One of the things I quickly found about fruit cheese is that, in the UK at least, it is a very quiet backwater off the river that is jam. Information about making this type of preserve is hard to come by and recipes few and far between (reliable ones even rarer!) Although I have learnt a great deal from reading and experiment, I have always hankered after learning from people more experienced than myself. And, since few people can call themselves more experienced in the realm of preserves than Vivien Lloyd, I was very excited when I discovered that she offers consultations.
Vivien comes with impeccable credentials: rigorously trained by the Women’s Institute and 30 years as a preserves-maker, judge, writer, trainer and determined campaigner for the maintenance of traditional preserving methods. When our initial phone conversation established that she thought it best to visit my kitchen in Tottenham to see how I work, I confess to being more than a little nervous. Her standards are clearly exacting – could my home-grown methods really pass muster with such a doyenne?
My anxiety was misplaced. The moment she arrived in my kitchen it was clear that we had such a shared passion that any thought of being found wanting was replaced by my desire to ask every one of the hundred burning questions that I had been saving up. And what a pleasure to talk with someone so knowledgeable. (I realised, not for the first time, that my long-suffering friends might not find the topic quite as fascinating as I do.) By the time we came to making a fruit cheese together I had relaxed completely and fell easily into my familiar cooking routine.
The ‘cheese’ we tackled was gooseberry as it is the one I’ve found trickiest to master. Although customers have been complimentary I have never been 100% happy with the results as I feel the delicate flavour of the fruit tends to get lost. To my great interest Vivien felt that that the fruit was not ideally suited for fruit cheese for that very reason. However she was very complimentary about my quince, apple chilli, medlar and Morello cherry cheeses; in fact in a tasting test (with a few competitor’s products lined up for comparison!) I am very proud to report that my quince cheese came out on top. This has given me a huge boost of confidence that I am doing the right thing.
Apple and Chilli: “Perfect texture and glossy exterior. Flavour excellent balance of fruit and heat. I could not stop eating it”
Medlar: “Lovely rich even colour and well spiced”
Morello Cherry “True fruit flavour with good hint of spice, rich bright colour and clean cut texture” “Outstanding” Vivien Lloyd
Read more about Vivien and find invaluable advice about making preserves on her website