Well, you answered my question - thank you.
We have decided to ignore Black Friday and carry on what with what we do all of the time. Bring you great deals as a matter of course and show you interesting ideas.
First up this week is a perpetual Advent Calendar. We have boxed 24 small jars and gold lids with a pack of numbered labels and some Christmassy red and white baker's twine. The jars can be filled with small gifts of your choice to suit the age of the recipient and they don't need to be expensive.
Once emptied the jars can be stored to be used again next year, and the year after.
Watch my helpful video and then grab a pack before the end of the month.
Pack costs just £10.00 plus postage
contents not included
The Bumper Christmas Jarcessorise Pack has 50 elements from the festive jar decorations at just HALF PRICE. The contents are all current stock and will bring a festive look to your home made gifts. there are jar wraps, trims, ribbons, raffia, buttons, tags and jar lids.
We've even made some paperchains . . . .
Buy now while stocks last
Finally - a brilliant addition to our packaging range - the two bottle kraft box. Excellent value at just a £1.00, your home made gifts can look really smart or if you are a producer, these sit very well on a shelf or display stand. Particularly good as they have a flat top.
Hope you like our festive bargains and that they help you with your preparations
It's that time of year again. No not Halloween. Not Bonfire Night. Not Christmas . . . .
Black Friday. November 27th. The Day of Madness.
The thing is - as a company we need to join in. This has become A Thing. Not something you can ignore or avoid. Our problem is we give you the very best prices all the year around. You can believe it or not, there is very little room for us to reduce anything, or make outrageous offers. We can't offer free carriage, for instance, or we would be selling everything at a loss. Any cheaper things we could buy in specially would sap our integrity - we made the decision in the early days to only sell things we believed in, that we would use ourselves.
We are constantly undermined by our competitors, the market is flooded with cheap glass from China which isn't necessarily food grade glass. Of products that are just a gimmick, don't last, and of poor quality - but how are you supposed to be able to tell them apart? You can trust what we do every single day, how hard we work to maintain the standards, to not compromise on quality but always to bring you savings where we can, to offer what we can.
How then, do we cope with Black Friday? What can we offer you that will fit our criteria of only buying quality and selling at a fair price? I admit we are stumped.
Perhaps you can advise, tell us what you want to see us achieve, and we will do what we can.
The proviso is though, that we would prefer not to only do that on one day in the year.
Having said all of that, this week we have a new range of Italian bottles - Quattro Stagione. There is a set of four 150ml squat bottles, and also a 1200ml, 400ml and 1000ml. They are well priced, easy to fill, easy to empty and very smart with the embossed name on one side and a fruit design on the other. They have a continuous screw cap and are ideal for sauces etc and bottling/waterbathing.
It's a busy time of year but still time to get some presents or preserves made. Have fun!
I bring you a cautionary tale this week.
In the Summer of 2016 we were contacted by an individual who said he was calling on behalf of Upper Street Events - a company well known to us as we have exhibited with Country Living Fairs over the years.
This individual, Olivett Asare, said that Upper Street Events were starting a new initiative to make it cost effective for small businesses to exhibit abroad. They had cherry picked exhibitors from their database to take part in a new scheme which was by invitation only. They only wanted good quality British businesses with niche products. The first show was to be in Los Angeles in March 2017 and was called Source British.
( It transpired that Olivett was the Director of a company called Source British Direct Limited which has now been dissolved. )
The scheme was indeed, very attractive and we decided that it fitted our plans for the future so we signed the contract - a familiar contract that we had signed many times before with them for shows in this country.
The total cost for the show was going to be around £2000 including the shipment of our goods and stand to LA. The flight and hotel package was to be a further £2000 approximately, and then there were our ancillary costs of stand furniture, visas, food, etc etc. In all, a cost of approximately £5000.
Along the way the Department for International Trade became involved which gave us added confidence.
Prior to leaving for LA we were told that industry experts, buyers, and members of all branches of the Press had been invited and in excess of 3500 had registered to attend the show. We made our preparations accordingly.
