STRAWBERRY SECRETS (FOREVER)
Sky doesn’t quite have strawberry jam running through her veins, but she did grow up with the scent of it in her nostrils: from the Wilkins factory in Tiptree, where she lived in, wait for it….. Strawberry Lane. With the vats bubbling away every June, the whole village would smell of strawberry jam. In Bermondsey, it’s more likely to be our chutneys perfuming the air (more on chutney in another issue), but you should smell our kitchen when we’ve got a batch of Strawberry Days on the go.
Thanks for sharing some of your jam-making tips on Instagram. (We’re @englandpreserves - come and say hi.) We learnt how @tcommt sometimes macerates the fruit, plus adds melted butter “to tame the froth” just like their mother and great grandmother. But @the_pam_the_jam prefers a splash of oil to butter “because it’s absorbed into the jam”, after poaching the berries first if they’re particularly juicy to drive off some of the moisture.
If you’re a jam-making newbie, don’t be shy: give it a go. Consider these pointers as “conceptual guidance” rather than a recipe, and please let us know how you get on.
TASTEMAKERS: THE RARE TEA LADY
As every British holidaymaker knows, there’s little better than a cream tea: we’re talking scones, jam, cream and a perfect cuppa. But how often is the tea element as good as it could be?
If you ask Henrietta Lovell, AKA the Rare Tea Lady, not often enough. She is on a mission to get everyone to improve the quality of their brew, for the sake of the people who grow tea as much as those who drink it. We’d agree, which is why you can find Henrietta’s recent book, Infused, Adventures in Tea, in the books section of our website. It’s also why we ditched tea bags years ago in favour of tea leaves. (We love everything Henrietta sells but we are also working our way through the selection at Fortnums & Mason, with Keemun a current favourite.)
Henrietta points out that as a nation, we only turned to the type of cheap, industrial tea found tea bags in desperation during the Second World War when it was all we could get. That’s also when we started sloshing so much milk in: it helped to hide the inferior taste. “Before then, people would spend more of their income on tea than alcohol - something people in China still do,” she tells THE JAM.
Slowly, slowly, we are rectifying our bad habits. “In 2004, when I started the Rare Tea Company, there was pretty much no loose leaf tea drinking in the UK. Now it’s not so esoteric,” says Henrietta. “There is such a big difference between industrial tea and something crafted by an artisan. It’s these same as with wine or olive oil.”
She’s anxious people shouldn’t get too precious about their cuppa, however. “You don’t have to know the name of some weird variety in Taiwan to be a tea connoisseur. If you like English breakfast, buy English breakfast, but buy the best English Breakfast that you can. There is no snobbery.”
And the reason tea goes so well with something sweet like bread and jam? That’s because the sugar balances the tannins. “It’s like making a cocktail, you try to balance all the different flavour profiles. Russians often add jam to their tea,” says Henrietta.
What’s on Henrietta’s tea menu?