I run a fruit preserve company in a beautiful rural village on the outskirts of Bath in Somerset. I am fortunate enough to have an allotment where I grow my own fruit as well as a small piece of land next to our cottage where I keep chickens.
The kitchen has always been my favourite room in the house and an orchard or vegetable patch my favourite place outside. Some of my earliest memories revolve around ‘outside picking,’ in particular fruit: blackberry picking; scrumping apples down the back lane; and my favourite of all, gathering the first greengages from my great grandmothers' orchard.
I have been growing food in one form or another for most of my adult years, but it wasn’t until seven years ago that I made it a huge part of my life. I had recently embarked on an MA in creative writing when an allotment became available in our village. I remember thinking at the time it would be the perfect antidote to all those hours spent tapping away at my computer.
In the first year my husband and I spent all our spare time cultivating the plot and building raised beds to grow our own fruit and vegetables. The following summer meals were structured around the growing seasons, food was beautiful and fresh, and sweet things were always just sweet enough. The seasons were awash with perfect, luscious produce, and we were hooked.
I spent my off study hours browsing old-fashioned cookery books, in search of different ways to use our homegrown produce. It was then that I decided to try my hand at fruit preserves.
My first batch of jam came from an excellent Elizabethan country house cookbook, and it turned out well, but it was not exactly what I had envisioned. Two years experimentation ensued. Any spare time was filled practising at my stove, gradually developing my own techniques and flavour combinations. By the time I had completed my MA, we had expanded our fruit plot further and a year later my company, With her Hands was born.
I sell my seasonal preserves at farmers' markets, specialist food fairs and via my on line shop. When not at home I am either learning a new skill or roaming around flea markets or vintage textile fairs.