy some luxuries like chicken, meats, pies and fruit cakes they would not normally have been able to afford.
But it wasn’t just the servants that benefited from the Victorians love of the Christmas hamper. Transport also came into play here.
With the development of railways in the 1800s it was much easier to send perishable foodstuffs around the country as gifts to family and friends. Sending festive hampers became a tradition that goes on to this day.
Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas
So that’s a wee bit of history on the Christmas hamper itself. Up to modern-day and we now even have competitions for them. I was a finalist on Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas in 2017 when they had their first Christmas Hamper section.
For entry to the Christmas Hamper class we were given the following brief;
- Create a Christmas hamper with 5 edible items.
- Your hamper must have a theme.
- All edible items must be made by the entrant.
- The hamper must be decorated by the entrant.
Here is the post I did about being part of this fun and festive TV show – Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas.
So what did I do?
I decided to go with a French/Scottish theme – The Auld Alliance (the famous friendship between Scotland and France over the ages) so my foodie gifts had to be either of French or Scottish origin or a mix of both.
I went for my Bordeaux Jelly, plus a jar of goat’s cheese in herbs de Provence. For the hooch part I did Scotch Mist liqueur, my take on Drambuie. For the sweets I made Scottish minty macaroons and for the baking my oat and almond crumble crackers.
What makes a good Christmas hamper?
I feel that a hamper should contain a good selection of different edibles. I like to give a sweet preserve (jam, curd, marmalade etc), a savoury preserve (chutney, cheese in oil, relish etc), crackers or biscuits to eat the preserves with, a sweet treat (chocolates, fudge, sweets etc) and booze (any homemade liqueurs).
When you think about it this actually gives a nice little feast that can either be eaten at one sitting by a couple of people or just used as rather nice treats to be used individually.
But I really like the idea of your Christmas hamper being almost like a party picnic hamper. Everything you could want to sit down and have a real treat.
Foraging (Tiffany, who was on the Kirstie show with me and won the class did her hamper based on foraged food. with marvelous hedgerow chutney, crackers with seaweed, goats cheese with herbs and booze too.
Country of origin; In my case, this was a combination of two countries, France and Scotland. Another competitor on the TV show did a hamper based on Pakistan and the UK.
Think about the food areas that interest you, or better still the recipient of the hamper you are making.
Are they really into Indian food, Italian, Greek, Spanish or American cuisine?
Having a theme makes things nice and cohesive. It makes it quicker for you to come up with ideas and pull things together if you don’t have the whole world to choose from. Narrow your field and make life easier.
If you are making a few hampers having one theme makes it a whole lot easier. Just make say 4 of each item and you are building 4 hampers at the same time.
Christmas Hampers/Gift Baskets – Containers
I love baskets. They are of course the traditional hamper and are still the first choice of all the big foodie companies that make a fortune producing Christmas hampers every year.
Just think of Fortnum and Mason and their iconic Christmas hampers. Nowadays every self-respecting supermarket from Waitrose to Aldi produces its own version of the iconic Christmas hamper, though it has to be said these are mostly presented in some sort of box, not a basket at all.
Traditionally the receptacle used to host your items (the basket) should be something that the recipient can use again.
This is where a simple box with a foodie gift inside differs from a hamper.
Think about how the basket will be carried. If it is a traditional suitcase-style basket make sure that everything is packed tightly and well wrapped with pretty tissue or wood wool.
This is so that when you close the lid the hamper can still be carried in the normal way. If things are loose inside they will fall to the bottom and there is a distinct possibility of breakage.
Fortnum and Mason do two styles of hamper. The traditional picnic basket/suitcase style and the upright two flap huntsman basket
Use baskets (vintage are great). But also think of garden trugs or large tins if you are giving small items like mini-sized jams and a small bottle of liqueur and maybe some cookies. These could fit nicely into a vintage biscuit tin.
Wooden boxes are great too, preferably with a lid.
A cardboard box that has been covered in pretty paper or decoupaged in something that is really personal to the recipient or matches the country of origin of the enclosed foodstuffs.
Old maps are a great idea for decoupaging a box.
