GRANDMOTHER Sarah Doidge has agreed a deal to supply top food store Fortnum & Mason with jars of plum conserve after initially turning the firm down.
A lot of hard graft as well as good luck has led to the mother-of-two being recognised by the posh food retailer.
Mrs Doidge, from Abingdon, started making jam and marmalade about five years ago and since then her business called Brynmoor Conserves has won 10 Guild of Fine Food Great Taste Awards.
This year, her Wild Cherry Plum Conserve won two gold stars and as a result Fortnum & Mason placed an order, though not for the first time.
Mrs Doidge said: “Two years ago, my Wild Mirabelle Plum got three gold stars, which is very hard to get, and Fortnum & Mason wanted thousands of jars. But I couldn’t supply the volume they wanted because I do everything myself.
“But this time I agreed to produce five dozen 250-gram jars costing £3.20 each and they have been delivered for a promotion at the shop in Piccadilly at the start of the month.
“I hope my reputation as a jam producer is growing and if this order sells well Fortnum & Mason might come back for more.”
Until she started making jam, Mrs Doidge ran a ballet school for 30 years and Jenny Savey, a former ballet student sometimes helps to pick her fruit.
But the bulk of the work is done by Mrs Doidge herself and she is now on the hunt for more wild fruit to meet demand.
She said: “I have been rushing around the countryside to find wild cherry plums.
“They grow all over the place and I have been picking them in the Didcot area.
“The other night I found some and picked about 18lbs, which can make about 45 jars.
“I have to fight my way through brambles and I get stung by lots of stinging nettles but it’s worth it because I love making jam.
“I don’t wear gloves because it’s easier to pick fruit with your bare hands and usually I have no-one to help me.
“I have heard that there are lots of wild cherry plums growing on the main Chichester-to-Worthing road in Sussex but it’s a long way for me to go.”
This year the Guild of Fine Food has also recognised two other Brynmoor Conserves products. Apricot and Mango Conserve picked up a gold star while quince cheese Mostarda di Venezia also won a gold star.
Mrs Doidge picks some of the fruit she uses and buys the rest from local farm shops.
She sells her products at Wolvercote farmers’ market, East Oxford farmers’ market, Wendover farmers’ market in Buckinghamshire, Islip village shop, Sandford village shop, and the Natural Bread Company in Eynsham and Woodstock.
In 1970 Mrs Doidge moved to Abingdon following the death of her husband Flt Lt Tony Doidge in a flying accident.
Tortie Farrand, a spokesman for the Guild of Fine Food, said: “Mrs Doidge has done incredibly well.
“This year there were 8,807 products entered for the Great Taste Awards and only 631 were given a two-star accreditation, while just over 2,000 picked up one.”