At 93, Jean Forbes has been making her jams and chutneys for longer than many of her customers have been alive.
Originally from the Wairarapa, Jean moved to Stratford in 1939. I came up to nurse up at the hospital in Stratford, she recalls. I've moved a bit through the years, but came back to Stratford.
For the past 50 or so years Jean has been a parishioner at St Andrew's Church in Stratford, and every year she makes plenty of jam to sell at the annual church fair.
Helen Love, a church employee, says Jean's sales amount to about $800 for the day, which, with individual pots of preserves costing $1.50- $5, makes for a lot of toast in Stratford being spread with Jean's jam.
My mother always made them. Jean says. She used to do 100 jars of preserved fruit a year. Jean doesn't do that many jars of preserved fruits, mainly because you can't get the fruit at the right price in the shops always now.
Having learned to make the various preserves, Jean has adapted the recipes. I add garlic to most of the savoury ones, that wasn't common years ago. She has all the recipes stored in her head. My children ask me to write a recipe book, but I don't have time, she laughs. She grows plenty of vegetables to use in her recipes.
Asked how many jars she fills in a year, Jean says she doesn't know. I don't count, I just make. She makes them for family and friends, for the church fair and for the Hospice shop on Broadway. I take about two dozen down there every fortnight. With the jars there selling almost as quickly as they come in, it is no surprise that Val Ford, a team leader at the store, estimates sales of Jean's jams net the shop somewhere in the region of $1500 a year. She's wonderful, she does it all off her own back and doesn't ask for anything, says Val, adding that some people come in and buy several jars of Jean's famous tomato chutney at a time.
Jean has her favourites. I like the tamarillo chutney and the cranberry jelly. For her toast apricot is probably the one I choose. As for the tomato chutney, everyone says it is the best they've tasted. "I don't know why."
Jean isn't sure how long she'll continue making preserves. I have thought about stopping, but then I think I'll just make a few more batches.