Welsh Witterings ~ Banquets, tea parties and jam
It’s been a hectic, but fun week. On Wednesday I swapped the Welsh countryside for bustling Kenilworth as I headed to Kenilworth Castle to take part in a sequence on medieval table manners with BBC4. For once I wasn’t in costume, but was in my normal everyday attire. I always enjoy the actual filming part, but find the build-up to the filming stressful. It was quite short notice, less than a week in fact and so I spent a few days frantically making a medieval Subtletie in the form of a peacock. A subtletie was a medieval sculpture made from sugar or marchpane (marzipan) that came in all sorts of curious forms – castles, ships, creature etc. I would have loved to have attempted a grand looking castle, but at such short notice a peacock adorned with gold leaf was all I could manage. Thankfully my marchpane peacock survived the journey and looked rather splendid on the feasting table.
During the filming for the ‘Castles under Siege’ series I got to talk about the hierarchy of the servants during the fourteenth century and indeed the hierarchy that existed in the great feasts of the time. I instructed Dr. Sam Willis on his table manners and had a lovely few days travelling and filming, but time really does fly when you’re having fun and it seemed that it was all over in the blink of an eye.
After my escapades in Kenilworth I held a nice girly tea party on Friday with some good friends. We spent a fair few hours trying on vintage clothes and giggling like giddy teenagers as we donned vintage hats and gloves before heading into the garden to drink tea and eat cake. With six under-five’s between us the day was far from peaceful, but everyone had a lovely time and it was a nice end to the week.
I am just starting to put together preparations for little Hattie’s fifth Birthday party on the 23rd of August, she has chosen a flamingo theme and so I will be practicing my sugar craft skills this week as I start making sugar flamingos for the cake. The biggest challenge will be stopping the girls from eating the fondant flamingos before the party.
Tomorrow my entries will finally head off to the Jampionships and I will try to forget about them and not stress about whether they get placed. I am on a mission this month to sort out the production and marketing of my preserves. I have won awards left right and centre for my jams, marmalades and pickles, yet I have never managed to make any money from making them. This is purely down to marketing and having a sales plan, but this I have decided needs to change. So with my recent success in the British Farm Awards and some fabulous comments from the judges I am launching forward and I am determined to get my jams to market in a profitable fashion.
Preserves is a competitive market and one that is crowded and so my biggest obstacle has always been getting farm shops and retailers to give up some shelf space and try some of my products, however, my thinking is that I need to blow my own trumpet a little and adorn my jars with details of their accolades. My other issue has been with costs. I have strong principles when it comes to what goes in my jars of preserves: I use local and good quality produce, indeed some of it is home grown. This coupled with small batch making and higher fruit to sugar ratio does mean that my jams are a bit more expensive than buying sugary alternatives, but the taste is superior. So I am going to don my marketing/sales hat and get these preserves selling.
Well as I contemplate a sales strategy for my preserves I can’t help noticing that the damsons are ripe on my tree so I’d better get them harvested and in the jam pan before the wasps and birds eat them all.
Until next week, I bid you a fond farewell from West Wales.