A COUPLE who gave up their jobs in education to make fruit preserves are celebrating sweet success with a Welsh centre of excellence.

Miranda’s Preserves are proving increasingly popular with shoppers at Bodnant Welsh Food Centre in the Conwy Valley.

The award-winning chutneys, marmalades and jams are made by Anita and Richard Bellfield at their home in Trefecca, Brecon.

Sales of the preserves, which are also proving a hit with professional chefs,   are on the rise since being stocked at Bodnant’s farm shop.

The pair took on Miranda’s Preserves after quitting their jobs at a private school, with the aim of transforming the company from a cottage industry into a full-time business.

Anita, aged 53, said: “It was a complete change in direction for both of us. We saw the company for sale and just decided to go for it. I had done bits and pieces in the garden and always loved it but nothing like this.”

The Bellfields planted up their cottage garden, adding soft fruit and a small orchard, and vowed that their preserves would always contain as much home-grown, or at least very locally sourced, produce as possible.

Anita said: “Now we really do produce it all at home, stirred up in a big pot on our range in the kitchen. Making the career change has been the best thing ever and we absolutely love it.”

The couple said a major breakthrough for them came when their jams, jellies and chutneys began to be stocked at Bodnant earlier this year, bringing them a presence in North Wales for the first time.

“It’s been a lovely opportunity for us to get involved with such a fantastic centre and showcase our goods. It’s a real honour,” said Richard, 58.

Bodnant Welsh Food Centre managing director Chris Morton was delighted to add Miranda’s preserves to the growing list of artisan producers.

“We pride ourselves on promoting the very best of Welsh food and drink – our range includes items from 100 producers in Wales, and we are always ready to welcome more to our shelves.

“We know that our customers are looking for high quality ingredients that are both inspiring to cooks, and extremely tasty.

“We have found that Miranda’s Preserves are proving popular both with our regular shoppers, who love it, and with holidaymakers and day visitors looking to take a taste of Wales back home with them.”

There is increasing demand for Welsh produced goods, said Anita, with people intrigued by the couple’s journey from academia to jam-making.

“People love to buy Welsh produce and they like to know who you are and what you’re doing.

“We now sell to hotels, delis, cafes and do a few food shows every year but there are just the two of us so we are limited in the amount that we can produce.

“But that’s what makes it perfect. We have to remember why we’re doing it and it is just the right size as it is. We like to be able to enjoy where we live too. If it’s a beautiful day we might decide to go for a walk and make Saturday a cooking day instead.”

The good life approach has paid dividends for the couple, who have four grown up children between them, as their preserves were given three Great Taste Awards in 2013.

Anita said: “We make jams, marmalades, chutneys and jellies. We stick to quite traditional, favourite fruit flavours for the jams but we can be a bit more experimental with the chutneys.”

Winning formulas include a chilli and lime combination as well as a beetroot flavour and the Landlord’s chutney made with Brecon Brewery ale is proving popular too.

Bodnant’s dairy also makes ice-creams that are sold in the centre’s tearooms, Hayloft restaurant and the farm shop, along with butter that is still patted and shaped by hand, and sold wrapped in greaseproof paper.

Bodnant was named Welsh Retailer of the Year in the prestigious Farm Shop and Deli Awards – dubbed the industry’s Oscars.

Based in a lovingly restored building dating from the 18th century, the food centre employs more than 80 people. It received a fanfare opening by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in 2012 and last year welcomed 243,000 visitors from around the globe.

More details at www.bodnant-welshfood.co.uk or call 01492 651100