Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Traditional Damson Preserves - with Vivien Lloyd

No dear readers I haven't taken up gardening, or taken up with Monty Don either, but I have been lucky enough to spend some of last weekend in Somerset as the guest of Vivien Lloyd and her husband in their lovely farmhouse just outside Bath in Somerset. These are photographs (above) of their wonderful gardens, vegetables and fruit trees.

You might have been lucky enough to see Vivien Lloyd last night on the One Show teaching Mike Dilger how to make jam for an upcoming competition? The results of this challenge, which is to get a few of the shows presenters entering different competitions, will be revealed on Friday evenings show. You can watch last nights show where Vivien teaches Mike Dilger how to make a raspberry and apple jam in her kitchen here on BBC iplayer.

Vivien is an experienced WI (Women's Institute) judge and regularly judges at shows and events all over the country, she has over 25 years experience of making preserves and really has exceptional knowledge about traditional preserving techniques and recipes. She is an author of books and e books on preserving, has won the national marmalade awards in 2008 and has even had a jar of her marmalade given to the queen this year.

I was lucky enough to spend a day with Vivien last week at her home in Somerset, along with Karen and Charlotte, we were guests and had been invited along to improve our preserving knowledge and get an insight into Vivien's passion for traditional preserving. We spent a lovely day making damson, ginger and cardamom chutney, damson and apple jelly and damson cheese; the fresh produce we used was grown in Vivien's wonderful orchards garden by her husband (a very keen and knowledgeable chilli grower too).

It was a really informative day for me, I learned such a lot on how to make preserves the right way (I'm self taught otherwise) and it taught me an enormous amount about how to improve the preserves I make at home. I'm generally a marmalade and chutney person and have never made jam at home before ever! I had picked up a few tips from Viv's First Preserves book as I have a copy, but seeing her make these preserves for real added so much more to my knowledge.

Lunch (made by Vivien)
I was brave enough to take along a jar of plum chutney that I had made from a recipe from First Preserves in early August, for Vivien to try and give me her very experienced opinion of. I can't believe I had the courage to do this (never having had my chutney examined by anyone other than family, who are grateful and rarely critical) but I did it thinking 'feedback is good' and I do want to improve my chutney as I love to make it (and even more I like to eat good chutney too).

Anyway, my plum chutney was duly sampled by all and given a reasonably positive critique and it even warranted a score WI style (by Vivien) for texture and colour, but she told me the flavour wasn't too good, and I think we realised I'd used the wrong vinegar, based on her feedback. So now I have some good tips on how to improve my technique for this recipe, which I will take on board when I have another stab at it.

What did I learn from my preserving day in Somerset? Well, I learned so much I could easily write about it for a week...but essentially, Vivien taught me how to make these traditional and amazing looking and tasting preserves...I learned (in one day) how to make jellies, jams and chutneys, how to test the setting point of each, how to pot them, how to store them and how to make preserves good enough to enter a competition with. I learned about the kind of sugar to use, the utensils and lids to use, whether it be jam, jelly or chutney. I learned that you need patience and time to make good preserves and I can't wait to have a full day to spend in my kitchen preserving. It was also clear at the end of the day that 25 years of preserving experience makes a very good teacher.

For a preserving novice like me it was such a positive experience and it gave me a bit of confidence to try something new.
I have never thought of making a fruit jelly before but after seeing this damson and apple jelly I'm having a bash...think I may start with an apple and mint one as I love it alongside roast lamb.

This damson cheese was such an amazing colour, so deep and rich and the flavour was so intense, we had some dipped in dark chocolate after dinner and lunch...this would make an amazing treat for a cheese board or after a meal. It was heavenly.

I have two pots of this damson, ginger and cardamom chutney they may just be hidden in my secret stash in the kitchen, chutney needs time to develop its flavour, about 3 months should do it...ready just in time for Christmas!

If you are like me and you like to make preserves at home take a look at Vivien's website, its quite informative and from this you can see the 3 e-books she has published on Jams, Marmalades and Preserves. These e-books contain video tuition and well as text and photography.

Vivien has kindly given me a copy of her 'First Preserves' book to give away and she has also agreed to judge my 'home made and well preserved' challenge this year too (if I can face the fear of having my chutney judged to competition standard then so can you!). More details about that to follow soon.
My own plum chutney (a recipe from First Preserves)

N.B. I was invited to take part in this day and if I chose to, to write about my experience honestly. This post is not sponsored and I was given no recompense for this review or paid any expenses occurred in travel etc, I went along of my own accord and I am chosing to write about this because I enjoyed my day. The photographs in this post are all mine except 'First Preserves' book cover. 
Damson cheese dipped in plain chocolate

17 comments:

  1. Sounds like you had a great time. I was lucky to learn jam making from my mum, although she still makes me some rasp and strawberry jam as she lives near the Scottish berry fields. I never had a damson tree but a neighbour used to let me pick theirs, house has changed hands and I don't get them now :(

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    1. We had a great day Janice, have never been lucky enough to have anyone to teach me jam making. Until now. x

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  2. A lovely write up Sue and such a great day. I love your post as it brings it all right back, the smell of spices and fruit as well as the fluffy brioche and spiced fish for lunch......Karen

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  3. Really enjoyed reading your write up Sue. It was such a pleasure to meet you and a really fun and informative day : )

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  4. A detailed and beautifully illustrated account of the best preserves day I've hosted since First Preserves was published last year.
    Helped by some great company. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks for all the great tuition and feeding us so well too Vivien. x

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  5. Great write up. Am very jealous of this wonderful trip you had. I'm really not a jam maker but your post makes it all sound so delightful.

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  6. What a fantastic opportunity. Lucky so and so, and such a nice art of the world to visit too ;0)

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  7. Thank you for sharing this. How nice to make your own preserves and jams.
    Take care. Alida

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  8. What a wonderful day - I'm trying so hard not to be jealous. Would have loved the tips on chillies too.

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    1. Have never seen so many varieties of chilli in one bowl/place they were amazing.

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  9. The damson cheese dipped in chocolate looks absolutely delicious!

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  10. I've just had a look at Vivien's website and I have to say next time I'm in Somerset I might be tempted to join a class for the day! I'd love to know a bit more about making preserves and this looks like the perfect way to learn...it sounds like you had a a great day! :-)

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  11. I am so jealous of the day. Ed did a jam class with Vivien earlier in the year in London. I want to do a chutney class, I do like my chutney, and have not preserved for ages as the cupboard is overflowing and there really is no space.

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Please leave a comment...if you have tried one of my recipes I'd love feedback, and thank you for taking time to pop by to read my blog.

Susan x