The Road to the Royal

I am not sure what it is about entering preserves contests that I love so much. I think I have Mad for Marmalade, Crazy for Citrus to blame. It was the very first competition I ever entered and to my astonishment I came in 2nd in both categories that I entered and then to top it all off I won the amazing door prize. I left buzzing and smiling, and I have been hooked ever since.

At times, my preserves have placed poorly, but instead of being disappointed, I waited with anticipation for the judges cards to see if there would be some feedback. Something that would teach me more about the art of preserving. And other times I have won in a category that completely amazed me. Not because I didn't think I was deserving, but because it was something that at the time was out of my comfort zone


This year, when I received a message from the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair asking if they could highlight my journey on the Road to the Royal, I was so excited I could almost not respond to the email fast enough. I consider it a real honour to have been one of the 4 competitors across multiple categories chosen to be highlighted. 

This year will also be our first year having a booth selling our preserves at The Royal. So if you plan on visiting, be sure to drop by booth #2623 and say hi.


The end of the road; The Road to the Royal

My personal journey on the Road to the Royal took just over 6 weeks. It included a lot of well timed conversations with farmers to ensure I received the fruit I wanted at the peak of freshness. It involved a lot of patience, straining, skimming, measuring, stirring, boiling, testing and hoping.

It also included a little trial and error because I wanted to ensure that each jar I submitted was 'Royal worthy'. In the 6 weeks, I turned down fruit that were over ripe even though I could have paid less for the produce. I carefully measured head space and patiently waited for the rolling boil I knew I needed to ensure set.

I made decisions on which recipes I would use and which preserves I would enter. I ended up entering 7 categories, which sounds like a lot but is really only a small fragment of the categories that I could have entered. I didn't even consider the pickle category, not because I don't make a fine pickle but because I wanted to focus my efforts on jams, jellies and marmalades.

On Friday, I finally delivered my preserves to the Royal Agricultural Show Office, which was a hive of activity. I knew it would be with the show just 2 weeks away. I was taken into the back room, where we unpacked my boxes and checked each entry off the list. The table tops were covered with jar after jar of maple syrup and lots and lots of jam.

As I walked out of the office, feeling lighter than when I went in I tried to imagine what Judging day looked like. I would love to one day be on the other side of the fence. Getting to taste all of those magnificent entries.

Yesterday the judges spoke. All decisions are final. No matter where I place, I am happy to have travelled this road. Now there is nothing left to do but wait.

Officially on The Road to the Royal


Last summer when I thought of entering the Royal Winter Fair Jams, Jellies and Pickling Competition, I have to admit I was intimidated. This was a showcase of the best of the best, and I just didn’t think I was ready to compete at this level. So I didn’t enter, but I couldn’t help but think I’d missed a chance. Then when I went to the Fair I walked around the winning entries and I was so inspired by the people who had entered and wondered how I would have stacked up against them. I also thought about how amazing it would feel to be reviewed and possibly recognized by such a venerable institution as well as the high caliber judges.

So in early February of this year, when I saw a tweet mentioning an event at Fort York called Mad For Marmalade, I decided to check it out. I was excited to see on offer a talk by Sarah B Hood, (author of the cookbook We Sure Can) on How to Make Prize Winning Marmalade and immediately bought myself a ticket. I had decided this would be where I build up my courage for the Royal Winter Fair.

I made a traditional Seville Orange Marmalade and then got creative in the mixed category and made Lime Cilantro Marmalade. I tweeted a photo of the Seville Orange Marmalade and got a great reply from Sarah which gave me confidence.



The event was wonderful and I learned a lot. I feverishly took notes through Sarah’s session and asked what I am sure was an overwhelming amount of questions. Met some wonderful people and my marmalades both placed in their categories. Now, I felt like mentally I was ready to take the plunge at The Royal.

I knew the competition booklets came out sometime around mid August, so I stalked the web site waiting for the information I wanted and at the same time, I continued to hone my skills and thought about what I would enter.

I have what I consider to be a bit of an advantage as I have a stall at 3 different Farmer’s Markets in the city so I get to keep a pretty close eye on Ontario produce. I firmly believe that the quality of what you put in the jar is what you will get out of the jar, so I never settle for bruised or past their prime produce. When the raspberries were so juicy they practically melted in your mouth, I went into the kitchen to make Raspberry Jam. When Wild Ontario Blueberries started to make weekly appearances, I planned my Blueberry Jam entry.

Now that I have made the decision to throw my hat in the ring, I am excited to plan out my remaining entries and even more excited to get in the kitchen and get my preserve on!

No matter where my preserves place, I am so excited to be on the Road to the Royal.