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Meet Somerset's Champion preserve-maker would like to see more of us get the taste for jam-making

PUBLISHED: 12:14 26 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:06 20 February 2013

Vivien at home with the tools of her trade

Vivien at home with the tools of her trade

With her hot chutney now on the shelves of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's shop, champion preserve-maker Vivien Lloyd tells Sarah Ford how she would like to see more of us get the taste for jam-making. Portrait by Johanna Sheldrake.

With her hot chutney now on the shelves of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's shop, champion preserve-maker Vivien Lloyd tells Sarah Ford how she would like to see more of us get the taste for jam-making. Portrait by Johanna Sheldrake.


If there's one upside to the credit crunch, it is the revival of traditional crafts as we search around for ways to save money. Many of us have rediscovered the joys of gardening and the satisfaction that comes from knowing that everything on the dinner plate has been home-grown.

One person who would like to see us take things a step further and take up the lost art of preserving is Somerset 'jam queen' Vivien Lloyd. With more than 20 years' experience of making and demonstrating award-winning preserves, Vivien is recognised as a leading authority on the subject. In 2008 she won at the World Marmalade Festival and this year she was filmed giving a demonstration by BBC Countryfile.

Locally her hot chutney can be found in Wells' Queen Street Deli and now in the River Cottage stores in Axminster run by TV chef and real food campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Vivien produces her preserves from locally sourced fruit and vegetables. They are made in small batches in her own kitchen to the traditional recipes, rather than the more modern - and what she regards as often incorrect - versions. So passionate is she about ensuring the old recipes survive, that Vivien shares her knowledge with others through her masterclasses.

For the past two years Vivien and her family have lived in a village near Midsomer Norton in a former farmhouse, parts of which date back to the 16th century. Her kitchen table overlooks the garden where much of the produce for her preserves (including the chillis for her hot chutney) is grown by husband Nigel.

"He always was a very keen gardener and now he's retired he has the time to do it and enjoy it," says Vivien who first began making preserves around 20 years ago. "We lived in a small village in Worcestershire and I was at home with my three children. It was a stone- and soft-fruit growing area and we had a garden that was very prolific, so it was not uncommon to be presented with 400lb of damsons in a year. So I started making things myself, entered a village show, and a judge asked me if I had thought about doing it in more detail."

Vivien was largely self-taught and adapts recipes from a book called The Home Preservation of Fruit and Vegetables, a government publication which first came out in 1929. Sadly it is now out of print, apparently due to lack of demand.

"People have developed a taste for mass-produced jams and chutneys and are unaware of how a true preserve should taste, which I think is a shame," says Vivien.

"There are not enough people around who have been exposed to the skill, and that is obvious in competitions. Overall, numbers and standards have declined - there is just a lack of awareness of how to do things, that's all it is.

"A marmalade should be a lovely light colour, the peel should be evenly distributed and the consistency should be like a jelly," she explains, spooning some out in order to demonstrate. "Often people fail to cook their fruit in water for long enough so the peel is still stiff and when you add sugar it just becomes tougher."

Vivien is happy to answer queries on her website and believes that once you've been taught the art of preserving properly you will be successful. "There's a whole generation in their twenties to forties who have not learned how to do it because of the social shift, where more parents are going out to work. They are not at home so these things are not being made. But consumer buying habits are changing, so hopefully this will change."

Thankfully the family all love her chutneys and jams, and now Vivien would love to launch a jam festival here in Somerset so that more of us get the taste for homemade varieties. The festival could match the huge international marmalade event in Cumbria and the chutney competition in mid-Wales and would be staged in aid of charity. But first, she wants to hear from anyone who could offer a venue.

If it comes off, Vivien's festival could see home cooks around the world vying for the title of jam champion.

Find Vivien's recipes and help with your preserve-making at www.vivienlloydpreserves.com.


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