Preserve pundit Jane Raven of Myrtle’s Kitchen talks making small-batch Herefordshire chutneys with big flavours, and the pooch behind the name…
Tell us about your products.
Myrtle’s Kitchen makes predominantly chutneys and we have 10 in the range, which include Worcester Warrior Chutney – our most popular – and Hereford Hedgerow Chutney, which sells out fast. Our flavour combinations are original and our newest product, Boxing Day Chutney, caters for customers who struggle with their digestion. I create and taste all our recipes, and I do most of the cooking. We’re a small team by choice. In fact, we were approached by a big supermarket, but decided we didn’t want to go down that road. We wanted to stay true to ourselves and keep the focus on the flavour, the product and the customers.
Why chutneys and preserves?
The process of preserving food fascinates me. I think it’s amazing that something that’d go mouldy within days can be preserved in a jar for years! I also just really love jams and preserves and never get bored of them. Not a day goes by that I don’t eat one of our products. I’ve also always cooked – it’s a passion of mine.
How did the business come about?
I used to make mango chutney for my friends, and one day I was at a barbecue and one of them suggested it was so good, I should set up a business. I gave up my day job offering holiday cover in kitchens and went for it. I struggled to come up with a name for the business, but my black Labrador, Myrtle, was at the barbecue and it was decided to name the business after her as she was just the most lovely companion. Sadly she’s no longer with us, but I feel she’ll never be forgotten now.
Why is your location ideal for what you do?
I’m based at The Hop Pocket, Bishops Frome, Herefordshire. There are quite a few producers based here. I’m surrounded by fantastic ingredients, such as my Bramley Apples, which come from half a mile up the road. I was born in Llandrindod Wells but have lived all my life in Herefordshire and love it here. We tie our brand into the locality constantly. Lucy, my amazing designer, based the design for our labels on a pattern from a Herefordshire tile company.
What’s unique about your chutneys?
It’s the flavour that sets us apart – we won’t compromise on it. Everything’s still made in small batches on a cooker top. A pot of chutney is often on for the whole day. It can be a 12-hour mission to make sure that the intensity of flavour really comes through.
What’s the nicest thing to eat or drink with your products?
We have a Banana and Rum Chutney that goes with Caribbean chicken, the Hereford Hedgerow Chutney goes really well with cheese, and then there’s the Chuckleberry Jam, which you can eat with a scone and cream or with your turkey on Christmas Day.
Describe your typical customer.
We don’t have one! We get four-year-olds who devour the Mango Chutney, and older people love our Lemon and Lime Marmalade and reminisce about eating something similar as a child.
What’s been your proudest achievement so far?
We’ve won lots of awards but I’m most proud of being approached by Liberty London. We make Christmas Chutney for their hampers, plus they have the Chuckleberry Jam, and we’re launching a new marmalade with them for Christmas.
Biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Making enough! My biggest concern is keeping up with demand without compromising on quality or flavour.
Plans for the future?
I want a business that’s respected in the industry and is known for producing an excellent product that stands out from the crowd.
• Myrtle’s Kitchen’s chutneys, jams and marmalade cost from £3.80 per jar. Tel: 01885 490397. www.myrtleskitchen.co.uk
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