Like many in the culinary industry, Camilla Wynne, owner of Preservation Society (arguably the most well-known preserving company in Montreal), has been on an interesting trajectory to get where she is today. Originally from Edmonton, Alberta, she came to Montreal to attend university at McGill. “I would sit in lectures thinking about cake,” she recalls. From then on, she spent more and more time focusing on sweets, before deciding that it was time to make the switch to pastry school.
“It was all in French so I was thrown right into it,” she says, “I took French immersion up until grade nine in Alberta, but pastry school was a fully immersive experience.”
After graduating, she did stints in pastry kitchens around Montreal, like Les Chèvres and Laloux. She went on to take some time off to tour with her band, Sunset Rubdown, but when they decided to call it quits a few years later, Wynne had to go back to the drawing board once again. “Everyone I had gone to pastry school with had moved up the ranks,” she says.
Wanting to get back into the industry, she then spent some time working with friend Stephanie Labelle, at Patisserie Rhubarbe, but realized it was time to move on and pursue her own adventures.
“I was debating between opening a pastry shop or doing preserves. When they started asking me to do TV segments on preserving, I realized that no one in Montreal was doing what I was,” she notes.
So, she started Preservation Society, a small-batch preserving company. At the time, most of her knowledge base in preserving had been accumulated through reading and researching, but she realized that there was still a deeper level of understanding that was missing. Through immersing herself in her work, she and is now a Master Food Preserver, helping train others in the art of preserving. Wynne points out that home preservers often come in two forms: those who are hesitant to get started or make mistakes because they are fearful of negative food safety outcomes, and those who are unaware of the potential hazards of preserving, and throw themselves into it without knowing what could happen if you don’t follow proper sanitation procedures.
Regardless of which camp you belong to, Wynne says that taking a course, like those she offers at Preservation Society, to build a foundation before getting started is one of the best things you can do. “I love teaching and the interplay that comes when you get to interact with other people,” Wynne says. Teaching was part of Preservation Society from the beginning, and her classes continue to be popular with aspiring preservers around Montreal.
One of the hallmarks of Preservation Society is Wynne’s creativity, whether this is conveyed in the classes she teaches, or the products that she sells. She claims that her inspiration comes as the result of keeping up to date on what is trending in food. “I’m constantly reading the latest food magazines and publications,” she says.
An example of this is her new tomato chutney, which was adapted from Brooklyn restaurant, Saltie. Another seasonal favourite is Fall Sweater, which started as an ode to pumpkin beer. It starts with spiced caramel, which is deglazed with St. Ambroise pumpkin ale. Thinly sliced apples and pears are added to the mix, as well as a hint of orange zest. The result is a preserve that is as cozy and comforting as your favourite warm fall sweater.
So what’s in the works for Wynne?
“I’ve got a magazine slated to come out for the holidays,” she says. It’s set to be a collaboration between other producers and artists in Montreal. Wynne is also working on a second cookbook. Unlike her first, which focuses on water bath preserving recipes across the board, from marmalades to pickles, the second book will share tips on using sweet preserves in dessert recipes. “It’s something I’ve seen more and more of lately, so there’s definitely a niche for it,” she says.
So, for all of you daydreamers out there thinking about cake and dessert recipes when you are supposed to be focusing on your English lecture, listen to your gut. You might just find your next jam.