MY KIND OF COUN­TRY

Ar­ti­san food pro­ducer, Hi­lary Black­ford

Country Homes & Interiors - - CONTENTS -

Hi­lary Black­ford brings the de­li­cious taste of Ital­ian limon­cello to the Cotswolds

Af­ter set­tling back in the UK 15 years ago, Hi­lary Black­ford’s been mak­ing the most of her Cotswolds home, where she pro­duces ar­ti­san food and drink in­spired by trav­els with her hus­band Paul. She makes limon­cello and pom­pel­mo­cello, along with le­mon curd, marmel­lata, le­mon cor­dial and blackberry liqueur. We headed to her 200-year-old stone cot­tage to see how she makes her prod­ucts, sam­ple a tip­ple and hear how she’ll be see­ing in the New Year…

WHERE DO YOU CALL HOME? Cer­ney Wick, a vil­lage es­tab­lished by royal char­ter in 999 and now part of the Cotswold Wa­ter Park. We moved here af­ter many years in the US, Italy, Bel­gium and Ger­many for Paul’s work.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT

WHERE YOU LIVE? I love be­ing in a small, friendly vil­lage with a good town, Cirences­ter, close by. Plus, I can catch a train and be in Lon­don within an hour and a half if I need a city fix. I adore that we can leave the house and walk straight into the land­scape. WHAT GETS YOU OUT OF BED IN THE MORN­INGS? Cof­fee and Freddie, our en­er­getic springer spaniel! We walk for miles and some­times go for swims to­gether. I love the sight of our cot­tage when I’m on my way back; the stone has such a warm feel.

WHAT IS LIMON­CELLO AND WHAT’S THE

BEST WAY TO EN­JOY IT? Limon­cello is a de­li­cious Ital­ian af­ter din­ner ‘di­ges­tivo’ made by in­fus­ing spirit with le­mon zest. It’s pop­u­lar across Italy and most fam­i­lies have their own recipe. Mine was given to me by a lady who made limon­cello for a lit­tle bar I vis­ited in Marina del Can­tone. It’s best served ice cold, straight from the freezer.

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE

LIMON­CELLO MAK­ING BUSI­NESS? Paul and I have al­ways tried to get into the lo­cal life­style wher­ever we’ve lived. I used to serve my limon­cello to friends and fam­ily af­ter sup­per and this led to re­quests for bot­tles for Christ­mas and birthday presents. We were sit­ting around our din­ner ta­ble one evening when one of my sons sug­gested that I turned it into a busi­ness, pre­dict­ing that it would go down a storm in Lon­don. Thus, Black­fords was born. I started mak­ing the le­mon curd, us­ing a recipe given to me by my Aunty Betty, and marmel­lata be­cause I didn’t want to waste the juice left af­ter »

zest­ing all the lemons. I also make pom­pel­mo­cello with grape­fruit, a blackberry liqueur and a le­mon and mint cor­dial.

WHEN DOES THE FES­TIVE SEA­SON START

FOR YOU? We put to­gether our bot­tle or­der at the end of the sum­mer and start mak­ing limon­cello and pick­ing black­ber­ries, ready for Christ­mas sales in early au­tumn.

WHERE DO YOU SOURCE IN­GRE­DI­ENTS? Our oil-rich, or­ganic and un­waxed Si­cil­ian lemons come di­rect from a farmer who grows them on the edge of an olive grove over­look­ing the Mediter­ranean. The al­co­hol we use is made in Es­sex, and the free-range eggs used in the le­mon curd come from lo­cal hens, in­clud­ing Cathy and Mike’s in our vil­lage. I grow the mint on an al­lot­ment.

YOUR BOT­TLES ARE LOVELY – WHERE DO

THEY COME FROM? We im­port them from spe­cial­ist Ital­ian man­u­fac­tur­ers in Tre­viso. I like to think that peo­ple re­use them as vases once they’ve en­joyed the limon­cello.

WHAT’S YOUR PROUD­EST ACHIEVE­MENT? I was thrilled to have my prod­ucts ac­cepted by Demi­john in Ed­in­burgh, Glas­gow and York. It was also great to be asked to make limon­cello for Dayles­ford Or­ganic Farm.

WHAT IS THE SE­CRET OF YOUR SUC­CESS? We de­vel­oped the busi­ness slowly, which has given us time to dis­cover our strengths and weak­nesses. Ini­tially I found it dif­fi­cult to mar­ket my limon­cello, but now I love tak­ing our prod­ucts to fairs and ex­plain­ing how they’ve evolved. Our brand­ing has worked well – it uses the colours of Glouces­ter­shire County Coun­cil’s ban­ner of arms.

IT’S TIME TO KICK BACK – HOW DOES YOUR PER­FECT WEEK­END SHAPE UP? I love spend­ing Sun­day morn­ings at We­ston­birt Ar­bore­tum, es­pe­cially dur­ing win­ter.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE IN THE COTSWOLDS AND WHY? I love vis­it­ing Tet­bury for its an­tiques shops and bou­tiques, as well as the fab­u­lous Yel­low Lighted Book­shop, which of­ten has book read­ings, and Tet­bury Goods Shed Arts, where we go to see films and lis­ten to jazz. I share an al­lot­ment there with a friend too, and I love meet­ing up with her for a nat­ter and a bit of dig­ging. We of­ten end up go­ing for a walk in search of cof­fee and cake af­ter­wards.

DO YOU GET IN­VOLVED IN LO­CAL LIFE? I run a book club and Paul is on the vil­lage com­mit­tee and is also a parish coun­cil­lor.

WE’RE COM­ING TO VISIT YOUR VIL­LAGE FOR A WIN­TER BREAK – WHAT MUSTN’T WE MISS? The an­nual panto in Chel­tenham is a hoot. This year’s show, Aladdin, will see the re­turn of Tweedy the Clown, who lives in Glouces­ter­shire, and per­forms with Gif­ford’s Cir­cus, which is our must-see sum­mer show.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE SHOP LO­CALLY? The Jesse Smith Farm Shop and Cof­fee

House in Cirences­ter is a fan­tas­tic place to buy lo­cally-pro­duced and prop­erly hung meat, along with fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles and great cheese, such as Cer­ney Ash, which is made in North Cer­ney. For sausages I al­ways go to Michael Hart & Son in Crick­lade or Cirences­ter – they’ve won prizes.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PUB/CAFÉ/

RESTAU­RANT LO­CALLY? We go to The Ma­sons Arms at Mey­sey Hamp­ton for our book club Christ­mas din­ner each year, with Paul or­gan­is­ing a get-to­gether for the ‘aban­doned hus­bands’, and we love the food served at The Fal­con Inn in Poul­ton, too. BLACKFORDS­FOODANDDRI­NK.COM

Limon­cello bot­tles are care­fully la­belled by hand.

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