Jam making and preserving in Fife
Forget strawberry - a new wave of stirrers are more interested in chilli and wild garlic
What makes Fife’s newest condiment producers stand out from the crowd? Hannah Ewan sets out to discover their secrets
You don’t have to search hard at any of Fife’s farmers’ markets to find tables of tidy little jars stacked in pyramids. Colourful tasters are neatly laid out in front, with broken crackers or torn chunks of bread for dipping.
With four major fruit farms, Newburgh’s heritage orchards and an increasing number of people dedicated to scouring the hedgerows for wild berries, it’s no surprise that newcomers to the Fife jam and chutney making scene have found fierce competition.
Byam Trotter, 24, launched Trotter’s Independent Condiments in 2009, and concentrates on flavours that are not already stocked by shops. His first chutney was Mostarda, a popular Italian recipe that his mum perfected after returning from holiday. Byam then took over, and moved into his first professional kitchen in January 2012.
‘When I started, I didn’t do much research,’ he admits. ‘Then when I decided to make it a business, I realised the competition was furious. So I worked on different flavours.’
Fife’s farm shops have relished the shake-up. As well as producing their own ranges, you’ll now find shelves of Trotter’s foraged wild garlic pesto sat next to rowan chutney and home-made bramble jam.
Patricia Galfskiy is hoping to add her chilli chutneys to those shelves. After starting Chillilicious with her daughter Stacey in 2010, she now makes a range of medium-spiced chilli chutneys which sell alongside Stacey’s chilli-inspired fused glass artwork. Again, they’ve found an unoccupied niche. ‘The chilli chutney market is inundated with mega-hot chilli products,’ Patricia explains. ‘We want to educate people that chilli is not all about the burn.’
One thing the start-ups and the seasoned preservers have in common is a commitment to buying locally where possible, and to using traditional methods. Byam Trotter may have a professional kitchen and aspirations to internationalism, but he swears by his great aunt Dinah’s hot pepper jelly recipe and still uses the same spoon and pot that he started with.