On arrival at the show we met with the other exhibitors and we began the show build. Later in that day, the day before the show opened, we were called together for a 'pep' talk and advised to 'be ready' for the expected visitors - the 3500+ figure was reiterated.
The following day when the show opened there was not the tsunami of people as promised. In fact over the entire two days only 147 people came through the door and we had the distinct impression that most of those had wandered in by accident. The American admin assistant told us that there had never been that number registered - it was closer to 10% of that figure.
They must have known before we left the UK that the show was a flop.
Throughout the time afterwards we have never had a communication from Upper Street Events - and in fact, now, they are saying that the show was nothing to do with them, that Olivett Asare was operating from his own Limited Company. This is not true.
However, Trev and I decided to take them to Court to try to gain some redress as some of the companies that engaged with this farce have now gone out of business. We have just had the case heard - of course Upper Street Events did not engage at all and did not appear. Aha! I hear you say, then you won!
Not so. The Judge was very annoyed that they had not turned up as he said he would have spoken his mind to them. He had every sympathy with us and said we had been treated shabbily. He was very clear though that he could not find in our favour as there is one crucial clause amongst the many in the T&C's on their contract.
Clause 33. Status of Pre-Contractural Statements.
The Exhibitor acknowledges and agrees that it does not rely on any undertaking, promise, assurance, statement or warranty (whether in writing or not) of any person which relate to the subject matter of the Contract, other than that set out expressly in the Contract.
In short, this means that they can say or write anything they like to get you to sign the contract and unless it is written in the contract it means nothing.
In Business to Business there is no protection, no moral or honorable behaviour or protection from the Law. If you don't like the terms of the contract you need to negotiate terms to your liking. Good luck with that.
The Judge said that he admires small businesses in this country and he does believe the Law is stacked against us as mostly we cannot afford the legal muscle necessary to survive. He said it was brave to bring it to Court and personally speaking he would make the award if he could. He remarked that it was ridiculous of Upper Street Events to maintain that this was all nothing to do with them as it was clearly their contract.
The Judge also said that the only realistic scenario for bringing an action - any action - would be fraud.
Going forward, at what point does a liar become a fraudster?
So, I can now only write about this to warn others that no-one has your interest at heart except you. Be aware, educate yourself and believe that companies like Upper Street Events are long-standing and successful because they can exploit those smaller and weaker than themselves.
Sadly I am already contracted to go to the Country Living Spring Fair next year as we were the winners of the Editor's Choice Award. We bought extra space to augment our prize of a free stand and I very much doubt that we will be able to get released from that. This whole episode will colour how I feel about returning to the events in the future though - through no fault of Country Living Fairs or the magazine.
Congratulations to Lisa from Scarborough who was the lucky winner in our dehydrator competition.
I hope she enjoys it and gets many year's use from it.
Look out for another competition coming up soon.
You will be automatically entered if you are a registered customer of Lovejars or you can sign up for our newsletter from our facebook page www.facebook.com/lovejarsuk/
I have been very busy with Classes at Jam Central so not much time for making and facebook live filming this week.
We started off last weekend with a visit from a 60th Birthday Party. They were staying locally in some wooden lodges in the grounds of a hotel overlooking Rutland Water. The guests had arrived from all over Europe and had a drinks reception on the first evening, in Oakham Castle.
The next day they were dispersed across the county to shop for the birthday barbeque in the evening. Some went in search for wine, some for meat from the local rare breed farm, some for lovely cheeses and quite a number came to the little Old Smithy to buy preserves as gifts to take home and to eat with the meal.
It was quite a hectic couple of hours but I thought it was a charming and original idea, one I hope I will remember for the future.
We have also held a Professional Day in the week, I always enjoy these days and hearing about everyone's plans for the future.
Yesterday it was a class for would-be home preservers amongst which there was a couple who had been given the class as a Christmas present last year. Seems like we are popular in the celebration market!
I did manage to get a fatless mincemeat made this week, which tastes delicious. It is a variation on the Luxury Mincemeat I make which has a fair amount of butter in it and I have called it Marjorie's Mincemeat. This is because it is based on the deep red Marjorie Plums and it looks gorgeous. I keep being asked for a vegan mincemeat so this is my response - I will get the recipe written up this week and post it for you.
