Product Type: Tiptree Spread
Newest Review: ... which is very interesting, then there is the Tea Rooms to enjoy a lovely cup of Tiptrees own version of Earl Grey. After having your Afte... more
Frankly My Dear, I Won't Give Up Jam...
Tiptree Little Scarlet Jam
Member Name: Hishyeness
Tiptree Little Scarlet Jam
Advantages: Deliciously more-ish, chock full of fruit, intense flavour.
Disadvantages: Expensive, with a relatively high sugar content.
In the manner of the Greek mythological figure of Tantalus (who was chained for eternity next to a stream that receded when he bowed to drink and a fruit tree whose branches swayed out of reach when he reached to pluck a fruit), I am an incurable sweet tooth "cursed" with Type 2 Diabetes. As such, most sugary treats are out of the question.
However, unlike Tantalus, I am not to be denied completely, and once a year, I treat myself to the delightful, delectable and decadent concoction that is Wilkin & Sons Tiptree Little Scarlet Strawberry Conserve. The name itself suggests an illicit summer dalliance and I very much look forward to indulging myself in this annual affair.
A LITTLE ABOUT SCARLET
Wilkin & Sons, a family business established in 1885 and based in Tiptree, Essex (you can visit the factory) is famous the world over as an English jam maker. I don't intend to re-hash the company history here - it can be gleaned quite adequately from their comprehensive web site (www.tiptree.com), which also has a dedicated section (www.littlescarlet.com) for this very special conserve.
The name of the jam derives from the variety of strawberry used to make it, and its rarity and variable harvest is what accounts for its eyebrow-raising price tag. This variety is only grown on Tiptree's estates in the south of England. My jar was snapped up from my local Tesco for £3.37 (no, that's not a typo) for the 340g jar, but to me it is worth every penny.
So what makes this queen of jams so special? and is it worth the significant premium over the plethora of other "fine" strawberry jams which are available at half the price for an equivalent quantity? My view is obviously yes - as an occasional, seasonal treat, but many will baulk at the idea of paying such a handsome price for an apparently pretentious and toffee-nosed collection of berries and sugar.
A JAM OF SUBSTANCE (OR IS THAT SUBSTANCE IN THE JAM?)
Little Scarlet is beautifully crafted and balanced and is an example of jam making at its very best. The ingredients are simple. Little Scarlet strawberries, sugar, a gelling agent (pectin) and a touch of citric acid. That's it. Nothing else. The jam is prepared with 60g of fruit per 100g of jam, which is very high compared to other products (for instance Robinsons has almost half that, and "value" brands even less). According to Tiptree, around sixty of the unique, whole small Little Scarlet berries are packed into every jar. This makes for a substantial and chunky jam with bags of concentrated strawberry flavour.
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
On popping open the jar, you are presented with a thick dark reddish brown mass of heady, richly scented strawberry. It smells simply divine. Each of the berries crammed into the jar are no bigger than a five pence piece in diameter - small, but as they say, perfectly formed. The berries practically melt in the mouth and give you a substantial sugar hit - the 67g of sugar per 100g of jam accounts for that - but the sweetness is nicely balanced by the acidity, so it is not sickly - just incredibly more-ish. It's not seedless, but the seeds are too small to be bothersome, and unlike raspberry seeds, they don't seem to have the propensity to get stuck in your molars.
I can just imagine this served with freshly baked scones and clotted cream for a proper English High Tea in a well-heeled Cotswold country tea room. This is jam that has been to charm school, knows which fork to use at the dinner table, and doesn't drop it's "haitches". In other words, a blue-blooded member of the English food aristocracy.
I don't want to waste time writing about this jam, I just want to eat it. However, it seems patently unfair to keep this little secret to myself. Little Scarlet is not an ordinary jam - it's an experience. Every spoonful oozes pedigree. Why on earth would anyone pay over the odds for a strawberry jam? Well, just like someone who has never had a vintage Bordeaux, you won't know what you are missing until you do. Until then, it's easy to dismiss it as an overpriced indulgence. By all means do - that just means there will be more for me. 8^)
© Hishyeness 2009
Summary: A well-heeled conserve with a price tag not for the faint-hearted.