Although foraging is mainly an autumn pursuit, at this time of the year you will find Jeanette Howse from East Hanney gathering armfuls of elderflowers from fields and meadows close to her home. Most people use elderflowers to make elderflower champagne or cordial, but Jeanette turns them into an aromatic jelly (see recipe, left) that is really good served with cheese, pâtés or terrines.

Jeanette is an award-winning jam maker, trading under the name Well Preserved. Not only has she won several Great Taste Awards, her Jubilee Jam, created from rhubarb and strawberries, won first prize at the East Hanney Jubilee fete this month.

Those familiar with the delicious jars of jam, pickles and preserves that Jeanette sells at fetes, farmers’ markets and other Oxfordshire events will not be surprised to learn that she has won another prize.

The difference between a jar of commercially produced preserve and Jeanette’s is enormous — she cooks her jams and pickles in small batches, often using ingredients that would otherwise go to waste. Nothing except the sugar, seasoning, vinegar and the citrus fruits for her marmalades, is sourced far from her home. She uses fruits and vegetables from her garden and some from neighbours with a glut on their hands.

As far as Jeanette is concerned, nothing should ever be wasted, so she can often be seen walking her village carrying an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables during the summer.

“Those I haven’t time to process, particularly in the autumn when there is so much around, are carefully stored in my freezer” she said. She takes part in crop swaps too, which is something she is trying to encourage.

During the autumn, she forages for blackberries, crab apples, wild plums, damsons and elderberries. Jeanette takes great joy in foraging, but she is the first to admit no one should ever take more fruits from the countryside than they need.

“Foraging gets me out into the countryside and the fresh air. When I spot wild fruit I pick it responsibly, only taking what I can realistically use. I also take care not to crush other vegetation while I am picking.”

Because she cooks her produce in small batches, there is no guarantee that what was available last week will be available the next. Regular customers know this and stock up when they spot one of their favourites on her stall. The ingredients that went into her Jubilee Jam were rhubarb from her garden and local strawberries from nearby Q Gardens, as she wanted the jam to reflect the seasons and fruit that was local to her.

One of her best sellers is strawberry jam. Although it is one of those jams she’s asked for all the year round, she will not use foreign strawberries, so her customers can only buy when strawberries are in season.

“I never add water to my strawberry jam. I soak the fruit overnight in lemon juice and sugar, then cook them slowly the next day until the sugar has dissolved, turning up the heat to obtain a rapid boil until setting point has been achieved.

“The first strawberries have a lot more pectin than later ones, so they will set far more quickly. I do not add extra pectin, as I prefer a lighter set. Once the jam is set, I leave it in the preserving pan to sit for about 15 minutes before jarring, so that the strawberries are evenly distributed through the jars and don’t float to the top.”

The Jubilee Jam was made the same way, by soaking the rhubarb and strawberries together with lemon juice and sugar. The rhubarb adds a tartness and makes for a thicker jam. Unfortunately, this jam may not be available for long, as she has already sold a great deal at the Didcot Farmers’ Market and will be concentrating on producing her classic strawberry jam.

Jane Bowler, chairman of the Thames Valley Farmers’ Market Co-operative, said that Jeanette’s jams, preserves and pickles made a great addition to a farmers’ market.

She added: “Our markets are a showcase for local farmers and small food producers. We care passionately about the quality of the food we sell, and are proud of producers such as Jeanette who offer products you simply won’t find in supermarkets.

“Not only is Jeanette’s jam made locally, but it’s made with fruit grown within a few miles from where she lives.”