I feel guilty that I have no particular offer for you this week - so how about a discount code for the next week? Just enter CELEBRATE at the checkout for a 10% reduction.
WIN ME! WIN ME!
Our mega competition is still running - you will be entered into the free draw as long as you are a member of Rosie's VIP Club for this splendid Excalibur Dehydrator worth £298.99!
"How can I join?" I hear you cry. Well if you are not already registered on the lovejars website then all you have to do is sign up for our newsletter. That's it - no purchase necessary.
The draw will close at 23:59 on 30th September - Rosie's birthday - and a winner drawn at random.
Don't be left out - sign up now!
The picture on the left is me, aged 5, when I first went to school. I was already an experienced jam maker.
I knew all about waxed discs and setting points, what fruit made good jam and where the best blackberries grew. I loved it.
We had a curmudgeonly cat called Dilly, who insisted on joining us on blackberrying trips, She would pad along beside, complaining all the way and eventually tuck herself into the hedgerow and wait for us to come back.
It was my specific job to hand my mother the waxed disc, then dip the cellophane covers into a saucer of water and shake off the excess, and then hand her the rubber bands. When I went to bed on a Summer's evening I could hear the cellophane covers 'pinging' as they dried. It was the soundtrack of my childhood.
Have you signed up for our VIP Club yet?
VIP Very Important Preservers.
Our VIP Club delivers new products, special offers, competitions, recipes and advice via our newsletter. If you are a customer with a log in you will receive the newsletter already and be a member of the VIP Club.
Alternatively you can sign up for the newsletter from the Lovejars website
It's quick and easy.
If you want to leave at any time - :( - then just unsubscribe. We will never hassle you or pester you - the newsletters are communication between two like-minded groups - its just that your group is bigger than ours! All of the offers are genuine and designed to add value to our website.
The VIP Club is free to join - at the moment - but this will not be the case in the future as we have big plans . . . .
IT'S COMPETITION TIME!
For our first competition
we have the mega prize of an
Excalibur Dehydrator worth £298.99 !!!
Brand new and unused it is a valuable piece of equipment which
will vastly extend your repertoire of food preservation
All you need to do is to make sure you are signed up for the newsletter
and if possible, 'Like' and 'Share' our facebook page
The winner will be chosen at random from all of the VIP Club members
on my birthday - 30 September 2017 23:59 GMT
( we love a bit of drama . . . )
This week has been so busy - I have been tackling the glut of plums arriving at my doorstep from generous neighbours - I hate to see them going to waste so it has been a full-on process to get them all preserved.
We have plum jam, winter warm plum chutney, plum and cinnamon cordial, plum and ginger cordial, plum leather and one of my most popular products for Christmas - plums in brandy.
I prep the plums by cutting in half, discarding the stone and any plums that were not sound. I pack them into the Le Parfait jars as tightly as possible together with a star anise and cinnamon stick. Pour over a sugar syrup leaving room to add aound 50-80 mls of brandy whilst leaving around half an inch/3 cms of headspace. Clip down or seal the jars and process in a waterbath or, in my case, the www.lovejars.co.uk electric steriliser, for about one hour. The plums get poached without cooking so much they end up as a mush.
They are delicious with good quality vanilla ice-cream for any easy Christmas dessert. ( One of my customers puts them on her husband's breakfast porridge for an easy life! )
We have a new size for the two-part seal Le Parfait jars - a very cute 500ml. It is strong and robust and the perfect size for family-size pies and crumbles. I am definitely going to be cooking some of the windfall apples from my ancient apple tree in the garden. I love stewed apple just on its own or with some custard - delicious. I don't add any sugar at the preserving stage in case I want to use it as a savoury apple sauce. I just stir in some caster sugar if needed - taste it first.
The new Le Parfait have a VIP price if you are a logged-in customer, so get a box now and they will be a purchase that lasts a lifetime.
These jars weren't in when I made the Plums in Brandy - I will use them for something very soon though - that's a promise.