You can even buy Christmas Hamper Kits that have everything from the open basket, to the fillers, cellophane and gift tags.
Putting a lid on it
If your chosen receptacle doesn’t have a lid then you could always wrap either the goodies inside or the entire thing in clear cellophane. However, this always seems like a bit of an environmental hazard to me and as long as everything is neatly packed then I’d rather not have the overdose on cellophane.
What to use to fill the hamper
Protecting your foodie goodies from knocking together and breaking, you need to use some sort of filler to keep things apart and protect them.
The filler also aids in the presentation, especially in an open basket or box. You can prop some items up and it helps to pad out the space underneath making the basket/box look fuller and thus more impressive.
Here are some filler ideas;
Wood wool straw tissue paper pretty tea towels vintage napkins
Don’t just fill your Christmas basket with foodie goodness, add some fabulous finishing touches to make your gift basket extra special.
It’s the little things that mean so much. Well actually in a Christmas hamper the little additions can make life for the recipient easier and add a charming and quirky look to your hamper.
From ribbons and bows to Christmas ornaments. Holly (both real and artificial) can be added and of course a really cute gift tag.
When I presented my Auld Alliance hamper on Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas I had two tiny crystal glasses in there for drinking the homemade Drambuie liqueur. There was also a vintage silver teaspoon to scoop out the Bordeaux jelly to put on the oaty crumble crackers.
Here are some ideas for those little extras;
Vintage glasses vintage jam spoons pickle forks butter knives tiny dishes/saucers napkins
What to put inside your Christmas hamper
You don’t have to make everything yourself. Think of putting together a hamper with homemade chutney, your own crackers and adding in some lovely blue cheese and a nice bottle of wine.
Or make your own preserves and add in store-bought crackers’
Play to your own personal strengths. What are you good at making? What do you have time to make? Be realistic!
For those who are into preserving and make their own jams and chutneys etc all year round then there is no problem coming up with endless content ideas.
However, for those who are new to preserving and just now thinking of putting together a Christmas hamper then they have to think seasonally.
All those gorgeous summer fruits so readily available in summer cost a damn fortune in the shops just now, so forget those and go for what is in season in the winter and thus more affordable!
Go to my Homemade Jam Section for a whole host of jammy ideas for your Christmas hamper.
Chutney and relish ideas
Go to my Chutney and Relish Section for loads more savoury ideas for your hamper
Go to my Homemade Liqueurs and Infusions Section for a whole host of boozy ideas.
Jellies and Marmalades
Go to my Marmalades and Jellies Section for more super sticky ideas for your Christmas hamper.
Go to my Cool Curds Section for more super curd ideas for your gift baskets.
Go to my Homemade Seasonings Section for more sweet and savoury ideas to try.
Sweets and treats
Go to my Homemade Sweets and Treats Section for lots more sensational sweet ideas.
Oils and vinegars
Go to my Infused Oils and Vinegars Section for more great ideas and recipes.
Go to my Homemade Pickles Section for lots more pickly ideas.
Preserved In Oil, Booze and Salt
Go to my Preserved in Oils, Salts and Booze Section for more great ideas for your holiday baskets.
Go to my Homemade Spreads Section for more spreadable ideas to try.
Go to my Home Baking Section for a whole host of baking beauties to try.
My Foodie Gift Books
I have written one Christmas book for a Scottish publisher, So Easy Christmas which has over 50 different ideas for everything from Christmas feasting to decorations, homemade cards, home fragrance and of course those all-important foodie gifts for Chritsmas. Its available in different formats.
Plus I have made some bookettes which are now available as Ebooks;
Naughty & Nice Edible gifts For Christmas which has over 40 recipes many with low sugar (hense the name!)
Gourmet Gifts For Christmas with 25 fun and easy recipes for your edible gifting.
And my new bookette out just this month – Foodie Gifts For Christmas (book 1) with over 45 great recipes for you to choose from.
Finally, if you do try this recipe don’t forget to leave a comment/star rating below as I just love to hear from readers. Want more Larder Love? Then follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter and sign up for my newsletter too of course.