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.
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
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.
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.
For a preserving novice like me it was such a positive experience and it gave me a bit of confidence to try something new.
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.
'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