Orkney Isles Preserves

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An appetising business which Shapinsay boasts is the very popular Orkney Isles Preserves. This productive enterprise based in a converted bothy on the family farm amidst stunning views, is run by Glynis Leslie, who has a passion for producing fine quality jams, marmalades and chutneys using traditional recipes handed down through the generations.

“I just love doing it” says Glynis, “I enjoy all aspects of it – I love planning the flavours and also the labels. As well as being good to eat I feel the product should look special. I use views and iconic buildings of Orkney so that it is an attractive gift”.

The business launched in 1986 with just three products but soon outgrew the family kitchen and moved into the former bothy in 2001. In this year Glynis also took over Nelson’s Chutneys. Bob Nelson produced chutneys with the surplus tomatoes he grew and handed the business, along with his recipes to Glynis.

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Using electricity from their own wind turbine, fondly known as ‘Tereza’ they now produce three and a half tonnes of jam and chutney per year with over 30 different varieties to choose from such as red chilli jam and smoked garlic relish.Where possible the ingredients are sourced locally including Shapinsay rhubarb and beetroot and Birsay tomatoes.

The stock is distributed by Wilsons Wholesale throughout the islands and includes catering sized packs for cafes and hotels. Outlets include Thomas Sinclair in Shapinsay as well as their biggest customer, Judith Glue, in Kirkwall and Inverness. They don’t supply any of the supermarkets, preferring to see their produce stocked in local shops. “People have to go into local shops to buy it and that seems right as it was the local shops which supported us in the early days”, says Glynis.

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“It’s not what I planned to do with my life” says Glynis, who studied French and German in Aberdeen “but I’m very happy how things have turned out. When the children were small it was something I could do from home as well as the farm work. I could be making chutney and have to change quickly from white overalls to a boiler suit and stand in a gate to move stock”.

Summer 2015 was their busiest period ever, so does the demand of meeting so many orders become stressful?  “I don’t feel pressurised” is the answer, “we are well organised and try to turn our orders round quickly and we also make sure people are stocked up in advance if we’re going away”.

There are no plans for any major expansion of the business as its running efficiently at a level they can deal with. As for Shapinsay as a base? “I love this Island – it’s my home, it’s peaceful and it’s got its own identity” says Glynis for whom the icing on the cake of moving production into the old bothy, was finding some vintage jam jars in a cupboard when they were clearing out during the refurbishment “so it’s meant to be a jam factory”.

“My granny would think it’s hilarious – people actually buying rhubarb jam when it’s just growing all over the island – but it’s a different lifestyle now – people haven’t so much time to make things but still want that homemade taste – there was a gap in the market for this kind of project.”

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Graham Hogg

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