Courses at Vale House take place in a beautiful
airy classroom converted from an outbuilding
Regular readers may remember that I’ve been on a couple
of Vale House Kitchen’s courses before – way back in 2014, I visited this
charming cookery school for a Jams, Jellies and Cordials course with preserving
champion (and WI judge, no less) Vivien Lloyd. I had a fantastic time and felt
so much more confident about jam-making (which I’d previously found a little
intimidating), so when Vale House got in touch again and invited me to try
another of Vivien’s courses, I was immediately keen.
At this point, dear reader, I must make a terrible
confession: prior to this course, I didn’t really like marmalade. I was too
ashamed to mention this and felt that if anyone’s marmalade could convert me,
it would be Vivien’s – and it turns out I was right. We actually started the
day with a tasting, comparing a popular supermarket brand of marmalade with
Vivien’s own homemade jars, and I was blown away by the difference. Shop-bought
stuff is often rubbery (indicative of over-boiling) and lacking in flavour (a
symptom of the aforementioned over-boiling), so you’ve just got to try the real
deal – rich, tawny orange-gold, made with Seville oranges, with the peel cut so
finely it melts in the mouth.
Having been converted, I was eager to create my own.
Unfortunately, as I discovered, marmalade this good comes at a price – it
requires time, care and the patience of a saint. Following Vivien’s
instructions (with regular stops for demonstrations) we started by juicing and
finely shredding our peel, which took around an hour. I felt like I was going
slightly mad by the end of it, but it was worth it when we’d simmered our
ingredients right down to make a gorgeous, vibrant mixture full of saffron-like
threads of peel. Next, we added the sugar and learned to test for the setting
point the old-fashioned way (using a sugar thermometer is apparently not 100%
reliable) and then transferred our marmalade to clean, warm jars and screwed
the lids on tight. The day ended with a little marmalade-based baking, from
gorgeous deep-brown tea loaves to miniature marmalade muffins.
I always recommend Vale House because the whole
experience is delightful – from the location, a gorgeous old manor house tucked
into the side of a hill, surrounded by lush gardens, to hosts Bod & Annie
(who are just lovely, providing constant cups of tea), to the delicious
two-course lunch we enjoyed while our marmalade was simmering. As well as a
whole range of cookery courses in the beautiful classroom Bod and Annie have
converted from an old outbuilding, they also offer shooting & fishing
weekends, foraging walks, and much more – check out the full selection here.
£120 pp, for a 7
hour course, including lunch plus your own marmalades and bakes to take away.
For more information, visit the Vale House Kitchen website.
My finished marmalade - look how fine that