Meet the Producers: Rosebud Preserves
Founder Elspeth Biltoft gives us an insight into how preserving the natural environment made a budding kitchen business bloomRead more
Our Meet the Producers series is a testament to the skilled artisan makers behind Liberty’s delectable food and drink offering. Each month, we’ll spotlight a different British brand, giving you the chance to get acquainted with some of the finest micro-producers this nation has to offer.
Britain has long had a love affair with jam and, thanks to her commitment to using carefully sourced ingredients and honest, traditional recipes, Elspeth Biltoft is keeping the nation’s taste buds sweet. Based in a converted barn in Masham, Yorkshire, Biltoft channels her passion for the countryside into Rosebud Preserves, cooking up delicious jams and marmalades that rely on skilled production over additives and preservatives. We sat down with Biltoft to discover how she does it.
Can you tell us a bit about Rosebud Preserves and how it all began?
As its founder, I was keen to start my own business offering a product that I had some knowledge of creating in a home setting. I had made approximately six different preserves for my family including Seville Orange Marmalade, Sweet Cucumber Pickle, Green Tomato Chutney and various fresh herb jellies for many years and they formed the basis of our catalogue in January 1989, which extends to approximately sixty products today.
Where are you based?
We are based in a delightful location at Rosebud Farm, hence the company name, working from two converted 19th Century barns, with open views overlooking a pretty valley at the east end of Wensleydale near Masham in North Yorkshire.
Living and working in the countryside adds a keener understanding and knowledge of local producers.
Where do you source your ingredients from?
Today our customers associate us with traditional British preserves and rightly so as we source a lot of ingredients both locally and nationally. Rhubarb from the famous Yorkshire Triangle, fresh herbs, green tomatoes, onions and beetroot from Yorkshire too. Damsons from the Lyth Valley Cumbria and Worcestershire. Bramley apples from Kent, as are green walnuts. Pickling onions from Norfolk and aromatic quinces from Essex. But from further afield we buy organic Seville oranges from one orchard near Seville in Spain and unrefined cane sugars from Mauritius, our natural malt and cider vinegars are produced in the UK.
What does your production team look like?
Our core production team consists of approximately eight people, potentially two or three more at Christmas time, and in addition a head and second chef, both of whom have been in food production for many years.
Can you talk us through your production process?
Our production process is very time consuming as most of what we produce is made from fresh ingredients and prepared almost exclusively by hand. The products are prepared, assembled and cooked in three open 160 litre pans with large surface areas. They have the ability to cook slowly and gently in the case of chutneys, or hot and fast for jams marmalades and jellies. After which they are potted using semi-automatic jarring machines.
We use generous quantities of ingredients to emulate the best of home cooking as closely as we can.
What does it mean to be a small batch producer?
This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of our business and is key to what we do. Making in small batches ensures a bright freshness, using generous quantities of ingredients to emulate the best of home cooking as closely as we can.
How does your brand philosophy reflect sustainable practice?
Wherever possible we buy fresh produce and associated packaging for our products from the UK. Our fruit and vegetable waste is collected and turned into Bio Gas. We convert all our ingredient cardboard boxes into packaging material and use re-cycled boxes wherever possible for dispatch.
How do you come up with your flavours?
When we are creating new flavours, we are very much influenced by traditional British preserves but often with the addition of more modern and innovative ingredients, for example our Smoked Apple Butter. More recently we have worked in collaboration with other Yorkshire producers, of alcohol in particular, to create new products which have proved to be very popular with our customers.
How does the surrounding countryside influence your creations?
It has a profound influence on what we do, for example the annual picking and gathering of wild ingredients to include in our products, such as Crab apples and Rowan berries for fruit jellies and wild Elderflowers for Gooseberry and Elderflower Jam. Living and working in the countryside adds a keener understanding and knowledge of local producers, how they inspire and what they can offer.
What is your all-time favourite jam and why?
My all-time favourite jam is Damson. Made of freshly picked fruit from one orchard in the Lyth Valley in Cumbria. Sweet, sharp, rich and dark, the fruit have a fleshy depth of texture and incredible flavor when balanced with unrefined cane sugar.
What defines the quality of your products?
Generous quantities of freshly prepared ingredients, high fruit contents in jams and jellies, unrefined cane sugars, natural sets without pectin or any additives or preservatives. Truly homemade flavors.
Lastly, why did you choose to stock at Liberty?
We were delighted to be asked to produce a range of jams for Liberty, as it is such an iconic and idiosyncratic brand, with a hint of eccentricity, a truly British characteristic and one we are so pleased to be associated with.