Sal’s Kitchen tries… Marmalade Make & Bake Day, Vale House Kitchen

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 peel is!

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