THE JAM #2 A Journal From England Preserves
We’re back with a specific jam today, for the second issue of THE JAM, Strawberry Days, in celebration of all the jam being scoffed at Wimbledon this past fortnight, which jam connoisseurs might recognise.
This is the second year we’ve supplied our strawberry jam to restaurants and pop-up marquees at the tennis hub after a hiatus last year when deliveries had to go the wrong way: after the pandemic forced the cancellation of the championships for the first time since the Second World War, we got their surplus strawberries, 750kg of them to be precise.
Nothing says summer quite like strawberries and tennis - the fruit has been served at Wimbledon since the first tournament in 1877 - but you don’t need a ticket for the Championship to enjoy a jar of Strawberry Days. And best of all, there’s still time to order some before Finals Weekend.
As well as being perfect slathered on bread and butter with a cuppa (scroll down for more on tea), Strawberry Days elevates even the simplest sponge to something special. Or for something different, why not try a Bakewell tart, something Sky has been whipping up since she was young. This recipe from XXX is a particular favourite. Jam also stars in Swiss rolls, doughnuts, or for the retro-minded, the Queen of Pudding, which THE JAM subscriber Penny Dorritt remembers being on the menu of her grandfather’s old hotel in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, in the 1950s.
After gleaning some recipe tips from some of our loyal fans, we wanted to share how we make ours (keep scrolling for pointers). You don’t even need a glut of home-grown gems, a few punnets from your local farmers’ market (or supermarket) will do. In fact, Sky thinks it’s best to make only a few jars: four at most. That’s how you get the recipe - and the consistency - just right. There’s nothing worse than having a cupboard-full of substandard jam, although perhaps that’s why jam tarts were invented!
MEET THE DESIGNERS
You shouldn’t judge a jar by its label, but if you can’t help it why not start with our Strawberry Days? Like all our labels, the pattern comes from a woodblock print made for the Curwen Press, which started life printing music in 1862, expanding by the 1920s to commission designs from artists. This one was by the great EO Hoppé - don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of him; few had before the National Portrait Gallery’s 2011 exhibition of his work, described in this lovely review by Laura Cumming.
To Cecil Beaton, who studied his work, Hoppé was “the Master” but the German-born, London-based portrait photographer disappeared from the public eye after selling five decades of his work in 1954 to a London picture library aged 76. His pictures, which gained him a reputation as one of Britain’s most influential international photographers for decades, joined the ranks of what’s known as “stock” photos, which aren’t searchable by name.
We’re chuffed we got the chance to spread the Hoppé love; one day, maybe, we’ll bid for a print. NB: Did you know you can peek at any of our labels to decode the man or woman behind it? Their names are all there, which isn’t something everyone has spotted, so do spread the word.
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?
SLICE OF LIFE
If it stops raining for long enough, we intend to pack a picnic and hotfoot it to London’s The Scoop, an 800-seater amphitheatre next to Tower Bridge to watch Wimbledon on a giant screen. It’s there every year - pandemic permitting - and, even better, is free and you don’t need to book.
Sky & Kai