Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

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October 4th, 2008

TRADITIONS TELL us something about the standards of former times. Earlier this week I spent an instructive morning learning about the traditions of marmalade making, and the uncompromising quality standards still employed which would gladden the heart of old Mrs Keillor who started the whole Dundee marmalade tradition 200 years ago.

My mentor was Paul Grant, MD of Mackays, the jam-making factory known affectionately in Carnoustie for sixty years as “The Jammy”. Two years ago the company moved to a modern, purpose-built factory on Arbroath's Kirkton Industrial Estate.

With them went the original steam-heated, copper-bottomed open pans for boiling the fruit, maintaining the traditions and authenticity of the jam making process. Marmalade and the Dundee connection remain very important as Mackays are now the last remaining marmalade producer in the Dundee area. Only the best Spanish oranges are used in production, preserving the standards set down by Mrs Keillor in 1797.

Under Paul's guidance production has risen from processing twenty tons of local fruit a year, to 350 tons of strawberries, rasps, blackcurrants, brambles and rhubarb grown exclusively in Scotland, and the company is proud of its truly Scottish products. This year Mackays will fill 12 million jars with a confection of marmalades, jams, preserves and curds. It all rather knocks the Doyenne's kitchen-table production line for six

Chutneys and relishes have been a major part of the company's expansion. Again, only the best Scottish-grown onions, beetroot and garlic are used, emphasising the Scottish heritage of these traditional condiments.

35% of production is exported to 35 markets around the world. A resurgence of sales of marmalade to India has resulted in the export back here of jute, which Mackays make up into re-usable hessian gift carriers for their range of Mrs Bridges products. It's a renaissance of Dundee's former commercial foundations of jam and jute – and I'll supply the journalism.

The move to Arbroath has enabled Mackays to open a retail shop on the premises. Things that seemed to have become just sweet memories are back on the shelf. There's something comfortably old-fashioned about seeing the labels of familiar favourites offering endless choice and temptation. I was surprised to learn that the fictional TV character of Mrs Bridges was based on a real-life Mrs Bridges who was cook to a wealthy London's Eaton Square family, and it is her century-old recipes that are inspiring Mackays' kitchens today. www.mrsbridges.co.uk takes you to the on-line shop.

Perhaps one secret of Mackays' success has been their creativity in adapting old recipes to meet modern tastes while maintaining the essence of the tradition that they originated from. I can't help thinking Mrs Keillor and Mrs Bridges might give steely smiles of approval, even if they were thinking that things could never be as good as they were in the old days!

Written on Saturday, October 4th, 2008 at 8:35 pm for Weekly.