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I first started buying Meridian foods many years ago as I was attracted to their natural ingredients, and would always come home with a jar of their delicious sugar free jams.
Meridian hasn't always made health foods, indeed their history started really as a whole foods retailer, and has expanded into the production of goods of their own. From the first jar of peanut butter they made to now they have increased their lines many times over, and for me anyway they are top of the list when you think about healthy alternatives to jams and spreads in general. That is not to say I don't eat other jam, I live near to Tiptree where you can enjoy wonderful jams of the highest quality, but these are a different product entirely
The spread is made in a factory nestled in the heart of the Welsh hills. They are an ethical company in every sense of the word, and they care passionately about the environment. They are not new to the market but were campaigning for healthy foods and care of the environment long before others got up from their duvets and challenged the way we think about food production. It was over 30 years ago that the company was formed by Andrew Jedwell.
Meridian have produced healthy spreads for many years so the progression from conventional to organic seemed like a natural one, and so the product I am reviewing was born and I for one am delighted that it was.
When I think of organic food now I always remember an article written about the delivery company Abel and Cole.They set up an organic fruit and veg door to door delivery service. They had been to a farm and seen the chemical storehouse with black crosses on the lethal looking solutions, which were all hazard warnings of the highest order on these poisons destined for crop spraying. I always feel that salad crops, and soft fruit, must be some of the worst for absorbing these lethal cocktails, as we so often eat them raw, and who knows what they are doing to us. Having said that I read the other day that sales of organic foods are plummeting because of the economic crisis, and it is a sad fact that we have to make cutbacks. Personally I feel it is one area where I try to keep to my principles of buying organically. I eat a lot less food generally than I used to but organic it has to be a lot of the time. I don't eat meat or fish, so I guess being veggie helps there with the cost, but still I couldn't have afforded to eat organically when I was feeding all my 4 children. This is something I often think about because I wish organic foods could be more affordable for families. I did though used to buy certain items organically, when and as often as I could, and we used to grow things as well to help.
Meridian Organic Raspberry Spread is made from organic raspberries, which if you have ever grown them you will know is no easy task, and so all credit to the growers to have managed this. If you have ever looked inside a fresh raspberry you may see that they are like little shelters for all manner of little grubs and insects who love to hide in there, so to successfully grow them organically on a commercial scale to me is a real achievement.
They are gently cooked and then apple juice is added to make a delicious and healthy alternative to jam. The organic part of this is closely monitored by The Soil Association who ensure high standards.
You can buy this in many whole food shops and it will cost between £1.79 and £2.29 depending on where you can source it.
The first thing you notice when you remove the lid is the smell- it is like that aroma you get from a punnet of raspberries as they are just ripening. Intense and delicious. The texture is more runny than set jam but easily spreads onto toast, crumpets, or whatever your favourite treat is. Personally I love it in porridge, or in yogurt, as it is nothing like a sticky jam, and you only need a small amount as the intensity of the flavours means it lingers in your mouth for ages afterwards. The spread makes the best filling for victoria sponge cakes, and is especially good with rustic breads, like Dove's Farm Wholemeal, or seeded breads of any kind.
As the spread contains no preservatives or colourings it is important to refrigerate and to use within 21 days.This is really important as it will go mouldy if you leave it out, or fail to eat within the time.
The only sugar in this spread comes from the fruit, so it makes it ideal to give to young children, it is of course vegetarian and also vegan.
It also reminds me so much of the jam my grandmother used to make in large cauldrons every summer in our Essex garden. My mum was scared to pick the fruit as we had blackcurrant and raspberry canes galore, but we also had adders who liked to bask in the sun in the mid summer days. My old gran, then well into her 80s, would pick and make the jam (snakes never bothered her) and would soon have lots of little jars all lined up wearing lovely yellow and white gingham cloth tops. The aroma in the kitchen was out of this world and this jam reminds me of that smell every time I buy it. Hers was full of sugar though, whereas this is as close to nature as you can get!
I tried several of these fruit spreads, looking for something with no added sugar for my son that was a bit "breakfasty" to have on toast and was a bit healthier for me. As a raspberry fan, this was my favourite, by that is probably very subjective.
Price and availability.
I paid £1.89 for my 284g jar and think it normally sells for around the £2 mark. It normally sells in niche health food shops (I got mine from the Wild Carrot in Buxton) but is also available online at www.goodnessdirect.co.uk
This spread is quite runny, it dribbles off the spoon, but is also very seedy. It spreads well and easily on toast or cakes and stirs into yogurt type things seamlessly.
The taste of this spread is quite sharp and tangy and the raspberries come through well, unlike some other spreads in their range. I found this ideal, but understand it may not suit some others.
This spread is free from dairy, gluten, egg and wheat and suitable for vegetarians and vegans but think this would also be the case with other jam type things. It says sugar free, but has fructose which is a type of sugar which makes up a whopping 28% of it's content.
Organic Apple Juice Concentrate (63%), Organic Raspberries (35%), Gelling Agent: Citrus Pectin, Acidity Regulator: Citric Acid
All bar the last 2 are organic.