Betty Smith moved to West Cork with the intention of retiring but, as her Poitín infused marmalade range takes off, any retirement plans have been shelved. Betty and her husband Jim speak to Sheila Mullins about the success of ‘A Taste of Irish Spirit’.
Betty Smith’s face will be familiar to many readers from her appearance on RTE’s ‘A Taste of Success’ programme last year. Though still handmade in her kitchen, since its inception things have really taken off for ‘A Taste of Irish Spirit’. Thanks to SuperValu’s Food Academy Betty’s marmalades are now available in over 20 SuperValu stores around Cork County, as well as numerous other shops.
Betty only went into business in 2012 having played around with her recipe for some time before she was happy with it. “I didn’t measure my poitín in my first few batches and they were a bit potent to say the least – I’ve since refined it so it’s a subtler flavour and you can drive after breakfast!” she says laughing. “We offer a taxi service if not!” adds Jim with a grin. Though Betty is the driving force behind ‘A Taste of Irish Spirit’, Jim is her “voluntary assistant” in the kitchen.
Poitín is the secret weapon behind Betty’s marmalade, “It’s a part of Irish heritage and has a touch of the forbidden fruit about it,” she explains. “Many people still believe it is illegal, but no, we buy ours in large batches from West Cork Distillers, and Jim, as chief taster, puts it through rigorous quality checks!”
A Taste of Irish Spirit Poitín Marmalade contains no colouring, chemicals or other allergens – just Seville oranges, sugar, spring water and 1.2 per cent poitín. “Well maybe it also has a dash of holy water,” says Jim, ever the joker. Poitín Toddy Marmalade, with cinnamon and cloves, has been added to the range to really wake up morning tastebuds. Jim also recommends a dollop of this in hot water before bed in the winter.
Betty thinks the Local Enterprise Board’s ‘Start your own Food Business’ course was instrumental in getting her off the ground, as is her personal drive to make it a success, “We’re in our 70s so we haven’t a huge amount of time to waste!” she says. Jim chimes in with “speak for yourself.”
The Smiths are often on the road, invited to appear at various food events like the recent Cork and Kerry Food Forum, where the couple were thrilled to be awarded first place in both the Ambient Foods category as well as the crystal trophy for Over-All Winner. “It felt a bit like winning Best in Show at Crufts!”
They also recently met Minister Simon Coveney who assured them he was a fan and that Poitín Marmalade was always on his breakfast table.
Betty is originally from Yorkshire whilst Jim hails from Derry and they moved to their home in Newcestown, near Bandon, 20 years ago with plans to retire. Today they have no further plans for retirement except for spotting various locations — as they travel around with their marmalade — that “would be perfect for retiring to”.
You’ll find 340g jars of both marmalades in SuperValu but Betty also does a beautiful set of 175g jars in a woven gift bag, which is available from other local stores or by contacting Betty directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. The perfect gift for anybody abroad who is missing home!