27th July 2022
In this series about the region’s food producers and farmers, Jennifer Williams tells Rukshana Khanom from the Romsey office of the law firm Thrings about her journey to becoming an award-winning artisan jam maker.
Jennifer Williams has a superpower – an officially recognised “super palate” which puts her among the most talented tasters in the world.
She is in demand as a member of expert groups including the International Tasting Institute, the Disciples of Escoffier, and the UK Bartenders Guild.
She is also the proud owner of a World Jam Award – so it is surprising to learn that food hasn’t always been her chosen career. An eventful working life has included the role of theatre stage manager for West End and touring productions such as Starlight Express, a stint at a shipping company and time as an environmental impact analyst.
But that super palate was always there, waiting to be found. “My mum was a cook who worked for a retired Colonel,” she remembers. “As a child I used to help her forage for ingredients in the garden and that’s where my love of food originates from. It’s in my DNA.”
Eventually settled in Hampshire and starting a family, Jennifer put her good taste to use, working with Jody Scheckter of Laverstoke Park Farm to turn excess vegetables into in-demand soups.
Inspired, but wanting a product with a longer shelf life, Jennifer switched from veg to fruit.
“I started using leftover produce from gardening work I was doing, making jams and chutneys for the people I was working for,” she says. “I did a couple of hundred jams and my friend ran a food festival, so we sold it there, and ran out on the first day. I thought, maybe there’s legs in this!”
And so Naked Jam, at Hordle, near Lymington, was born – its name a reference to the simplicity and lack of additives in the product.
“If you buy a supermarket jam, they’ll have put in glucose, thickeners, pectin and other additives,” says Jennifer. “Our jam is just fruit and sugar, and sometimes a little lemon juice. We’ve got good quality ingredients – there are fantastic fruit farms locally, so I know where every single piece of fruit in our jam comes from, and I know the farmers personally.”
For Jennifer, who describes jam-making as therapy, this connection to the natural world is important: “People have got to understand that if you eat well, you can be healthy and happy. What more can you want from life? Everything else will follow.”
Naked Jam offers staples like strawberry and raspberry, unusual lines like the best-selling rhubarb and may chang (a Chinese berry), and a range of pickles and chutneys. Customers include high end hotels and restaurants including Chewton Glen, The Mayfair Townhouse, Corinthia London hotel and The Pig.
Jennifer also runs workshops, and bakes home-made scones for guests for the perfect cream tea. And what’s her answer to the big question – jam or cream first?
She doesn’t hesitate: “Cream first, of course – jam is always on top!”