Damson Day with Vivien Lloyd:
Autumn Preserves Workshop in an Old Somerset Farmhouse
For those of you in the preserving world, there will be no need to introduce Vivien Lloyd, as she is a well-known and much respected WI judge, as well as being the author of First Preserves (Marmalades, Jams, Chutneys), a best-selling and hugely informative preserves cookbook, as well as several eBooks about jam, marmalade and chutney. As an avid preserver of many years, (about twenty years to be precise) Vivien and I often share our passion for traditional methods of preserving via her hugely popular #vivjamchat sessions on Twitter, as well as through emails and my blog; in fact, some of my readers will remember I reviewed Vivien’s book First Preserves, several months ago and made two of her delectable recipes for my review…….Apple & Ginger Jam and Book Review – First Preserves by Vivien Lloyd and Preserves from the Pantry! Apricot & Orange Chutney from First Preserves by Vivien Lloyd. Both preserves were easy to follow from her book and were VERY well received by family and friends! So, when Vivien invited me and two other food writer/blogger friends down to her home for a Damson Day Preserves Workshop last week, I was thrilled to accept. I was delighted to hear that the other two “students” for the day were none other than my lovely Lancashire Lass friend, Sue, (from Not Just Any Old Baking Blogspot) as well as the charming Charlotte (from Charlotte’s Kitchen Diary) – both of them are very good friends of mine, and I have had the privilege of meeting them both in the past.
The day started off with jam! A lovely breakfast was provided with pots of Vivien’s home-made jam and marmalade, as well as some of her home-made brioche – a recipe from Crust by Richard Bertinet. For those of you who are interested in attending one of Vivien’s excellent preserves workshops, all the dates and details are listed here: Vivien’s Courses and there is a wonderful B and B, The Old Vicarage in Kilmersdon, nearby that will be happy to accommodate any jam makers.
Vivien had devised a wonderful day in celebration of Damsons – Damson Day, and we were going to be able to watch, prepare and cook three preserves alongside her: Damson Cheese, Damson and Apple Jelly and Damson, Ginger and Cardamom Chutney. Vivien and her husband live in a beautiful old Somerset farmhouse, where the courses are held; they have their own orchard as well as growing their own soft fruits, and as we soon discovered, they also have a hot-house devoted to numerous types of chillies!
The kitchen was large and airy and there was ample space for all four of us to prepare the fruit at the kitchen table, as well as observe Vivien in close proximity; three preserves is a lot to manage in a day, so the fruit and vegetables has already been prepared for the Damson, Ginger and Cardamom chutney, but Sue and I set about chopping the apples for the Damson and Apple Jelly as soon as breakfast was over, and then progressed onto pitting and sieving the cooked damsons for the Damson Cheese. Vivien provided us with aprons and recipe notes, and as I expected, she was very informative and knowledgeable about the history and traditions of all things preserving, and, although I consider myself to be a confident and experienced preserver, I learnt SO much from the one day workshop, with valuable tips about when to add the sugar to chutney and jams, as well as how to gauge the setting point for jellies and fruit cheeses.
We made the Damson Cheese and Damson Chutney in the morning before lunch, which was a lovely spiced cod and salmon dish followed by citrus and almond cake, and chocolate coated damson cheese sweetmeats. Vivien’s preserves courses include lunch as well as tea and coffee, and are excellent value at £85 per person. She holds two kind of workshops at present – “Making days” which include demonstrations and hands-on preparation, cooking and finishing marmalades, jams or chutneys, and learning about selecting fruit, pectin levels, setting point, sterilising and bottling your preserves. And “Competition days” that take you through the exact judging process explaining the marking system and what the judges look for in a competition. You will be encouraged to evaluate your own marmalade, jam or chutney and take part in a taste test. Our Press Day workshop was a combination of both courses, and was extremely interesting.
All the ingredients for our Damson Day preserves workshop were provided, and we were also able to take away a pot of each preserve…….the fruits of our preserving day! Rather than copying all my copious notes here, about the individual preserves that I made, I have permission from Vivien to share two of the recipes in this post – Damson Cheese, Damson and Apple Jelly, with photos added to the step-by-step procedure within the recipe steps; the third recipe for Damson, Ginger and Cardamom chutney can be found in Vivien’s book First Preserves. I have added a couple of video snippets from Vivien’s website below, to whet your appetite with a view to purchasing her book or eBooks…..I love the videos that are shown in the eBooks, and they will prove invaluable for novices and experienced jam makers alike.
After lunch we proceeded with our last preserve of the day, which was the Damson and Apple Jelly; the pulp had been draining for several hours and the juice was then measured and the sugar added, according to the juice to sugar ratio (as shown in the recipes below) before being boiled to setting point and potted. We now had jars and jars of glowing jelly, rich Bordeaux coloured chutney and ruby red cheese…..it was indeed a veritable treasure of Damson Delicacies, but, the day had also yielded so much more for me, I had learnt new tips for chutney making, as well as invaluable jelly and marmalade tricks of the trade, especially in respect to showing them at local fairs and shows. Viven is a long time WI preserves judge and she is going to be featured on BBC One Show this TUESDAY 18th September, so DO tune in for that, as I will be doing…..it will be an interesting programme!
And what will I do with my new-found knowledge? I will be making all three recipes at home, for gift giving and for “general daily use”; plus, I also think that I am a more confident preserver now – you are never too old to learn new tricks and tips, and, for me, the essence of Vivien’s Workshop was very definitely the knowledge that I took away with me, as well as the passion that she has for traditional preserving procedures and age-old recipes – the use of local and home-grown ingredients and the act of preserving them, “laying them down” for the winter months……it is indeed an alchemy – from damson to dazzling jelly! One of Vivien’s workshops would not only be enjoyable for old-hands (like me), but they will give confidence to new jam makers, as well as useful tips for those who want to sweep the board at the local WI Jam Competitions…..and, I think they would also make a great Christmas gift too.
