It began with an allotment. When Not Just Jams owner Jo decided with her husband that she wanted to grow more fruit and vegetables – but didn’t want to deprive the dog of space for running round the garden – getting an allotment seemed like the solution. And it became very productive!
Said Jo “I started using gluts of produce to make jams and chutneys. When I passed them on to friends and family, they said ‘These are good! You need to do this more!’. So I thought I’d look into having a stall at the odd craft fair. Environmental Health came round to inspect my kitchen at home – where I still make all my preserves – and my methods. They gave me a Five Star rating, so I booked in for my first one, at Coventry Transport Museum”.
She continued “We had an amazing two days. I sold out of practically everything and I really enjoyed it. Gradually the business grew until I got to the point where I thought ‘I need to do this full time’”.
It was the arrival of creative hub Fargo Village that gave Jo the final nudge towards opening her own shop. After falling in love with the place, she now shares Container Number Eight with Sarah Jayne Creations and Albie’s (doggy) Boutique, both run by her friend and fellow-creative Sarah.
What’s really mind-blowing about Not Just Jams is that so much of what goes into the preserves is so hyper-local: grown or foraged* on Jo’s Coventry allotment and made in her Coventry kitchen. She said “Obviously, things like citrus fruits don’t grow in Britain, so I have to source them from my greengrocer, but as many ingredients as possible come from the allotment. For tomatoes and chillies, I have a thirty-foot polytunnel. I grow tried-and-trusted varieties – mostly heritage – and don’t use artificial fertilizers, pesticides or weed killers”.
And the range of jams, jellies, condiments and chutneys made by Jo for Not Just Jams is simply amazing. From regional revivals like Dumpsie Dearie (a traditional Warwickshire/Worcestershire jam made with apples, pears, plums and a hint of ginger) to secret family recipes (Gran’s Military Pickle) to modern cocktail jams to delicious (I’ve tried it!) fiery-sweet Red Hot Relish, Not Just Jams really does have something to suit every occasion.
Asked about the inspirations behind her recipes, Jo said “Sometimes they’re suggested by customers, or I might see a recipe but alter it to my taste. The Parsnip and Horseradish Relish came about when my husband and I were discussing what goes with beef. He likes roast parsnip and I like horseradish. We combined the two to make a unique product. I don’t think you can get it anywhere else”.
And the cocktail jams? “They were my daughter’s idea” said Jo. “They’re a bit of fun. I looked at the drinks that go into different cocktails, and worked out which fruits would go with with them. They contain small amounts of alcohol, but not much”.
Looking to the future, Jo has recently introduced at loyalty card for Not Just Jams. “It’s my way of saying ‘thank you’” she explained. “When you buy a jar of preserve priced at £2.90 or above, you get a stamp. When you’ve got a full card of ten stamps, you’re entitled to a free jar worth £2.90”.
And more treats are in store to celebrate the upcoming Fargo Vegan Festival (14th-15th April). Jo said “I’ll be making a vegan curd. Traditionally, curd is made with butter, but I make a dairy-free version, usually lemon, because that’s the most popular. More generally, apart from the ale chutneys, everything I make is gluten-free, and everything is vegan apart from one of my cocktail jams that contains honey.”
To have developed all this from one Coventry allotment is just jaw-dropping. When I arrived, I thought the name must mean ‘Not Just Jams…But Pickles Too’. By the time I left, I had discovered its true meaning: ‘Not Just Jams…But A Whole Creative Process”.
*You must obtain the landowner’s permission before foraging. Foraging from roadside locations is not recommended because dust and fumes from traffic can be absorbed by plants.
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