It is that bittersweet time of year - regrets as the children go back to school and the realisation that the Summer is closing. This is closely followed by anticipation of the Christmas to come - but - and its a big BUT - in between there is the glut of Autumn to deal with.
Personally, I have plums and damsons everywhere and the apples will soon start to roll in. I had some lovely windfalls from my own tree so used the last of the mint to make some lovely jellies. They set really well because the apples were super fresh and therefore full of pectin, just what is needed.
I jarred it up in the superb 120ml bonta jars and used the Summer Frocks plaid lids. They look very fresh and appealing.
I also used some of the apples in a beetroot chutney ( I had beetroot as well! ) It is such a glorious colour and makes a superb addition to the Boxing Day table and goes particularly well with cold meats and cheeses. Unfortunately the downside is that someone will spill it on your best white tablecloth or the carpet!
To add to our arsenal of equipment lovejars.co.uk now has a quality 9 tray dehydrator in stock made by the America manufacturer, Excalibur. A tried and tested product it comes complete with an instruction/recipe book but really, they are very easy to use.
I bought mine, which looks very much the same, from eBay quite a few years ago now, when it was much harder to find this kind of equipment. I am very pleased to now be offering something with a 5 year domestic use guarantee or 1 year for professional use.
If you are a serious preserver then you won't regret adding dried food to your range of products offered to your customers or enjoyed at home. Dried fruits, mushrooms, fruit leather, candied fruit, tomatoes, meats - biltong and beef jerky, herbs, there isn't much you can't dry
If you are a registered customer with a log in then you will be able to access a special discounted price for VIPs ( Very Important Preservers ) You will see it displayed next to the full price in the product listing - your price has a red star beside it - see what we did there? We think you are all stars.
I hope you can keep up over the next few weeks as the glut descends - it will all be worth it.
Cerise a l'aigre-doux
The cherries have been spectacular this year - especially the British ones - and there are still plenty in the shops and markets. They don't make great jam without the help of lots of added pectin so why not raise your game with an unusual but delicious preserve.
These sweet and sour cherries are great to make now and will be ready for Christmas, either as part of your Boxing Day buffet table or as a really out-there gift. Delicious with cold meats and cheeses their sharp but sweet flavour is evocative of hot Summer days by the sea in France.
The recipe is really simple - it is a two day process but doesn't take long to make. You will need:-
Makes 6 x 500ml round jars
1.5 kgs/3lbs cherries
750mls/1.5 pints red wine vinegar
500g/1 lb caster sugar
i piece whole cinnamon
freshly grated nutmeg
Wash and wipe the cherries if necessary.
Cut the stalk around two centimeters/half an inch from the fruit.
Using a cocktail stick pierce the flesh of each cherry 3 to four times.
Put the vinegar, sugar and spices into a pan and stir to dissolve the sugar over a low heat. Increase the heat to boiling point then turn off and allow to cool.
Put cherries into the pan with the vinegar and let them macerate for twenty-four hours.
Remove the cherries with a slotted spoon and heat the vinegar for eight to ten minutes a simmer. Allow to cool again.
Meanwhile wash your jars and put into the oven to heat and dry.
Remove and pack the cherries into the jar.
Remove the spices and pour the cool vinegar into a jug and then fill the jars to cover the cherries. Leave a small space at the top.
Pour in enough brandy to fill the jar and then seal tightly with vinegar proof lids.
Store in a cool place and keep for 2-3 months to mature.
These sweet and sour cherries are the perfect accompaniment to rich pork and game, or strong cheeses.
I used the 500ml round jar which was the perfect size with a wide mouth to make filling the jars really easy.
It has been a strange week of highs and lows with the lows being exceptional. Now, don't get me wrong, most of our customers are absolutely lovely and they realise just how much has to go on unseen to make the website easy to use and ordering both simple and quick on delivery. We do our absolute best for them, all of the time.
Just sometimes there is an 'awkward' customer who takes it upon themselves to try to take this apart and set it up again for their personal use. So it was this week. A customer who didn't create a log in so is just passing through - a customer who probably is coasting around for the cheapest price. I don't mind this because, who knows, they might just become loyal and long-term. I do this myself, I try out a new company and return to them and register next time. This customer phoned very close to the end of our call taking day ( the website is around the clock of course ) and asked if she ordered tonight would she get delivery tomorrow. I explained that this wasn't physically possible as the courier had already collected today's orders and she would receive the order the following day after, which was Thursday.
