|Vivien's handful of just picked bitter orange|
Back in February when I told one of my foodie friends that marmalade expert Vivien Lloyd was paying me a visit, our conversation went something like this...
"Vivien Lloyd?" she asked, her voice rising with excitement. "You mean THE Vivien Lloyd, the marmalade expert?"
"Yes, that Vivien Lloyd," I replied, cool as a cucumber. "Do you know her?"
"Of course I do," "I have all her books," she replied. "You're kidding right?"
"No I'm not kidding," I countered. "She'll be here for a few days during the Lemon Festival and we're going to make marmalade together."
"OMG!" she yelped, a note of envy in her voice.
OMG indeed! I couldn't believe my luck.
Our get together would be a leap of faith for both of us. We'd never met before nor even spoken to each other. We'd tweeted back and forth about citrus fruit and I'd learned a lot about marmalade and jam making from reading posts on Vivien's website. From time to time I tweeted photos of the citrus growing in our garden but when I tweeted a photo our kumquat trees dripping with plump, luscious, bright orange kumquats, she may have decided it was high time she flew in for a closer look.
|Vivien and her kumquat tree, Lady Marmalde|
I post from time to time about marmalade on Gustia (some would say, gone on and on) and also about the exceptional quality of Menton's citrus so when I suggested to Vivien that Menton's Annual Lemon Festival would be an ideal time to visit, the deal was done.
|Giant orange and lemon sculptures at Menton's Annual Fête du Citron|
No doubt about it, she has the Midas touch when it comes to marmalade. Seven of this year's winners in the World's Original Marmalade Awards in Cumbria had been taught or mentored by her. What an exceptional opportunity this was for me to learn her techniques first hand and raise my preserving game.
Her visit seemed to fly by. Over three days, while we discussed, picked, prepared, cooked, potted, dined and chatted, I learned the many subtleties and nuances behind making Vivien's award winning marmalades.
|An overnight soak for the orange peel to soften it|
|The beginning of lemon-lavender marmalade|
|Testing the set. This is ready|
|The morning after for the peel in our three-fruit marmalade|
|A little citrus retail therapy|
We bought a kumquat tree and one of Vivien's Twitter followers crowned it "Miss Mamalade." It now resides on one of our terraces snuggled between ancient olive trees and mature bitter orange trees. I promised to send Vivien all of Miss Marmalade's kumquats in perpetuity.
|Perfect bitter orange marmalade|
On the last night of our visit we prepared Vivien's special lemon curd by combining some of Menton's coveted lemons and some super fresh eggs we'd bought from a local Paysanne vendor. The preparation was wondrously slow, an exercise in patience and observation. The taste and texture was sublime.
|Sublime, delicious lemon curd|
Throughout our visit I kept thinking we need more people like Vivien. People who reach out and are passionate, talented and generous about helping others and sharing their immense knowledge.
We parted friends and talked about collaborating on a future project or two.
One thing's for sure, I have a new understanding about marmalade and I'm so grateful that we were able to share three inspiring days together.
I scored a Silver Certificate at last year's Original Marmalade Awards. Next year, I'm going for gold.