23 April 2013

A Jam Factory in Action

Copper pan for jam making.


Stuart (Cakeyboi) and myself were lucky enough to have a tour around Mackays jam factory in Arbroath, on the East coast of Scotland.

Mackays was founded in 1938 by the Mackay brothers, but is now owned by the Grant family. The brand is very much a family company and most of their staff live locally.

In fact the lovely Claire who showed us around first got involved with the company as a school project, the brand took her on after school and now she is their Marketing Coordinator. 

Supporting the local economy is really important to the family and they only use berries from the East coast of Scotland.  

Their strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants come from Perthshire, Fife and Angus and when the berry season is over, rather than using berries from abroad, they use the same berries which have been frozen when fresh, to keep the same high quality in their jams.

Adding fruit to a copper pot.
Strawberry jam simmering.
The Spectrum Test. Checking to see the fruit is evenly distributed.
Ready to be bottled.



They make jam the traditional way in large copper pots, which are made locally in Dundee. Their jams, curds and marmalades are made by hand, only the bottling and labelling are done by machine. The fruit is washed before it is delivered, but the staff check through each batch carefully to make sure it is good enough for their jam. The jam makers measure out the ingredients, make the jam in big copper pots, stirring it with wooden paddles and the pour it into a machine to be bottled up and labelled, they then check over the jars and hand pack them, ready for them to be delivered to shops and supermarkets across the world.


The filled jars whizz around this machine ready to be labelled.


Labelling the jars.


Checking the labels. You will notice how fast the staff work.


Lemon Curd.

Mackays have their core range of jam and curd, but they also produce marmalade and a special range of single farm conserve. Each jar tells a story and has a touch of tartan to show their Scottish heritage.


 

I also have to give a special mention to the marmalade.

Dundee is famous for it's Marmalade.

It was first made in the 18th Century, when a Spanish ship took sanctuary in Dundee harbour during a bad storm. A local grocer, James Keiller purchased some of the Seville oranges on board and to ok them home to his wife to try. They soon found out that the fruit was quite sour to eat, so the grocer's wife decided to boil it up with sugar and voila the first Dundee Marmalade was made Marmalade has been made in Dundee form Seville oranges ever since then, but Mackays is the only local firm that still makes it the authentic way in open copper pans. 
 
They also do a special range of Marmalades with Champagne and with Scottish Whisky.

I've been eating Mackays jams since I was a child and my mother bought them. I am new to their curds and Single Farm Conserves, but I am happy to recommend their products as delicious and now I have seen the care that goes into making their small batches of preserves, I will definitely be more loyal to this local brand.

If you find yourself in the East Coast of Scotland, do take a trip to Arbroath and visit the Mackays Factory Shop. 

The shop is open Monday to Thursday from 9:00am to 4:30pm and Friday from 9:00am - 3:00pm. 

Find out more about Mackays on their website
and follow them on Facebook and Twitter. 



While in Arbroath, why not have a walk along the cliffs or a stroll around the old harbour. If you eat fish, you must try the world-famous Arbroath Smokies, then you can visit the lighthouse museum and  last of all make sure you visit the Abbey.  

photo: Education Scotland
Arbroath Abbey is famous for the signing of the Declaration of Arboath. The declaration is a document Scottish nobles signed in 1320 to swear their independence from England and declared Robert the Bruce as their true king

"...for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself."

It's funny how these things all come around again isn't it? We may be signing a new declaration to say we are an independent Scotland soon, but that is a story for another day.

Disclosure: I was not sponsored to write this post. I asked Mackays Marketing Coordinator if I could have a visit to the factory. I was not expected to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own. On leaving the factory, I was kindly given some of the preserves to try.

17 comments:

  1. Oh, I'd love to go on a tour like this - I so enjoy peeking behind the scenes of other people's work. With that red floor, and everyone wearing wellies, it almost looks like they're walking around on a giant jam slick! :)

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  2. So many good things from Arbroath! You will remember my love of the Arbroath Smokie from our trip to the Foodie Festival in Edinburgh! If I'm up that way I'm going to see if I can blag a visit too, it also reminded me that one of my friends at uni used to work the factory in her summer hols.

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    1. I was thinking about you when I added the bit about the Arbroath Smokies Janice.

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  3. How interesting. I am always fascinated to see the machines and processes used in a food factory. I haven't come across this brand before but will look out for it when I visit Scotland (for the first time!) next month!

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    1. The nice thing is that so much of it is done by hand Charlotte. Do let me know if you are around.

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  4. I've had that marmalade when I was in Scotland! It was divine. What fun to read all about this company and how they make their jams etc.

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    1. Nice to see it after tasting it. I loved my day there.

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  5. thank you for taking me back, we spent three glorious years in the mid 80's living in Edzell where my husband was stationed. I'd go back in a heartbeat!

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    1. Ahhh good memories then. Maybe you should plan a trip Linda :)

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  6. We stopped for smokies in Arbroath! These jams and marmalades look fantastic :)

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    1. The smokies are really famous and it's a nice wee town to stop in.

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  7. That's a huge factory! Great tour, interesting to know more about the company and to see behind the scenes.

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  8. What an interesting post, so educational! Love that copper pan for jam making,when I first saw it, I thought you owned it and liked making A LOT OF JAM in that huge copper pan. :)

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    1. Hehe! No my kitchen is definitely not big enough for a pot like that. I wish!

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  9. Remember the men who started it. George and Bert Mackay took a chance in the thirties depression and struck out on their own. The family, who now own it, took the same leap of faith and belief in their own abilities.

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I love reading comments, so thank you for taking the time to leave one. Unfortunately, I'm bombarded with spam, so I've turned on comment moderation. I'll publish your comments as soon as I can and respond to them. Don't panic, they will disappear when you hit publish. Jac x

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