There has been no stopping the production of Seville orange marmalade at a Kirkby Stephen business this month.
Stephen Keogh, 40, who is a partner in Country Flavour, the family firm established more than 70 years ago by his grandparents Harry and Rosemary at the Herb Farm, Ivegill, said they made their first batch on January 7 and are on course to top the 10,000 jar mark.
The Seville oranges themselves were held up slightly this year, but it is generally during the first week in January when they arrive, said Stephen.
He said he was a bit concerned beforehand, given political uncertainties, but in the end everything was fine, and the oranges which came from Spain were the same price as last year.
“I was glad there were no hold-ups or price increases,” said Stephen, who is the son of Chris and Jo, of High Street.
He said the price of the fruit was all down to whether it had been a good or bad crop when it was harvested in December.
“It’s been a good crop this year,” he said. “The biggest problem comes if they run out.
“If they run out in the middle of January, you obviously can’t make what you need to.”
The business ordered through Kirkby Stephen Produce 900kg of Seville oranges — which equates to about 2,000lb of fruit — the majority of which is processed in the month-long January making-up window, with a small amount being frozen.
“You try and guess how many you are going to sell in a year, but it’s always good to have some as a backup.
“We have probably frozen more this year than we normally do because of the uncertanties,” said Stephen.
Marmalade-making is ongoing, but so far they have potted up 9,200 jars.
Generally, in a normal year, Country Flavour produces about 11,000 jars of marmalade.
Once potted, each jar of the tangy preserve gets a two-year best before date stamped on it, which means customers have until January, 2023, to consume the product while it is at its peak in terms of flavour.
As well as selling directly to customers via weekly markets at Keswick and Hawes, there are usually summer agricultural and flower shows to attend.
How these events will be affected by lockdown restrictions in 2021 remains to be seen, but there is also a more stable outlet for the firm’s produce, which is sold wholesale to shops in the Carlisle, Eden and North Lakes area, including Cranstons and J and J Graham, Penrith; Westmorland Farmshops; Chestnut House, Pooley Bridge; and Ye Olde Friars, Keswick.
Last year, the firm sold more marmalade wholesale than ever before, but that could have been due to the fact that customers could not get it at the weekly markets which were cancelled in line with government guidelines due to the pandemic.
Overall, Stephen is optimistic about the future.
“I think people who already love the area will be keen to return, but also that there will be new visitors,” he said.
“If people cannot or don’t want to travel abroad, some will look to find the nicest parts of this country instead and Cumbria provides that.
“Outdoor markets like Keswick and Hawes provide a safe and friendly way to shop for high quality, locally-sourced produce,” he added.