The local ‘Mary Berry’ whose food you may have eaten this Christmas
If you sat down for your Christmas breakfast this morning with a special jar of Mrs. Darlington’s jam, you might not have realized it’s made locally.
Most famous for the lemon curd that launched the brand – and which still sells for three times more than anything they produce – the company was founded in 1980 by the first Mrs. Darlington, Marion, of her family farm in Shavington.
The operation eventually grew too large for the farm buildings and, since 1997, Ms. Darlington’s entire product line has been manufactured at Lancaster Fields, Crewe, employing a tight-knit team of 24 regular area employees.
Marion is now 80 years old and retired. On the company’s website, Marion is described as “the Mary Berry of recipe creation” in the family business, “and she still helps counsel her daughter Sarah Darlington, who has been with the company since 1987 and is the general manager.
The 52-year-old, who lives just outside Nantwich, said she was proud to be part of a South Cheshire business.
She said: â€œWe are so proud to be based in Crewe and to be part of the local economy. It always amazes me that we are not better known locally. We sell so many jars, but people don’t realize not that we are based here We are Crewe’s hidden secret.
â€œWe have a very loyal workforce from Crewe and the surrounding areas. We are just a small group and everyone has been with me for a long time. We all take care of each other and I am so proud of how well we’ve all pulled together in the business.
“We have been extremely busy over the past two years and we are very grateful for that. It meant we could keep all the jobs for our staff and we continued without leave.”
You won’t find Mrs Darlington’s award-winning range – which includes over 80 different curds, preserves, marmalades, chutneys, sauces and pickles – in supermarkets as they have decided to only supply farm shops, grocery stores and garden centers. . in this country.
They also started exporting 20 years ago and Ms Darlington’s products can be found in stores as far as Australia, Malaysia, Brunei, Russia and the Falkland Islands. But Brexit has made exports to the EU considerably more difficult, with red tape and red tape delaying deliveries.
Sarah, who joined the family business in 1987 as a â€œtemporary stopper but never left,â€ said: â€œWe have made a conscious choice to work with independent stores and we try to support local businesses as they maintain our cities alive.
â€œWe enjoy dealing with other small businesses and we get to know the people we work with. Some of them that we have been working with for over 30 years.
â€œWe were a little worried during the first lockdown when the garden centers closed because they are big customers. But at the end of April we realized we weren’t going to be able to do enough and we have barely been able to hold on since.
â€œWe had supply problems because we buy ingredients from all over the world, but we managed to pull the rabbit out of the hat. We did, however, have to put some lines aside to make sure we didn’t. We don’t miss our main lines, although we don’t like to let customers down. “
The business started in 1980, producing traditional lemon curd as a way to use cracked eggs on the family farm in Shavington. Local brownies collected jars that were sterilized and refilled, and Marion’s daughters, Sarah and Wendy, did the after-school labeling for half a penny per jar.
Sarah, whose Ms Darlington favorites are raspberry jam, gin marmalade and fall chutney, said: “Mum is a fabulous cook and she thought she would use the cracked eggs for curdled milk. lemon.
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â€œShe brought it to Crewe Market on a sell or return basis. It all sold out so she made more of it the next week and went from there. There was no big plan. or vision, but it’s grown and grown and grown It’s amazing to think about where we are now.
â€œThe original recipes came from my mom’s mom and my dad’s mom. When I was a kid we always had lemonade, jam, lemon curd and homemade bread, but I really wanted to have the same store bought things my friends did. I hated it back then, but we were really lucky. “
Although now on a slightly larger scale than at the beginning, all products are made in the traditional way and Sarah says you can taste the difference.
She said: â€œOur lemon curd tastes like homemade lemon curd and we always make it the same way you would at home – although we have a secret and well-kept way of doing it that we do not share.
â€œThe curds in the supermarket just don’t taste the same. Once people have tasted the right lemon curd, they don’t want to go back to mass-produced jars.â€
The team is currently developing a new curdled ginger which they are preparing to launch in January following customer requests.
Sarah, who is mom to 16-year-old twins Jack and Molly, said: â€œWe always like to try something different and we have been trying to find the recipe. It can take about six months to get a good recipe and prepare. “You at launch. It’s a big deal.”
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â€œOne of us comes up with the idea and we make it at home first. Then we work on expanding it, which doesn’t always go as planned. I think we have about five or six jars. different ginger curds on the go to make sure we find the best one.
â€œA lot of time and love goes into our products. We really care about what we make. Our name is on the jar, so it’s very personal.
“People often think we are not real. They assume ‘Ms. Darlington’ was invented in a marketing department. But we exist and we are the real deal.”
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