It’s a great time of year to pick up pine cones when you are out for a walk, so I am going to write about ways to use them for practical and wholesome purposes, including as Christmas presents. This week, I am using some pine cones eagerly collected in a Suffolk forest by my youngest to make ecologically friendly firelighters. I’ll keep one lot for us, and give another lot to a friend who had us over for a lovely tea last weekend (she doesn’t know yet!) Like us, they enjoy a log fire as they sit around with a glass of red wine trying to persuade themselves they like autumn and winter really, despite the damp and the dark mornings and the perpetual feeling of being slightly over- or underdressed.
First of all, put your oven onto 200C/ Gas mark 7, to heat up while you do the fiddling about part. Then put paper cases into a bun tin. When you have done that, get some tea lights and remove the metal surround, and put one tea light into each paper case, rather like this (I’ve almost got to the half way mark). I have used very cheap paper cases I got from www.approvedfood.com. You are going to ditch them at the end, so the cheaper the better. In terms of the tealights, obviously beeswax is the most smug in terms of its eco credentials, but rather than fuss about with pellets and trimming my own wicks, I am going for the cheap paraffin based stuff here, being austerity minded and all that. You can get 10 of them for £1 in many pound shops, or buy in bulk next time you are trailing around IKEA with one of the infamous blue bags.
Heat up the bun tray in the oven until the wax has melted. Keep a close eye on the proceedings so you don’t risk burning down your house. This part of the operation should take about five minutes. I then added a couple of drops of aromatherapy oil to each one, but this is an optional step. (Be cautious if you do perfume the wax, as you don’t want a conflagration. Burning down your house would rather ruin Christmas). You then need to move the wick gently to the side of the paper case, as gently as a brain surgeon, as in the third picture.
Insert a pine cone into each paper case. It’s important to try to get one roughly the same width as the case itself, otherwise the wax will look very odd, and make sure the wick stays over to one side, so you have something to light later. (Children can help with this if they are supervised. Even if a bit of wax splashes on them, they won’t lose a hand, let’s face it). When the wax has set, take them out of their paper cases, give the bottoms a quick wipe if you have added aromatherapy oil, and leave to cool.
Finally, package them up in cellophane bags with some attractive ribbon, suited to the season or the decor of the room they are likely to be used in. Here I have recycled the ribbon from a present I was given last year, but another option would be to buy a bag of ribbon offcuts from one of the many online ribbon merchants. I have used www.ribbons.co.uk in the past.