A lifestyle blog bringing you fashion, music, food, and everything else that's just nice about Bristol and beyond!
On a rather rainy and humid Saturday a few weekends ago I jumped into the car and went for a trip into the deepest darkest and simply stunning Bath countryside to try my hand at making some jam’s, jellies and cordials! Not something you would do every weekend but it certainly was a treat!
Well, the very lovely people at Vale House Kitchen Cookery School invited a few of us to come and spend the day in their kitchen to learn all about preserving from the rather amazing jam queen, Vivien Lloyd! What a lovely treat it was and what a really super way to spend a Saturday!
On arrival I was greeted was the smell of warm toast and a wonderful selection of jams and preserves to get stuck into. Vivien explained that she wanted us to all sample what we would be making and Bod, who owns Vale House and who was our pot washer for the day, was on standby with tea’s and coffee’s to make us feel very welcome indeed! What you also couldn’t miss were the huge bowls filled to the brim with the most amazing looking strawberries and raspberries – today was going to be a tasty day!
The kitchen itself is light, airy and is beautifully decked out, giving it a modern farm house feel. It clearly has been very lovingly restored by Bod, Annie and baby Michel who own and run Vale House. My companions for the day included Bod’s mum, Sally, Simple Lampoons mum and brother, Sal from Sal’s Kitchen and a lovely lady called Ann.
Anyway, back to business! After our hello’s, hot drinks and sampling the rather amazing preserves (I became slightly addicted to the black current and chilli jam) it was down to the business of jamming, jellying and cordialing.
Vivien gave us a run down on the days agenda, a little bit about her very impressive background and got straight into it with giving us some great insight on how to become great preservers! She kicked the morning off with a great demo in perfect TV chef style on making our raspberry jam! Her whole manner was so warm and really engaging. She is full of quirky little stories and amazing tips on making the perfect jams. She even told us all about how she once had to make jam in a wok!
Now, what I am about to share with you all has come straight from the horses mouth and if you are interested in making some amazing preserves should certainly be noted… I am going to share Vivien’s, the Yoda of jam making, golden tips which on this rather wet Saturday morning filled me with confidence and inspiration for my exciting day ahead. I hope they do the same for you.
“If you are going to make a Jam start with raspberry – it’s the easiest one to learn and is the perfect base recipe”
“The key to the perfect jam? The perfect balance between fruit and sweet”
“Jelly. It needs to have a good wobble!”
“Good quality fruit, sugar, acid make all the difference”
“Granulated sugar is better than cane and jam sugar is a crime, yes a crime, against preserving!”
“1 part cordial to 5 parts water – this is how it should always be to make the prefect drink”
We embarked on making raspberry and vanilla jam together which by all accounts was very successful even if I do say so myself. We where even brave with the rolling boil which I have to say the first time you have to do can be slightly terrifying as huge great big pink bubbles look like they are going to boil over!
After all that jam making it was lunch in Annie and Bods house. We all sat in there very impressive farm style kitchen enjoyed Vivien’s homemade veggie lasagne with homemade garlic bread, which was almost brioche like, and a fresh salad straight from the garden. That was all topped off with Vivien’s sticky marmalade cake which I have to say was not only delicious but very fitting for the day!
After lunch it was jelly time! In order to save time Vivien had prepared the juice because apparently the fruit needs time to soften and then left be overnight dripping from a muslim bag – who knew the would of jelly was so complicated! Again I worked with Sal and even after a bit of pan switching and rolling boil trouble we still managed to produce a lovely looking jelly!
Next up it was cordial time and I finally was able to get stuck into the wonderful strawberries! We worked on making two cordials at the same time, a lemon geranium one which was a very new concept to me and a truly delightful strawberry raspberry.
Sal was great at the cordial making and her patience was truly demonstrated when we had to sieve our softened strawberries and raspberries though muslim. I was far to busy as this point with stuffing my face with the luxurious strawberries! I am not kidding when I say they where heavenly! After having a chat with Annie later in the car she explained how important it is for Vale House to use the best quality ingredients and how they always try and source everything locally. That can clearly be seen because everything we used was just fantastic!
Cordials all bottled up, jelly set and jams galore we certainly did do ourselves proud with the table full of beautiful bottles and jars! I have to say I really did feel very inspired to go and try my hand a preserving because I really did enjoy myself.
One final fact on Vivien… She has been tasked to make a raspberry and chocolate jam! Yes, you have not read this wrong, she is using a very special Highland chocolate to create a limited edition jam!
Vale House Kitchen Cookery School is run by Bod and Annie Griffiths outskirts of Timsbury. They run a whole variety of courses from bread making to full day of shooting. For more information you can go to their site – valehousekitchen.co.uk
Personally if you are looking to learn to broaden your culinary skills or you just fact a really good day out I would certainly recommend paying them a visit. I am looking forward to going back in the future perhaps on the marmalade and bake day!