In other news, I have been quiet of late as I have been busy being Matron in my pop-up nursing home. My son Rob, who works with us, recently had an operation on his spine and we all decided that he would recuperate here with me and Trev, in a child-free zone. No jumping on the bed or picking up of toddlers required for the forseeable future. Oscar and Samuel come to visit with Mummy but seem unphased that Daddy is in bed at Nanny's. We are half way through the bed rest phase with another two weeks to go before he will return home to complete the 12 week convalescence. This may seem a tough call to those contemplating this surgery - but believe me the relief from constant pain and daily morphine is already worth it - and to fair it is only lying around in bed reading and watching films! The responsibilities of being Matron are, however, immense.
To say the surgeons are fantastic is an understatement - thank you to all.
Now, here's the thing. The Defra Consultation on the changes to the jam regulations in England has now closed and I would like to say what I feel about it. It seems to me that these changes have come about with a certain amount of stealth. It is being published that Michelle McKenna, 'Clippy', has single-handedly brought about these changes so that her 'conserve' can be sold as a proper jam at 55g sugar solids rather than 60g which is the current law. She wants to do this because she is using a large proportion of apple in her preserves which, she says, makes it unnecessary to include as much sugar to achieve the set of a traditionally made jam, rendering her product a more healthy option and that there is currently no legal definition that fits her product. However, her products also include added pectin so they would set regardless of the apple. In fact, if she took out even more sugar she could be even more healthy and sell her jam as 'Reduced Sugar Jam' under the current regulations at 50g sugar solids or less.
Nevertheless she says she has lobbied and campaigned for the past few months and has succeeded, on her own, to get Government to listen and for changes to the Jam and Similar Products (England) 2003 to be written. As she says on her Facebook page - not bad for a single mum ( I am not sure why that is relevant - we are all single in life ) She has managed to engage the support of Vince Cable in all of this who has said that the 'ridiculous red tape' surrounding the jam regulations must be swept aside in the interests of commercialism. Not too worried about the safe preservation of food then? Clippy has also gained the support of Arlene McCarthy MEP - an even more astonishing achievement - see her views here.
In response to this proposal over the last few months - about half the time it has taken for Clippy to change the World - I have written to Vince Cable's two parliamentary offices twice and received not one reply over these four attempts, not even the usual acknowledgement of 'thank you we will reply sometime never' variety. I have emailed Defra twice - the second time requesting the background information to the changes to the regulations, under the Freedom of Information Act - no response, no acknowledgement etc etc. I have contacted my MP, Alan Duncan, who has responded to me and also written to Defra, I don't think he has had a reply either.
All of this tells me that there is more to this than we are being told. It is already a done deal and somebody has made the Clippy product a figurehead to achieve changes to British Law who otherwise would not have been likely to do so. The Consultation is a sham - if you read my two previous blogs I go into detail why. It is pointless wasting any more time on it.
What I am going to do with my Guild of Jam and Preserve Maker's hat on, is to ask Richard Matthews, our TS advisor if we, as artisan producers can label our jam accordingly. Something like 'Joe Bloggs traditionally made artisan jam' followed by whatever description of fruit content you care to put, or have room for. I urge you to go to Tesco or Morrisons and look at a jar of Clippy's 'conserve' and see what she has been allowed to get away with on her labels and we fight back in a similar vein. The bottom line is virtually any fruit/sugar content will be able to go into a jar of 'jam' in the future and as artsians who must put the correct percentages to achieve a set and safe preservation of the contents at ambient temperature, we are going to be at a greater disadvantage over pricing and perception of quality. I propose to offer a Guild of Jam and Preserve Makers accreditation of quality for traditionally made preserves to enable the consumer to easily identify what they are buying and how about we lobby parliament for an Artisan definition in the jam regulations? By all accounts it is quite easy to do and shouldn't take long . . . how about it Alan Duncan - it didn't cause Vince much trouble.
I feel quite bullish about this, but after all, in the future most jam will require refrigeration and I guess will no longer deserve the descrition 'preserve'. Another little bit of our heritage eroded and destroyed for no good reason other than profit. I had better change the name to The Guild of Jam and Refrigerated Product Makers.