Well - phew - back from all of our travels, bags and car unpacked, washing on ( except for the lot we left in a Travelodge in Oxford! ) What a rollercoaster three weeks.
It started with judging at Taste of the West Awards in Exeter which is where I first met this year's World Jampion, Susan Young - but I'm jumping ahead. We spent a very happy day together judging some of the contenders and then finally arriving at the Best of the West. It was an absolute clear winner - which was a relief.
On our way home we had a very welcome visit with Guild of Jam and Preserve Makers patron, Pam Corbin. We had a long chat about the new regulations and what the likely outcome was going to be. I reported to her that I had had a visit from Trading Standards who informed me that the new regulations are a European Directive - which means we have to implement them whether we like it or not. So all of the discussions and consultation process is largely a waste of time.
Then, it was on to The Big Feastival at the weekend where we made lots of jam and talked to lots and lots of visitors. Two Table Sessions demonstrating making Wholegrain Mustard sealed what was a very busy two days. Back home with just two days clear for answering emails - more washing - then off to Dundee to The World Jampionships!
Dundee could not have looked more stunning in the sunshine and the setting of The World Jampionships was perfectly staged. Capturing everything good at the heart of jam making, a celebration of the long heritage of fruit growing in the area. It was an acknowledgement of the work and risks that had to be taken two generations ago to make the berry growing industry what it is today - I loved it.
Again we made lots of jam, all sold in aid of Breast Cancer Care Scotland and spoke to many, many people. I spent a jam making session with some youngsters from the No 5 centre - I was privileged to tell them that they had won a Bronze Award for their Raspberry & Cinnamon Jam. It was a pleasure to work with Leon, Eden, Dillon, Scott and Casey and I hope that they will continue to make jam for themselves and their families - and enter next year of course!
Huge congratulations to all of the winners and especially to Susan Young, this year's World Jampion in the artisan class, and Marjorie Paulson, Homemade Jampion.
Back to The Old Smithy now and trying to catch up. Emails, phone calls - not to mention catching up with the chutney making. My mate Kevin, who took one of the classes during my absence - a little too well I might add - brought me a great box of beetroot. They have been almost impossible to get in our area so Spalding came up trumps and I have been busy getting them cooked into delicious chutneys. One of my experiments has been Beetroot & Elderberry, which so far seems to taste great - no reason why it should change, I suppose. I shall do a couple of batches of my Red Cabbage & Beetroot Chutney with Prunes & Balsamic Vinegar - always popular. There is also Smooth Beetroot Chutney as well of course - these recipes are all on the recipe site - I'll post the Beetroot with Elderberries if it turns out OK, too soon to tell.
The New Chix on the Block were pleased to see us when we got back - there have had to be lots of treats of course - I never thought I would be cooking corn on the cob for chickens but there we are.
Thank you to everyone who came to speak to us, and who made us so welcome in Scotland. A big thank you to Kevin as well for holding the fort, and Rob for looking after the feathered ones.