She heard 'yes of course, our warehouse team will remain to process your order of one box of jars and call back the courier who will express deliver in the morning for you.'
Sure enough, by lunchtime on the Wednesday she was on the phone wanting to know where her order was which had been 'promised to her'. Rob tried to get to the bottom of what she was complaining about but she was very rude so he passed it to me as I gesticulated beside him! So, it seems I was lying to her when I told her categorically it would be delivered to her on Wednesday morning as now I am saying it hasn't left the warehouse yet and delivery will be on Thursday!
There was a lot more about our terrible service and lying to customers just to get orders etc etc. I replied that the only way I could have done more to help would have been to put it in my car and deliver it myself. To which she replied - 'Oh, could you? That would be fantastic.'
I was so upset when I came off of the phone as I felt she had goaded me into being rude to her which, after more than 10 years of doing this hadn't happened before and I felt I had let myself down. I was actually waiting for someone - a 'boss' - to reprimand me, or even sack me - then I thought 'you are the boss, stupid!'
So lovely customers, please be understanding of what it takes to produce all of this - we aren't Amazon. There are no robots or 24 hour or even same-day deliveries. Its just me, Trev and Rob doing our best for you.
A loving spoonful
50gYou may have seen my post on Facebook about the Apricot Spoon Fruit I made yesterday when I promised to post the blog link? When I looked for said blog I found I hadn't actually written one on this particular recipe . . . . this is odd because I have a definite memory of doing this!
However, it is simple enough. The unusual name dates back to a time when diligent housewives in Greece would make delectable sweetmeats called Spoon Fruit to serve to their friends who may come to call socially. Instead of proffering a cup of coffee and a biscuit, a small tray would be placed in front of the guest who would know that everything had been prepared by the lady of the house. There would be a small cup of strong black coffee, a glass of iced water and a spoon fruit on it's decorative silver spoon, resting on a saucer. It was just a sweet mouthful but plenty to restore spirits and for the guest to know that she was being revered. What a charming custom.
The fruits may have been plums or cherries, or, as in this case, apricots.
I had three large jars to fill so used seven apricots per jar - there were quite large fruits. I had halved and stoned them and packed them into the jars quite tightly. I tucked three pieces of whole vanilla pod down the sides of each jar and laid a sprig of flowering thyme across the top.
The point about the spoon fruits is that they are poached in wine of some kind which generally matches their colour and flavour. I used a 375ml of Beaumes de Venises pudding wine - I emptied it all into a small saucepan and added 50g of caster sugar. Heat this together until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is hot. Divide equally between the three jars - if you don't have quite enough to fill the jars top up with boiling water.
Put the lids onto the jars bit do not do them up tightly. You will need to process the jars in a waterbath for around 30mins - seal the lids when you remove the jars from the pan. Most recipes will suggest poaching the fruit in the wine before putting into the jars but I find just heating them in the waterbath keeps them in better shape. ( For waterbath instructions follow link in red above)
If you don't have visiting friends to impress then eat your Spoon Fruit with good quality vanilla ice-cream or creamy rice pudding as a boozy pud.
If you plan on doing a lot of bottling - and many people are returning to this very important skill - then we have a splendid new piece of kit which makes the water bathing and jar sealing easy.
It's official name is an Electric Steriliser and the one we have listed at the moment is a 27 litre capacity. It will take 14 - yes 14 - stacked 1 litre clip top preserving jars at once making it a very economic way of water bathing in bulk. This is not a pressure canner so don't confuse the two however it does come with processing times for some soups and meat dishes.
When not being used for your preserving it makes a very good urn for drinks or soup, mulled wine - anything liquid that you want to heat and serve. A convenient tap allows for easy filling of bottles or dispensing of drinks - or emptying at the end of a processing session.
Take a look at the new Electric Steriliser and see what you think.