Frome to Fortnums with Absolutely Preserves

One of our longest-standing food producers, Absolutely Preserves, has just won an internationally recognised award, and is now sending her marmalade off to Fortnum & Mason!

Absolutely Preserves, a small food business run by self-taught preserve-maker Mary Longford, has just won double gold at the 13th World’s Original Marmalade Awards.  This year’s awards had entries from over 30 countries across the globe, and was judged by a panel that included Fortnum & Mason head buyer Brigette Hardy, Telegraph Food writer Xanthe Clay and baker and food writer Dan Lepard.

Mary’s Smoky Seville Marmalade with Urfa Pepper & Star Anise impressed judges with its appearance, colour, consistency, aroma and flavour. It earned her the prestigious double gold at this year’s awards ceremony at Dalemain Mansion, a Georgian stately home in Cumbria lived in by the same family for over 300 years and the home of a rich archive of early marmalade recipes.  Perhaps more exciting however, is that as winner of the double gold, Mary’s marmalade will now be stocked at Fortnum & Mason.

We caught up with Mary last week, as she reflected on her journey form Frome market trader to Fortnum & Mason supplier…

“My life-long love of cooking was inspired by my Italian mother who spent part of her childhood in Egypt. On coming to live on a farm in Britain she learnt to cook english food and to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs.  At an early age I was used to eating a combination of different foods:  a bowl of ravioli followed by poached Pershore plums or homegrown stuffed marrow and tomatoes followed by steamed blackberry and apple pudding.  

My Mum was, through cooking, mixing together very different cultures, in a way which seemed entirely natural, whereas in fact she was ahead of her time. This was the 1950’s and we lived tucked away on a farm only visiting the local town once a week. I have carried on combining food in this way, but now mix together unusual ingredients and flavours, which has become a hallmark of Absolutely Preserves.

My professional background is in the arts, creating dance and performance pieces, as well as short films and installations,  but for the past 5 years I have been making and selling preserves. I started off with Somerset Farmers Markets, and then at The Frome Independent. Market trading in my home town gave me the opportunity to explore my passion for cooking and to create new and original recipes.  

Many of my recipes for Absolutely Preserves are inspired by the fruit itself, which I would pick locally, and though conversations with regular customers whose feedback and encouragement was invaluable in developing new products.  At the same time I was teaching myself preserving techniques and reading a good many cookery books and trying out ideas!

First sold at the Frome Independent, the award-winning Smoky Seville marmalade was the outcome of these experiments,  and quickly became a customer favourite which gave me the confidence to enter it into the competition.  The marmalade is savoury and spices up breakfast no end: you can spread on toast with an egg on top-it’s also delicious with sausages and especially on grilled cheese. Later on in the day it goes well with roasted poultry, as a glaze for meats or with roasted vegetables such as parsnips and celeriac. It can even accompany the cheeseboard especially with artisan British cheeses.”

Since winning the double gold, Absolutely Preserve’s Smoky Seville Marmalade with Urfa Pepper & Star Anise is now on sale at Fortnum & Masons in their flagship Piccadilly store.. Closer to home, you can get your hands on some at Frome’s Sagebury Cheese in Cheap Street and at The Frome Independent on Sunday October 7th.

Mary will be judging our homemade preserves competition at our next market on Sunday 7th October. Bring your home-made jams, jellies and marmalade down to the Village Green for a 2pm tasting, and win an award of your own!