Before I leave, I am delighted to tell you, that Vivien has offered me a copy of one her eBooks, First Preserves – Chutney, as a Giveaway on my blog……to celebrate the onset of the autumn chutney season……I will be posting the giveaway in a separate post later, but I will pop back here to add the link for ease! And one more thing, watch out for Vivien’s Chutney Chat on Twitter on the 27th September, between 5 and 7pm – #vivchutneychat is the hash tag to follow and she will be there to answer all your chutney queries! I’ll be there too……
With a HUGE thanks to Vivien and her husband for making me feel so welcome, their hospitality, the chilli lesson, for the superb food and drink as well as the preserves instruction; a big hello and thanks to Rob from Big Blu Design too, for your suggestions, I will be in touch and finally, a big thanks to Sue for lifts to and from the station, and to Charlotte for transporting my preserves to me – they were too hot to handle when I left for the train!
Disclaimer: I participated in a Press Preserves Workshop at Vivien Lloyd’s home, and was not required or asked to write a review post on my blog; I chose to share my experiences, as I believe the course was excellent and I would like to promote it. All views expressed are my own and this is not a sponsored post. Karen S Burns-Booth
Damson and Apple Jelly
|Serves||5 x 225g jars|
|Prep time||2 hours, 30 minutes|
|Cook time||10 minutes|
|Total time||2 hours, 40 minutes|
|Meal type||Breakfast, Condiment, Side Dish, Snack|
|Misc||Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold|
|By author||Vivien Lloyd|
- 2 kilos cooking apples (washed)
- 1 kilo damsons (washed)
- granulated cane sugar
This jewelled damson and apple jelly is wonderful on bread and toast, as well as when added to casseroles and sauces. Also perfect when served with cheese and cold cuts.
|Serves||Makes about 1.5kg|
|Prep time||2 hours|
|Cook time||30 minutes|
|Total time||2 hours, 30 minutes|
|Meal type||Breakfast, Condiment|
|By author||Vivien Lloyd|
- 1.4kg damsons
- 150ml water
- granulated cane sugar
A delicious and traditionally made fruit cheese that makes the most of the damson season. Makes attractive gifts and is perfect for the autumn cheeseboard as well as when served with charcuterie. Also wonderful when coated in chocolate and served as an after dinner petits four.
Jelly aka Meredith says
The color of that Damson and Apple Jelly was exquisite! I sure would like a taste of it!!!
Thanks so much! It was a great day and the preserves we made were all just lovely!
What a wonderful day out. I really do love the colour of damson’s when they are cooked. The damson cheese coated in chocolate looks amazing. And how much fun it must have been. Now you will be even better at jam making!! xx
Thanks Laura! A great day was had by all and I learnt so much. I plan to make some recipes with some of my damson booty over the next few weeks…..and yes, the chocolate coated damson cheese treats we’re lush! Karen 🙂
Jude A Trifle Rushed says
What a great day. I took a similar course at Leith’s (Marmalade and Chutney) and had the same problem with hot preserves at the end of the day, I had to ring one of my sons to come and pick me and the marmalade up, the tube and bus were not going to work!
It was so funny Jude, I wanted to take my preserves on the day I made them, but, they were really too hot to handle and so Charlotte kindly brought them back for me – up to London! The day was just fantastic….loved every minute of it! Karen
Sounds like you had an amazing day – love the colour on the damson and apple jelly!
It was a FAB day thanks Hannah! The colour of that jelly is JUST lovely isn’t it?
That was a lovely day, and you have captured it so well, it was so enjoyable; and I can tell you spending the day with Karen is like being with the food version of Wikipedia…the amazing knowledge of Karen + Viv together was brilliant. xxx
Thanks Sue! It was BRILLIANT that we spent some time together too, as last time, we only had a couple of hours at Castle Howard in the tea room! Looking forward to seeing you at the Manchester Blog Camp! Karen
I am so envious of your day, it sounds fabulous. I do so love jellies, it’s the jewel like quality they have that makes them so spectacular. But I’ve never made damson jelly before, it looks gorgeous.
Thanks Choclette! It was a great day and even though I am a jam maker, as well as most preserves, I did learn so many new things! The damson jelly is divine and I plant to serve with with an autumn casserole very soon!
what a wonderful day you have had and what a brilliant write up… and that Damson Jelly is to die for… I have a secret damson bush in an old garden down the road and I now know what will become of them… and i’m really not a big jam maker myself, so this is true inspiration… delightful!
Thanks Dom! It was a wonderful day and the damson preserves that we took away with us are JUST lush! I am really interested to see what you make with your secret damsons, and I won’t tell anyone where the secret tree is either!
Vivien Lloyd says
I loved reading your post Karen and the photography is brilliant- even the one of me 🙂 So pleased you all learnt so much! Next time we must do Marmalade and maybe Curds?
Thanks Vivien, and once again, I cannot thank you both enough for your warm welcome, great preserving instruction, all the lovely food and the damson treats that we took home! I am ABSOLUTELY on for marmalade and curds next! Yes! 🙂 Karen
Lisa Williams says
I love your jam posts thank you for all your wonderful posts 🙂
Maya Russell says
Thank you for the damson and apple jelly recipe. Looks lovely.
sophie buckle says
Looks so delicious love reading your breakfast blogs!!
Maya Russell says
Shared on Twitter as @maisietoo – https://twitter.com/maisietoo/status/319652553447047169