The Bay Tree: preserves with panache

The Bay Tree: preserves with panache

by Great British Chefs 28 September 2020

From piccalilli and chutneys to relishes and sauces, The Bay Tree has become known for producing delicious preserves of all kinds. See how founder Emma Macdonald takes ingredients and transforms them into both time-honoured and more modern jars of goodness.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Emma Macdonald has been cooking since the age of thirteen. Growing up in a house where homemade jams and chutneys were the norm, it was almost written in the stars that she’d go on to work in restaurants around the world, eventually setting up her own preserves business – The Bay Tree Food Company – in her early twenties. In just a few months, Emma’s preserves were being stocked in the likes of Fortnum & Mason and Harvey Nichols in the run-up to Christmas, and after moving into a purpose-built unit which allowed her to create products on a larger scale, The Bay Tree began to reach farm shops and delis across the UK.

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Twenty-five years later, Emma and her team still focus on the same artisanal production methods that made those first few jars such a success. ‘Making the ordinary extraordinary’ is central to the company’s ethos when developing new products, and it’s what ensures Emma’s chutneys, jams, marmalades and sauces stand out from the crowd. ‘When developing new ideas, it is important to realise that food is a living product, and each crop may vary in sweetness or texture dependent on the weather or conditions of how it was grown,’ she says. ‘This is a factor that can make a big difference to the final recipe. The key focus at The Bay Tree has always been to make products as close as possible to home cooked without compromising on flavours and textures and without having to add artificial additives, while offering the convenience of a product that has a good shelf life at room temperature.’

The products range from the traditional – think piccalilli, red onion chutney and garlic pickle – to the more unusual, such as the gooseberry and coriander chutney, combining traditional cooking methods with more interesting flavour pairings. With a slew of awards under their belt and legions of fans who ensure their fridges are always stocked with a few Bay Tree jars to have with cheese and meats, in sandwiches or dolloped on top of all sorts of dishes, Emma’s hard work over the past two decades is proof that good ingredients, traditional preserving techniques and innovation in flavour pairings can become something greater than the sum of its parts.