I take a keen interest in the marmalade served to me, whenever I stay in a B&B or Hotel. Often, I am presented with a menu for a lavish breakfast; locally sourced eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, artisan bread and creamy butter. When I reach for the marmalade to spread on my toast, my heart sinks. Small vacuum packed spreads, masquerading as marmalade or jars of supermarket own brands are commonplace. Every time it happens, I wonder why every item on the menu was lovingly sourced, prepared and cooked, but the marmalade was given scant consideration. Continue reading Put Taste Back On Toast. Real Marmalade Mission
Traditional mincemeat has been under attack in recent months. Real Mincemeat is made from a small list of specific ingredients. The Jam and Similar Products Regulations 2013 sought to deregulate the ingredients and percentage of sugar content. Mincemeats are uniquely British, their origin established firmly for centuries.
Mincemeat has a history traceable back to the late seventeenth century following Cromwell’s two year ban on Christmas festivities. After his death and once Christmas had been reinstated as a festival, the mincemeat we know today was introduced – a product with a quantity of vine fruits, sugar, citrus peel, suet or equivalent fat and optional alcohol.
Following objections to the deregulation from me and my MP Tessa Munt, DEFRA have decided to leave Mincemeat unchanged. During a debate, led by Tessa about the Continue reading Edible Gifts – Real Mincemeat
Of all the preserves I make, Chutney is the one most frequently mis-understood and mis-represented in some cookery books, cookery programmes and food blogs. Chutney is a savoury preserve made from fruit and vegetables, cooked in vinegar, sugar and spices. Smooth in texture, the flavour is a mature balance of all the ingredients in the jar. Once mature, it will be like conversation, smooth, fruity and spiced with interest.
During my Edible Gifts course at Vale House Kitchen last week we made batches of one of my favourite chutneys, Hot Date Chutney. The preparation and cooking time took almost four hours. Traditional chutneys cannot be rushed. Quicker recipes are often relishes not chutneys. Continue reading Edible Gifts – Hot Date Chutney
Tessa Munt’s parliamentary debate last Wednesday about The Jam and Similar Products 2013 Regulations stimulated a media storm. Today I made my views known on the Alan Titchmarsh Show and these are my key reasons.
I am happy to encourage the use of great British fruit such as the Bramley Apple and to encourage the production of low sugar preserves for dietary reasons, if labelled as such. One year I had more than 300 pounds of Bramleys from one tree and made some excellent traditional preserves with them.
The suggestion that the new regulations will make exporting easier is very questionable as very few other countries use the word Jam to describe fruit preserves.
The 60% was set after scientific research at Bristol University into the keeping qualities of sweet preserves. Continue reading Alan Titchmarsh Show – Jam Debate
The Jam and Similar Products (England) Regulations 2013
After months of debate, the waiting is over. Following a consultation, DEFRA have decided to reduce the permitted sugar level for jams, jellies and marmalades from 60% to 50%, remove the UK national limit for ‘reduced sugar jam’ and remove the national provisions for curds and mincemeat.
Reducing permitted sugar levels from 60% to 50% will, over time, destroy the characteristic quality of British jams, jellies and marmalades and could potentially mislead consumers. Traditional jams are a mixture of cooked fruit without additives.The quality of these preserves is determined by the proportions of sugar, fruit, pectin and acid in the product. By reducing the percentages of total sugar content, Continue reading No more real jam tomorrow
This year there has been a bumper crop of blackberries, both wild and cultivated. Following a wet winter, a cold spring and the first good summer since 2006, hedgerows have been groaning with these lush berries and markets have been discounting their prices.
Walks around country lanes in Worcestershire in late summer with my children gave us many opportunities to pick blackberries. One of my earliest memories is watching my mother make blackberry and apple jam after we had been out foraging for blackberries. I also remember a noisy, volcanic pressure cooker used to soften the fruit,it put me off using one for years!
