The Jam #3 A Journal From England Preserves
Summer, for us, is best spent outside: swimming, eating, drinking and chatting with friends and relations. We do our best in London - thank you Serpentine - but there’s nothing like a change of scene, usually under canvas, usually in France. This year we’ve got the canvas - a new Bell tent big enough for any passing trapeze artists - but we’re sticking to British shores: Cornish ones, to be precise.
As we’re unlikely to be the only ones camping, we thought we’d share some of the nuggets we’ve gleaned the hard way, and by hard way, we mean needing to find food in a heartbeat to feed hungry children.
We also wanted to introduce you to one of our favourite Spa Terminus trader neighbours: Bill, the man behind Bermondsey Hard Pressed and the Cheese Toastie King of London, if not the world. Read on for Kappacesein Bill’s tips on making the perfect toastie, oft copied, never bettered.
CAMPING NOT-SO CONFIDENTIAL
The trick to camping, apart from staying dry, is having enough food to keep kids from complaining - and enough alcohol to wash whatever you’ve eaten down if you’re the ones in charge. Remember, you’re on holiday, so it helps if everything feels like a treat. Also remember, you’re camping so make life easy on yourself when you can. And nothing says luxurious and simple quite like good jam. (Well, this THE JAM!)
“We do, obviously, always take jam with us,” says Sky. “Alongside a jar of peanut butter, it’s a valuable ambient resource because you never know if you’re going to find that nice place to have lunch or if you’re going to get back too late to make supper.”
Ah, supper. The dream, Sky adds, is to find some delicious, local produce to finesse something simple. “Then - boring as it sounds - you can create an upscale, bougie pasta meal, and it’s really very easy. Try something like sauted onion with chilli and shellfish with a slug of white wine; or grated zucchini with a couple of egg yolks, garlic and parmesan, then you’ve got something you can make in literally 20 minutes, and it’s delicious and everybody loves it.”
Kit wise, Kai eschews lugging a BBQ - he’d rather avoid the mess and save the space for a big wooden table and benches. A strong gas burner, a big pot, a really large, solid chopping board, a large knife and a knife sharpener, are the things that make life easier if you’re planning to cook properly, Sky adds. And tea. Proper tea and a lovely tea pot. (See The Jam #2 - Strawberry Days Forever for more on what you should be drinking.) Oh, and coffee. Lots of coffee. (More on coffee coming soon.)
MEET THE DESIGNERS
This time we want your eyes to linger on the label around our Blackcurrant Blighty. Those semi-circle blue swirls and splashes of green owe their existence to none other than Eric Ravilious, who became something of a lockdown hero thanks @Ravilious1942. For the past 16 months, the Twitter account has posted a daily painting by the late British artist, earning him countless new fans, who could do worse than line their kitchen shelves, especially visible ones, with jars of one of our finest flavours, made with 58.8% blackcurrants. We feel sure Eric, an acolyte of the British countryside, who is particularly known for his watercolours of British landscapes, would approve. Like all our label images, the pattern came from the Curwen Press, a now defunct printing press that spent the 1920s commissioning designs by many of Britain’s greatest artists. Ravilious studied under Paul Nash, who designed the black and white backdrop to our London Marmalade label.
For more Ravilious, head to Hastings Contemporary, where some of his images feature in Seaside Modern: Art and Life on the Beach, a fabulous exhibition that runs until 31 October. James Russell, best-known for the blockbuster exhibition ‘Ravilious’ at Dulwich Picture Gallery, curated the show, which dives into the popularity of the British seaside in the first half of the 20th century. Or wait until September, and head to Devizes where the Wiltshire Museum will host the first exhibition dedicated solely to Ravilious’ fascinations with the Downs of Southern England, again curated by James Russell.
Still hesitant about trying Blackcurrant Blighty because, well, you’re here for the titbits about tents and toasties, while biding your time for the chutney special? You’re in the right place. Our favourite way to enjoy our blackcurrant jam isn’t on a conventional piece of toast for breakfast. No, it’s for lunch or even dessert, eaten in the Continental style with something like Fromage Blanc or Ricotta or a young goat’s cheese. Pairing a fruit compote with a young, lactic cheese used to be standard fare in England, when this type of cheese was common, but fell out of favour. Give it a try, perhaps with Kappacasein’s Ricotta, and let us know what you think @englandpreseves on Twitter or Instagram.
MEET THE NEIGHBOURS: TOASTIE TASTEMAKER
If you’ve savoured one of those upscale grilled cheese sandwiches at any point in the last decade or so - you know the ones, the tangy sourdough crispy with the patches of fried cheese that have oozed through the holes, the filling a riot of punchy cheese, with a kick from onions or leeks - you have Bill to to thank. A cheesemaker who learnt his trade in the Jura mountains, Bill Oglethorpe used to work at Neal’s Yard Dairy, where he was asked to come up with something special to celebrate their 25th anniversary in 2004.
He made a raclette while a friend served up Welsh rarebit but it was after the party that the magic happened. “They asked me to animate the front of their Borough Market shop, which is round the corner, and away from the market.” He put a lid on the Welsh rarebit, and the toasted sandwich of dreams was born, using unsold Poilane sourdough and Montgomery Cheddar wastage.
“Using luxury cheese made it more extravagant. If people had the choice, they wouldn’t normally use those ingredients,” he tells THE JAM from his cheese-making arch in Spa Terminus. Now he also uses surplus from Mons cheese and Borough Cheese Company as well as his own Bermondsey Hard Pressed. “The filling has changed to be a bit creamier and a bit less salty. It’s almost like a fondue inside toast,” adds Bill.
He makes 36 cheeses a month, getting 1 kilo of cheese from each 10 litres of milk, which arrives in about 20 milk churns twice a week from a farm in Edenbridge, Kent. The flat spheres sit for anything between 12 and 24 months in their own chilled rooms at the back off his railway arch, which is just across Spa Road from our jam factory. Bill also makes ricotta, yoghurt and labneh.
Tips for the perfect toastie:
Have a good summer and Happy Jamming.
Sky and Kai.