More than toast

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Visiting one of Dorset’s best jam and marmalade producers, Rachael Rowe discovers that A Jar Of’s cookery courses are just as inspirational

Hand raised pork pies for lunch
All images: Rachael Rowe

The conversation was already flowing as I walked into The Jammery – a converted cowshed at Droop Farm, and headquarters of AJar Of. Founder Tracey Collin’s popular jams and chutneys are a feature in farm shops all over Dorset, but I’m here for the Picnic Season Workshop. Before I’ve even taken a bite of the more-ish homemade oat biscuits, the tips are coming at me thick and fast. The chat varies from how to find recipes with a useful cookery book app, the difference between a jam and other preserves, to why Black Garlic Ketchup is divine with chips. I’m here to enjoy a day of cookery – to learn about making jam and chutney but Tracey is just as keen to teach how to include them in other recipes: ‘There’s more to jam and chutney than just sticking it on your toast!’

Matt Whiting and Tracey Collins at Droop Farm

A full recipe list
Tracey and Matt Whiting from Winfrith Bakery run regular workshops at The Jammery. She naturally teaches the jams and chutneys section of the day, while Matt’s expertise is in the baked goods – which always incorporate a preserve into the recipe. The plan for the day-long picnic workshop includes jumbleberry jam, a spicy tomato, apple and tamarind chutney, hand raised pork pies and egg custard tarts.
As you would expect with a chutney making session, we start the day with a LOT of chopping. Safe knife techniques are essential, and, never one to miss a teaching moment, Tracey demonstrates how to chop an onion so it doesn’t make you cry – or lose a finger – and how to smash a garlic clove. It’s at classes like this you learn easier and better ways of doing things.
Tracey has been making and selling jams and chutneys for 13 years: ‘I started by making cakes and selling them in a local farmers market in Beaconsfield. One day I took 63 jars of jam and I was left with a handful. I thought: “Well, that’s OK.” My husband, who has an accountancy background, was even more impressed because he saw there was no waste.
‘When it came to choosing a business name, we went to the pub to discuss it, as you do. My friend said, “Look, it can’t be that hard. For goodness’ sake, it’s a jar of…” and the rest is history. She’s been claiming royalties ever since!’

Chutney making in The Jammery with Tracey Collins of Ajar of

First-time pastry cook
As the chutney simmered away, Matt took charge with a sweet pastry making session, using a delayed shortcrust technique to keep the pastry tender. Gluten forms as soon as liquid comes into contact with flour, and this technique delays the gluten formation, involving mixing the butter, sugar and half the flour, followed by the eggs and then the remaining flour.
I had to confess it was my first time making pastry from scratch – I expected to get a cone of shame to wear, but Matt just raised an eyebrow with a bemused look. I was soon amazed at how simple and quick it was to produce a decent looking pastry. What a confidence boost!
Of course, the expert tuition and supportive environment was a major factor in my success.

Rachael’s first ever pastry, made into delicious egg custard tarts

Scratch cook
Servings of the hand-raised pork pie and delicious custard tarts filled the table for lunch, and as we chatted over the food I discovered both my fellow students were return attendees. ‘People tend to come back,’ says Tracey. ‘It’s the cooking, but also the atmosphere, it’s so relaxed.’ Richard is obviously passionate about cooking and always enjoys a day in the kitchen: ‘Some people relax with a yoga session or have a long bath,’ he says. ‘Me, I love a day of cooking.’
Time passed by in a swift blur as we made jumbleberry jam with a mixture of soft fruits, constantly absorbing tips and techniques for better cooking. Then another pastry session, this time making a hot water crust pastry for the (proper) pork pies, learning how to hand raise them before filling them with meat and a decent dollop of chutney. Finally, it was time to fill those egg custard tart cases with an extra dose of jam at the base before baking them.
I drove home in a warm and fragrant car laden with food – and a mountain of inspiration to cook more. Funnily enough my partner couldn’t wait to help me unload the boxes –or tuck into my pork pie.
Taking part in a cookery workshop at Ajar Of is a relaxed and practical way to learn how to incorporate chutneys and jams into recipes, and also to avoid food waste. My own pastry making really showed me that we live in a convenience world where ready-made is all too easy. Time spent learning to cook recipes from scratch is not only good for life skills, it provides valuable space for reflection and shows us how easy it is to reduce our consumption of ultra-processed foods simply by planning a batch cooking session.
The next course in June has a strawberry and lemon theme
ajar-of.co.uk

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