Our county is packed to the brim with movers, makers and shakers. It isn't until I go somewhere else that I'm reminded how lucky we are here in Sussex to have such an amazing array of informed choice. That's not to say other counties don't have heroes but here we seem to have them littered. You only need to take a trip to a farm market or decent farm shop to discover an array of amazing local produce. In a trip to Towning's just before Christmas I spotted some attractive looking jars. Living just over a mile away from the River Ouse I've taken it into my heart so when I saw the Ouse Valley Food branding with the stunning watercolour heron, I was attracted like a magpie to a ball of foil. I bought a couple of chutneys and a bag of meringues and headed off home with my curious nature working overtime.
A week or so later sat at the table with a chunk of bread, some crumbly cheddar and Ouse Valley Food's Piccalilli I hit Google and after a good poke around the website I headed for the contact form.
It's such an odd thing sending someone an email saying 'Hey there, I totally love what you do and can I come and say hi and point my camera at you for my wee blog?' but owner Julian was warm, welcoming and treated me like I could have been a national magazine.
Based at Piltdown, near Newick, I'd driven past the Ouse Valley Foods headquarters a handful of times but it still didn't stop me driving right by a few times before I had to call them and get directions! When I arrived Julian was waiting for me and was every bit accommodating and welcoming as she was on email. She talked me through the history of the company before giving me a grand tour.
I had just arrived to see the last of the seasons wild garlic going into the blender for their seasonal pesto. On the other side of the kitchen pots were bubbling away while someone busied themselves (attempting to doge the camera!) preparing fresh oranges for the marmalade. It was a calm place to be but I'm sure it can get very fraught filling orders and such. What's clear though is Ouse Valley Foods are a dedicated, hard working team.
The company was founded by Julian in 2004 when she was discussing the need for a nice hollandaise sauce with a local asparagus grower. The seed was born and jellies and chutneys soon began accompanying the Hollandaise at farm shops and markets. The domino effect was in full flow and in 2006 Ouse Valley Foods began operating from premises near Plumpton Green and more recently made the move to the larger premises at Piltdown. The range now includes a number of amazing jams, chutneys, jellies, curd, marmalade and seasonal produce, including the hollandaise that started it all! The team is really strong and Ouse Valley Foods has a number of accolades to be hugely proud of - two examples being their previous stocking in Harvey Nichols and their collaboration with Glyndebourne. Julian and her team have also picked up some impressive awards including the highest rating with the Great Taste Awards - no mean feat!
And all the hype is thoroughly deserved - the ingredients are carefully sourced and used to ensure everything remains authentic and local. The chutneys are brimming with fresh flavour and the jellies crystal clear. The jams are rich and full. Even the meringues are the best (farm) shop bought I've tasted. I'm utterly intrigued by the creamy curds and my personal favourite, the lime and green chilli pickle, is a taste explosion! Other favourites include the aubergine pickle and the cheeseboard chutney.
None of the produce contains artificial flavourings or preservatives and the produce is all cooked in small batches to maintain quality.
Julian even finds the time to write and illustrate some amazing children's books which you can see more about here. One of the books is all about her times walking her dog on the railway land just outside of Lewes - I can wholeheartedly relate to her love of that particular piece of land!
Formally Emma Gutteridge