Gorgeous thick fruit and vegetable packed jars of preserves from a true cottage industry in Surrey.
The upside: A huge range of lovingly prepared jams, marmalades, jellies and chutneys made by hand the old fashioned way.
The downside: Only on sale in a few outlets and charity events
The flipside: With a new website and online shop launching soon sourcing will become easy peasy!
In the artisan food world there are many different styles of producers. Some who produce from their own kitchens with little or no start up budget or investment and others who have investors, industrial units and can afford branding and marketing. Some companies of course have a bit of both. I am comfortable with any of these options providing the eating quality and provenance of the products is top notch. Like a lot of my new connections my introduction to Jam Packed Preserves came via twitter. I follow a food consultant and food product guru Tessa Stuart who sent me a link to Jam Packed as they are based in Surrey. She has written two extremely digestible and informative books for wannabe food producers (Packed and Flying off the Shelves), which are best sellers. Her pedigree comes from her time working with top companies such as the Innocent Smoothie Brand. So with a recommendation to link up I happily took the bait.
I went to visit Sue and Kevin Woodward at their headquarters in Epsom to record their story. I had already had a chat to Sue before my visit so I knew that she and her husband had careers in the NHS, but Kevin had retired from his role working a senior clinician in operating theatres two years ago. Sue continues to work in nurse education. Alongside a very full on life they had taken on an allotment 8 yrs ago and an inherited a vigorous bed of autumn fruiting raspberries. Realising they couldn’t possibly consume all this fruit themselves Sue rang her mum up for her jam recipe. As the season moved blackcurrants and redcurrants became available they kept making more and more jam. Selling and giving surplus to friends the beginning of what later became ‘Jam Packed’ emerged.
It didn’t take long for the jam-making bug to bite and they expanded to jellies and chutneys too. They decided to sell their surplus stock and their first commercial deal was with a local butcher who took their products. He recorded how much he sold and Sue and Kevin got their meat from him in return. This is great example of good old fashioned bartering and something my clients know I am not averse to either. Friends also became regular customers and loved their products so much they encouraged them to take tables at local fund raising events. In fact Sue and Kevin prefer to attend fund-raisers with their products rather than farmers markets as they can support charities while they are selling.
Having had a break from jam making to complete and submit her PhD in 2012, the couple also became carers for their first grandchild two year ago and decided to build a business making preserves around this. So while they have been slowly building up their business over the past few years they now want to take things to the next level. Not that they have been slouching since 2014. You can buy their products from several local independent farm shops, delis and tea rooms throughout Surrey and into Hampshire. In addition they are also sold at West Green Fruit Farm where they have been producing jam from the fruit grown for a couple of years (sold on site in the PYO).
What I really like here is that Sue and Kevin pick a lot of the fruit they use for their jams themselves from their own allotment, garden, farms, friends gardens and contacts they have made along the way. Many of whom are now customers. This is a sustainable model, which also takes advantage of fruit grown that would not otherwise be harvested. In addition they know exactly where their fruit comes from and that it’s local (apart from Seville oranges and lemon for marmalade).
Provenance and sustainability are all good market hooks but what about taste? I am the first to admit that the jam and chutney market is congested to say the least. All food retailers love products with a long shelf life and that’s exactly what you get with this style of preserving. Consequently it’s also why lots of producers enter the market and why farm shops are stacked high with jars of curious and better-known concoctions. Interestingly when I went to visit Jam Packed I was thinking ‘not another jam producer’ but I was pleasantly surprised. Here is why they are different.
In addition to the usual jams (such as raspberry and blackcurrant) Jam Packed also produce a range of jams from hybrid fruits such as tummelberries (similar to tayberries) and chuckleberries (a cross between a blackcurrant a redcurrant and a gooseberry) giving this particular jam an interesting texture. Adding silvanberries, boysenberries and loganberries to the mix and I am starting to get very interested. We carried out a tasting session and all of these jams as the company name suggests are made with a high fruit to sugar ratio and it stands out in the fiercely fruity flavours each with its own personality. This duo also makes a range of marmalades (all with hand cut peel) and Seville orange jelly. The jelly looks as glorious as it tastes and I have my fingers crossed that one might come home with me (it does) as I can imagine it immediately as a glaze on duck breast or as part of a chocolate and orange mousse.
Kevin has also become a master of chili-based jams, jellies and chutneys where they have won awards for their products in annual The Chutney Awards. Jam-packed, has for a small artisan producer a great range of seasonal products some of which are fiercely traditional and others more contemporary in style. Recently added lines include Naga Chili jam and chutney made with real ale from Surrey Brewery Hog’s Back.
You also have to applaud their marketing style which includes supporting charity events by taking tables at local fetes and fairs rather than farmers markets is endearing to say the least.
If you would like to sample their products first hand they have a list of stockists on their new website, an online shop for retailers and for sale direct to the public. Sue and Kevin are also happy to come and do meet the producer events and tastings to share their delicious hand crafted products. If you are a fan of the local food movement look out for this brand as they really are ‘hand stirred’ in Surrey.
Sue Woodward 07941932529
Some of the images taken for this post were taken by Ben de Montagnac whose company WBYW have also built the new Jam Packed Website.