Holy Jam – Nuwara Eliya – St. Xavier’s Church Convent:
Monks have made wine for centuries and yet nothing as exciting as chateaux beetroot and lime produced by the Franciscan sisters. Juliet Coombe discovers Nuwara Eliya’s sisterly jams on a tour organised by Jetwing St Andrews naturalist.
From gin mills operated inside monasteries using botanicals like juniper, a practice initially formulated by Italians in the Middle Ages and then during the Renaissance to more recently the making of spiced herbal liqueurs like Benedictine and Chartreuse originally conceptualized by the eremitical cenobites of the Carthusian Order found in France, the crude and at the same time quite delicate techniques of maceration and distillation have always given and provided a sense of purpose and perhaps even focus to the intensely sedentary pedantry that is in essence the dominating characteristic of the lives of monks in the Catholic and Christian faith or any other faith for that matter.
But nuns? Whenever did they come into the picture? Monks have made wine and champagne for centuries and yet nothing as exciting as the chateaux beetroot and lime produced by the Franciscan sisters. A nunnery is not the usual place to find wine being made and fermented for over a year. Yet hidden away in the heart of Nuwara Eliya – the hill-capital of Sri Lanka – are a group of pious women known as the order of Franciscan Sisters, making and selling everything from condiments to coconut wines with as much spirit in them as the girls themselves. Each one is on a personal mission to use the cash made from this highly successful business to help give orphans and people who have fallen off the track a second chance in life.
The Franciscan sisters shop can be found behind St. Xavier’s church on the left hand side of the road, just follow the colourfully painted houses to a gate with a handmade sign on the wall saying the Jam Room. Follow the arrow and around the corner is a shop with a small range of their hundred homemade items varying from tomato sauce hand squashed to hot mango chutney, which sells like hot cakes to go with the local rice and curry. Famous for its fruit and vegetables brought to the island during British colonial rule these religious women have taken everything from carrots to strawberries to create a culinary feast of jelly, jams and chutneys that are also served at your breakfast table in the hotel.
To see the Jam Shop
11, Long Street, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
Open: Mon-Sat 8.30 am- 6pm