A WI judge, multiple award-winner for her own homemade jams and marmalades, and long-established teacher, Vivien Lloyd is the undisputed queen of preserving beautiful British produce. Although delighted to see pursuits like jam-making making a comeback, Vivien is determined to share the traditional methods she firmly believes are the secret to the very best preserves. At Vale House she leads a number of popular courses on jam and chutney-making.
What drew you into your particular area of expertise?
In the late 1980s my husband and I were living in Worcestershire with a fabulously abundant garden full of fruit trees, and when my husband managed to pick 200kg of plums in one season (the aptly named Early Rivers Prolific Plum variety!) I decided to try my hand at preserving them so they didn’t go to waste. I immediately got the preserving bug and soon entered the local village show, where one of the judges told me about a WI certificate in preserving I might enjoy. From there I went on to become a WI judge, whilst continuing to make my own jams, marmalades and chutneys, and when I won the Best of the Best Award at the World’s Original Marmalade Festival in 2008, that gave me the push to start teaching and sharing what I’d learnt.
What inspires you about it?
These days it really is a dying craft – although people are still making jams and pickles, the traditional methods are firmly in decline, so I’m determined not to let them vanish. I also love the way that you’re led by the seasons. No two seasons are ever the same, so no two batches of preserves will be the same either; you’re always working with what’s available. I’m always excited by the opportunity to come up with new flavours and combinations.
What drew you to Vale House?
I think there’s a really strong ethos at the heart of Vale House Kitchen – it’s all about the value of country skills, which is something I really believe in too. It’s also a great location and a fantastically well-equipped school. As a tutor, I’ve got the facilities and equipment that make it really easy to share my skills with students.
Why would you encourage people to take your course in particular?
I’m really the only person in the country teaching these particular traditional preserving methods. I focus on equipping those I teach with great recipes that really work – often when people have tried and failed at preserving before, it’s down to the recipe rather than any particular lack of skill. My recipes can be relied upon for good results time and time again, giving people the confidence to try them at home.
To find out more about the courses Vivien teaches for us: