The Jam

Jam today, not tomorrow, has been our philosophy ever since 2001, when we first began bubbling up tiny batches of preserves on the hob in our flat in Wood Green. 
Which is why we’re excited to bring you THE JAM, today, in your inbox and again, not tomorrow, but soon depending on what else June has in store. 
We’ve spent the jammiest two decades (happy birthday to us; party invites to follow…..), obsessing about fruit and progressing from a farmers’s market stall improvised from our dining table and a bedsheet to our own mini factory, Saturday boutique, and obligatory online shop all tucked away in a railway arch in Bermondsey, the original larder of London. 
Jam, to Sky, is about cramming as much fruity goodness as possible into each jar, a principle she has upheld since coming across the etymology of jam in The Book of Marmalade, by C. Anne Wilson, a food historian. Wilson writes how the word, jam, entered the British language in the late 16th century, via the Middle East “for there is an Arab word, ‘jam’, which means ‘close-packed’ or ‘all together’.” 
“The word passed into the realm of confectionary, to denote those preserves where soft fruits cooked with sugar were crushed together, rather than sieved, and could thus truly be described as ‘jammed’, or ‘in a jam’,” Wilson adds. 
We want you to think of this newsletter as the literary version of our jars, packed with interesting snippets about food, fun, fine art, and feeling alive, especially after the hardest year since those early days in north London. We’ll have interviews with food writers and food makers, starting with our neighbours at Bermondsey’s Spa Terminus, home to the very best of everything from coffee and beer to cheese and kimchi - as well as jam, obviously. We’ll be telling you stories about the artists behind the designs on our labels, as well as giving you a glimpse of life behind the scenes in our Factory, which like Andy Warhol’s even has its own dachshund. (More on Monty later.) 

Meet the Designers

 

Although it’s what’s inside that counts, looking good never hurts, and we like to think our jars look as good as it gets thanks to the artistic mastery of greats such as Paul Nash, Eric Ravilious, and Edward Bawden. The black and white backdrop to the label on our London Marmalade is almost as distinctive as the dark orange interior, made from 100% Seville oranges. 
The pattern is a woodblock print Paul Nash made for the Curwen Press, which started life printing music in 1862, expanding to commission designs from artists by the 1920s. Nash was a surrealist painter and war artist, as well as photographer, printer, writer and designer of applied art. A slashie, in other words, long before the term became trendy/necessary for the growing army of self-employed people working several jobs. More than that, Nash played a key role in the development of Modernism in English art, not to mention a key posthumous role here with us.

Taste Makers

 

We were fans of Jenny Linford long before she wrote about us in The Missing Ingredient: The Curious Role of Time in Food and Flavour, her brilliant take on what it really takes to reap the best from what we eat. Her book is one of handful of favourites we recently added to our online shop.

What was it about England Preserves that inspired you to include them in your book?

I've long been an admirer of their jams. I've always really like the way they capture the flavours and freshness of the fruit, in a way which so many jams fail to do. 

For The Missing Ingredient, I sought out the food producers I really respect and admire in order to get an insight into the care and time they take. So when it came to the section on jam and marmalade-making, Sky and Kai were an obvious choice. It was so interesting to visit them and watch them at work

Are there any jams you make that conjure up your heritage and memories of people who are no longer with you? 

I didn't grow up with a family tradition of making jams and marmalades. I do, however, love making marmalade - a very fresh, zingy one - which I give to my friends and family hoping they will  enjoy it and think of me when they eat it! A great jam maker I often think of when I eat England Preserves' jams is the late Brian Haw of the Academy of Fruit. He was a lovely man whom I met through my work as a food writer and someone who inspired Sky and Kai through his own wonderful preserving, a real mentor to them. I like that connection.

How important a factor is time when it comes to preserving?

Preserving food is a way of fighting the deteriorating effects of time on food, so it is a big strand in The Missing Ingredient. Time is very complex and overlaps, so you have factors like the seasonality and the ripeness of the fruits which England Preserves choose to make into jams. Some have brief windows. I love the idea that that fruit is then captured in a sugared form which extends its life and allows you a taste of - say - golden, sun-filled apricots - on a dark, cold winter day. 

 

 

 

Eating to Live

 

Now it’s warmed up we’re dying to invite some friends over to share some Eaton Mess, oozing with our Strawberry Days. Or perhaps a tea party. Bloom can make her Victoria Sponge, which comes with our Raspberry Deluxe as standard. If we’re short on time but still need a treat, Tim’s Dairy Kefir Coconut yogurt fits the bill, topped with anything you like, and we like Raspberry Deluxe.

 

 

Slice of Life

 

We’ve been surviving thanks to Sunday Swimming in the Park with Swans, to the musical accompaniment not of Stephen Sondheim but of horse hooves, geese honks, and feathers flapping on take off and landing. That’s the Serpentine in Hyde Park, our watery salvation, rules permitting, of course, and we all know there have been plenty of those. 

 

Closer to home, gardening has kept us both busy (Kai is majoring on herbs this summer, while Sky’s focus remains floral) while gin sours have kept us lubricated, thanks to a well timed nudge from Richard Godwin, whose excellent The Spirits newsletter  was a weekly staple during lockdown. We’ve planted some late fruiting raspberries, which are great and easy to jam. Recipe tips to follow.

 

 

Living to Eat

 

Having been holed up for months (and months!) with our two children and Monty the jam hound, we’re desperate to eat anywhere without the trusty trio in tow. Yet to book anything specific but dreaming of the set lunch menu at Noble Rot, or a glass of wine and some croquettes at 40 Maltby Street, although of course it would be a bottle and several more dishes from their blackboard of dreams (see photo above).

Let's Jam

 

When Sky told her father she was setting up a business making jam, he popped a parcel in the post with a £50 cheque and photocopies of the preserve sections of her grandmother’s editions of Larouse Gastronomique, Mrs Beaton, and Eliza Acton. One day, perhaps, we’ll add our own to the jam-making canon. We’d love to hear how *you* make yours.

Email, tweet or Insta us some recipes and you could find yourself jammed into the very next edition. 

Happy jamming. 

Sky and Kai