Food producers: Wilkin & Son in Tiptree
PUBLISHED: 10:56 13 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:00 20 February 2013
NEXT year the Wilkin family will be celebrating 125 years of producing conserves of the highest quality - that's an incredible achievement for a company which fiercely protects its individuality, writes Stephanie Mackentyre....
NEXT year the Wilkin family will be celebrating 125 years of producing conserves of the highest quality - that's an incredible achievement for a company which fiercely protects its individuality, writes Stephanie Mackentyre.
Chairman Peter J Wilkin keeps a watchful eye over the business, and his joint managing director agreed to show me behind the scenes. Walter Scott has been at Tiptree now for more than 24 years. He joined after working as a graduate trainee with Cadbury Schweppes who owned Chivers Hartley.
His interest in conserves started as a young boy when his father would treat him on a Saturday to Wilkin & Son's Little Scarlet on fresh bread. Wilkin & Son now produce copious jams, chutneys and sauces. The products sell all over the world; lemon curd is popular in the States, the French order tons of Tawny Marmalade and the Japanese believe the Wilkin & Son's Blueberry conserve enhances their eyesight.
Whatever the reason, the local brand with massive global appeal continues to be best known in the UK for its strawberry jam.
'Seville oranges are split by hand and the peel inspected
to make sure the slivers of gleaming shred for each
jar are perfect'
The 900-acre farm produces many types of fruit including the Little Scarlet - the mini strawberries have a unique, intense flavour and are thought to be grown in Tiptree and in Tiptree alone. They were introduced to the farm by AC Wilkin's son CJ in the 1900s after his trip to North America where these plants grew wild; he also brought back the loganberry from which Wilkin & Son produce a jam similar to raspberry with a pleasant tartness.
Some of the fruit trees on the estate are more than 100 years old. The uniqueness of these jams has always been the attention to detail. There are 230 full-time employees with many more in the fruit-picking season all handling the freshly-harvested fruits with the utmost care and attention.
As Walter led me around the factory, I watched while Seville oranges were split by hand and the peel inspected to make sure the slivers of gleaming shred for each jar were just perfect. The fruits are harvested, cooked simply without artificial preservatives or colours and poured hot and bubbling into the jars within a matter of hours, each jar is checked again for quality and only then does it get the Tiptree stamp of approval.
Wilkin & Son welcome visitors to the jam shop, tea room and museum and there is an Open Farm Sunday on June 7 to give you the chance to see a real working farm and have a ride out to the fields to see the fruit harvest.
Wilkin & Son produce more than 5,000 tons of jam every year (that's 180 jars per minute) while preserving those original family values.
'The family has always believed in producing a consistently high quality product with the freshest, simplest ingredients,' explains Walter.
It really is that simple.
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Get the taste
Visit the Wilkin & Son tearoom, jam shop or museum