Kai and Sky have always looked for a balance in their preserves, but the right balance is not always easy. When they started out over a decade ago, they decided that the prefered balance between fruit and sugar in their preserves required quite a bit more fruit than what is normally considered practical from a financial perspective. For England Preserves however, the balance is at the heart of what they do. “If you cook strawberries and you don’t add any sugar, they taste disgusting” Sky explains. “You start to add sugar, and they taste amazing”, while “if you add too much sugar, then you cannot taste the strawberries”. The idea is “to find that exact point where you accentuate the flavour without covering it up”.
Another decision on balance that Kai and Sky made early on relates to heat. Nearly all jam makers boil their jams to achieve a firm consistency, but England Preserves decided to use lower heat to obtain much stronger and natural fruit flavours. The consequence of this decision was that it required them to come up with a new technique for making jam, and while most other producers might have decided to compromise, Kai and Sky instead decided to build their business around the perfect balance. The result is a very different jam. “You can open a jar of strawberry jam and smell the strawberries” which is sadly not the case with many other jams.
There is also a balance in England Preserves between taste and the design of their products. Kai and Sky both originally have backgrounds in design and the arts, and Kai explains, “design is as important as the product itself”. That is why they turned to the archives of the legendary Curwen Press, which has been the vanguard of design for over a century, to source the patterns for their labels. A classic print by a British artist decorates each product in the permanent range, and each jar is still labeled by hand. It represents “the coming together of arts and crafts, and artisan producers as crafts people” says Sky. To become a good jam maker, you need “a physical awareness and a trained eye”, just like a good designer.
After a number of hectic years of building the business, making jam in the weeks, perfecting their production techniques, and selling at farmer’s markets during the weekends, Kai and Sky have also found a bit of balance in their own lives. However, they discovered that the vision of what balance meant for them has changed quite a bit from what they originally imagined. While they once considered moving to the country to grow their own fruit and produce their jams on a farm, they instead found themselves as part of a community of producers in London, and discovered that the desire for a country life had disappeared.
“We are both from London” Kai explains, and “I like being part of something that is right here”, where “you’re at the epicentre”, and Sky agrees “it feels like a very special opportunity”. “You have ideas that cross over all of the time” Kai continues, produce related ideas, production ideas, and without the proximity to other producers and customers, those relationships would not be there. “When we first started the business, the jam world as it was, and pretty much still is, all pretends to be made in cottages or on farms somewhere, and it all pretends to have a twee country feel to it.” Kai explains, “we are not ashamed to be an urban producer.”