The Women's Institute has a reputation for traditional home cooking that is second to none in the UK. The Best Kept Secrets is a series of cookbooks written by women who know all about cooking, homes and families from personal experience. They learnt to cook from their mothers and grandmothers, from family friends and from each other. They don't have to re-discover the British tradition of cooking because they never lost touch with it in the first place. The members of the Women's Institute are, without a doubt, the experts on home jam- and preserve-making in this country. Few things conjure up the pleasures of hearth and home so vividly as a shelf of home-made preserves. Making jams, pickles and chutneys is one of the most satisfying parts of cooking. Their colours, textures and flavours evoke the past seasons of the year like nothing else. Jams, Pickles & Chutneys is packed with help and advice. There are clear explanations of the process and tips on how to prepare your fruit and vegetables most efficiently. The book covers Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, as well as a section on all-the-year-round jams and pickles.
There are plenty of traditional preserves, the very names of which conjure up the British countryside: Rowan Berry and Apple Jelly, Blackberry and Sloe Jelly and Hedgerow Jam. In addition there are some really exciting newcomers, such as Rhubarb and Fig Jam, Nectarine Chutney, Cinnamon Grape Pickle, Pumpkin Marmalade and Pineapple and Mango Jam.
Midge Thomas was very much influenced by her mother's love of cooking and of all things to do with the Women's Institute. She has been a WI Member since the age of 16 and is now a member of Nettleton and Moortown WI in Lincolnshire. She became involved with WI Markets (which sell members' cakes, preserves and other produce) in 1975, and from 1991 to 1995 she was the National WI Markets Chairman. Midge teaches occasionally at Denman College, the Women's Institute college and makes preserves for the WI Markets. She helped edit A Taste of WI Markets which was compiled to celebrate 75 years of WI Markets and a millennium cookbook for her WI Federation. Midge is married to Roy. They have two sons and three grand-daughters.