Jam, Chutney, Pickles: Preserving a Tradition

“Instead of plain strawberry jam, I make strawberry and Pimm’s jam. I think about what will either compliment the flavours or contrast with them like pineapple and cracked pepper, or gooseberry and chamomile.” A lovely interview with Kylee Newton, the founder of Newton and Pott…

Jam is to breakfast as blue is to sky and waves are to the sea. It’s such a commonplace part of the meal, that we almost overlook it. But Kylee Newton aims to change that. She tells us how, through her preserves business Newton and Pott, and her book The Modern Preserver, she hopes to make the eating of jam exciting and the making of it a thoroughly contemporary pursuit.

Are you a morning person?
I am. I’m an early riser – maybe not 5am, but I’m always up and about by 7. My mornings are sporadic. I go to the New Spitalfields Market once a week to pick up the produce. It’s an overnight market, so I get up nice and early, and come back with everything. I get a lot more done in the morning than the evening.

So is it jam on toast for breakfast for you?
Breakfast is coffee! At the weekend I might make eggs and chutney. I love chutney on my eggs. It doesn’t have to be just jam and toast or cheese and pickle. I want people to understand how they can eat jam and chutneys in interesting ways. Granola and yoghurt with soft set jam, or porridge in the winter. Pancakes. Jam in smoothies.

How did you start your business?
I have an art background and for about ten years I was working for Wolfgang Tillmans (photographer and Turner Prize-winning artist). About four years ago he decided to move to Berlin. I’d been working with him in analogue photography but because everyone, except for a few purists, has gone digital, there were no jobs for that skillset. I’d been making chutneys as Christmas presents, and it birthed from that. I got a part-time job working for a floristry company and had a chutney stall on Broadway Market.

Preserving is about upcycling food

Lots of people have an idea to turn a hobby into a business or try to launch kitchen table companies that don’t go anywhere. Why do you think you’ve succeeded?
The market stall evolved and I started getting orders from restaurants and shops. I always wanted to grow it. But it’s been really hard work. I’m a creative really, so I’m learning business as I go. I’ve not paid myself for three years so I’m grateful for my husband’s job!

jam - the modern preserver - theearlyhour.com

It’s a risk and it’s scary and you have to screw your business head on, but I love the creative side of it, the making. I’m lucky because I have customers like Selfridges, and social media has helped as free PR. I have two women who help me make the preserves and I do everything else myself – sales, marketing, PR. I’m my own PA, I answer emails, I do the logistics of the orders going out, I do all the deliveries every Friday, I set up what needs to be made. But I’m playing a long game and I want to grow and build something that will last.

Your book is called The Modern Preserver. What’s modern about chutney and jam?
Jam and chutneys and pickles have been considered twee for so long. People assume you have to be in the country to forage and preserve. But I’d say, no, it’s for a modern sensibility. What appeals to me the most about preserving is the ethical sensibility. I get really upset when people throw away food. Preserving is about upcycling food and I hope my book is part of teaching people how to do it.

It’s a great way of dealing with food waste, because you’re giving it longevity. I want to elevate it from a gentle pastime into something that has a creative life. You’re using your hands, you’re learning how something works, and you’re in charge of what goes into it so you know what you’re eating.

Have you experienced any ‘clean-eating’ or ‘anti-sugar’ backlash?
People come up to me and ask how much sugar there is in a pot. I ask them, “Well are you going to drink it?”. Because really a spoonful of jam spread on your bread is not the same as drinking a bottle of a soft drink or something similar.

Jam and pickles and preserves on shelf - theearlyhour.com

I believe in all things in moderation. We need sugar because we need energy. For jam you either add preservatives instead or there are some people who don’t add sugar but reduce the fruit right right down to make their jam. When you’ve cooked something for that long, there is literally no goodness left in it. So you might not have added sugar, but you’ve not left anything else in it.

How do you come up with your flavours?
I’m not very good at following recipes, so I’ve learned to cook by instinct. I’m experimental. I see a fruit or vegetable and think what could I put with that, especially if I’m making jam. I don’t want to make something plain. Instead of plain strawberry jam, I make strawberry and Pimm’s jam. The Pimm’s makes it taste more strawberry-ish. I think about what will either compliment the flavours or contrast with them like pineapple and cracked pepper, or gooseberry and chamomile. I spin the flavour wheel and have fun with the combinations.

Photo credit: Philippa Langley