The name is derived from bramble meaning prickly. Originally a wild plant, the Greeks and Romans used blackberries to treat minor ailments, including gout. Between 1914 and 1918, schoolchildren in England were encouraged to pick blackberries. These were made into juice and sent to soldiers in France and Germany. Judge Logan‘s research in California influenced the development of modern varieties of blackberries. Also known as the bramble, thornless varieties of blackberries were introduced in the 1920s. Cultivated blackberries are larger and sweeter than those found in country lanes. Well known varieties include Bedford Giant, Loch Ness and Merton Thornless.The leaf can be made into tea, with a similar flavour to Earl Grey. Old bramble shoots are often used in basketry. Continue reading Beautiful Blackberries
I must confess to having a love affair with damsons. With their blue-black skin and astringent/sweet flavour they are a firm favourite. Of all the fruits available to the preserver, the damson is the maestro. Available from September to early October, they are high in pectin and acid. Damsons are unique as they make almost every type of preserve including jam, jelly, butter, cheese, sauce, syrup, chutney, pickle, vinegar and liqueurs. As soon as they are just ripe, with some give when pressed gently, they are perfect for jams and jellies.
As they ripen further, I use them to make damson cheese and chutney. When the fruit starts to fall from the trees, it’s time to make damson gin. These three preserves benefit from being left for a few months for their flavours to mature, although that can be difficult if like me you are naturally impatient to taste them.
Originating in Damascus, Syria, the Crusaders brought damsons back to Europe. Originally, they were known as damscene, later shortened to damson.They became abundant in Cumbria, Kent, Shropshire and Worcestershire, where trees were planted to supply dye for the carpet industry in Kidderminster, from the skins of the fruit.
There is an annual Damson Day in Cumbria organised by the Westmorland Damson Association and held in the Lyth Valley in April, at a time when the trees are covered in white blossom. They live for up to 50 years and are best propagated from small suckers from the roots of established trees.
The National Damson Collection has been created at Coalbrooke Arboretum, Ironbridge, to promote and protect the damson heritage. Catherine Moran is part of a group of enthusiasts in Ludlow who promote the Shropshire Prune. Catherine describes the flavour of a ripe Shropshire Prune as “spicy, rich, high notes, low notes, sweet-tart at once”. I have wild damsons as well as Merryweather and Shropshire Prune in my orchard. Merryweather is smaller than Shropshire Prune, but larger than Godshill Blue, Farleigh and Bradley’s King. Continue reading Discovering Damsons
Originally from South America, tomatoes were first grown in the UK as ornamental climbers, and cultivated for their decorative leaves and fruit. The Elizabethans thought the fruit was poisonous and the colour a sign of danger. By the 19th century, commercial cultivation of tomatoes became popular with the appearance of glasshouses in Kent and Essex. With thousands of varieties, well known types include; Cherry and Cocktail, Plum and Baby Plum, Beefsteak and Classic. The most popular for use in cooking and preserving are Classic and Beefsteak.
I grow tomatoes to eat and preserve as chutneys, sauces and chilli jam. In late summer, my small tomato greenhouse is full of plants with an abundant crop. For preserves, I grow “Ferline F1”. Their ripened flavour and deep red colour are perfect for Red Tomato Chutney and Ripe Tomato Sauce. Continue reading Tomatoes – Grow and Preserve
Of all the fruits used in preserving, apples are the most versatile. Native to Asia and Europe, there are thousands of varieties. Cooking apples, high in pectin and acid, are used for making jams, jellies and chutneys. Bramley and Annie Elizabeth are popular varieties. In jam recipes they are mixed with low or medium pectin fruits – blackberries, mulberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. Mixed with herbs or spices, they make jellies to serve with roasted meats.
Unseasonably cold weather in April this year, late flowering of blossom, and exceptional pollination has produced a bumper crop of apples in my orchard. Close to home, blackberries are ripening in the lanes. One of my earliest memories is of watching my mother make blackberry and apple jam after we had been out foraging for blackberries.
My collection of books and pamphlets about preserving has a fascinating leaflet published in Continue reading Apple Appreciation
An invitation to make a video about making Black Currant Jam to promote the World Jampionships in Blairgowrie, Perthshire was irresistible. Blairgowrie is synonymous with growing heritage soft fruit. It has a berry history stretching back to the early years of the 20th century.The town of Blairgowrie became the home of the Scottish Raspberry industry and acquired the nickname, Berry Town. Local residents picked the fruit until expansion in growing called for fruit pickers from other countries. During World War One, posters advertised for 4000 women to pick raspberries to send to servicemen. Today, raspberries are picked alongside strawberries, blueberries, gooseberries, red and black currants.Nearby, the James Hotton Institute ( previously the Scottish Crop Research Institute) researches and develops new berry varieties and growing techniques. Continue reading Blairgowrie Black Currant Jam