Oxford Mail

Sarah’s jam is the toast of the town (From Oxford Mail)

9:30am Wednesday 24th August 2011

Sarah Doidge’s jams are loved… at least by the few people who can get their hands on a jar.

The pensioner’s preserves are so good, she has picked up a clutch of prestigious food industry awards – and even an offer to supply one of the country’s top food stores.

Mrs Doidge, from Abingdon, took up making jam and marmalade about five years ago after winding down the ballet school she ran for 30 years.

Since then, her cottage industry, called Brynmoor Conserves, has won seven Guild of Fine Food Great Taste Awards. Among the accolades was a three star-award for her Wild Mirabelle Plum Conserve, which saw her invited to top London food store Fortnum & Mason, in Piccadilly, to display her wares. Mrs Doidge, from Welford Gardens, said one supplier was so impressed, he tried to sign her up to make jam for Fortnum & Mason. She turned down the offer. She said: “It is lovely to get this recognition. I think my jams and marmalades have got a good reputation. “I cook every day and produce a variety of jam, marmalade, lemon curd and chutney. I probably produce about 100 jars a month and I often find that I run out of jam jars. After I visited Fortnum & Mason, following the awards in September, I got a letter of congratulation from a company which wanted me to supply the store. However, I told them I could not do it because they would have wanted me to produce thousands of jars.”

Mrs Doidge moved to Abingdon in 1970 following the death of her husband Flt Lt Tony Doidge in a flying accident. Her daughters Sophie and Julia are in their 40s and Mrs Doidge has two grandchildren. She added: “At the moment I sell my jam at farmers’ markets. I also supply a bed and breakfast in Woodstock.” Her 250-gramme jars of jam sell for up to £2.70. Although Mrs Doidge no longer runs a ballet school, she still offers private tuition – between selling her conserves. She added: “I trained with the Royal Ballet School in the late 1950s and still give lessons now and then.” One of her pupils is Didcot dancer James French, nine, who began training earlier this year with the Royal Ballet School in Covent Garden. His mum Jackie French, said: “Mrs Doidge travels to lots of places to sell her jams and chutneys.” Mrs Doidge grows some of the fruit she uses in her garden and buys the rest from local farm shops.

WHERE YOU CAN STOCK UP l Wolvercote Farmers’ Market. Headington Farmers’ Market. Wendover Farmers’ Market, in Buckinghamshire.Islip village shop.Sandford-on-Thames village shop. Hope House Bed and Breakfast in Woodstock. The Natural Bread Company in Enysham and Woodstock