Granddad Joe proves jam is no longer just a WI preserve

JOSEPH Neylan knows a thing or two about making jam. He turned his hand to it because he hates waste of any kind and saw it as a way of using up left-over fruit.

Now his hard work has been rewarded at the first ever Women's Institute Real Jam Festival.

The 68-year-old retired ICI worker won the 'Man Made Jam' category with his Strawberry and Balsamic Vinegar Jam.

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"My wife and daughter are all members of the WI and it was them that suggested I enter some of my jams into the festival," says Joseph, from Thorne, Doncaster.

Although an experienced, self-taught jam-maker , Joseph says he didn't really expect to win.

"What I most wanted was to get some feedback from the judges bout my jam. The family are always very complimentary but it is nice to have comments from other people about it and about how you might improve it."

But is was Joseph's four-year-old granddaughter, Grace, who proved the secret weapon.

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"She is my official taster," he says. "I am quite experimental with my jams. I will try different combinations which I think might work and then try them out on the family and friends and see what they think. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't

"I was making some really nice strawberry jam and I had some good balsamic vinegar and I wondered what they would taste like together.

"I made a batch and I tried it on Grace and she loved it and she said 'that's the one'." And she was right.

But the winning jam was a real family affair.

He also got help from 14-year-old grandson Joseph who designed and made the labels for him.

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"I am no good at computers and so he did them for me and they got a special mention from the judges," says Joseph who sometimes sells his jam to raise fund for his grandchildren's schools.

The WI Real Jam Festival took place in Oxfordshire on November 20 and 21 with the aim of bringing together the best preserve connoisseurs to find the best jars of jam 2010.

The best in show was won by Rosemary Green for her Gooseberry with Elderflower jam. The organisers hope that by holding and annual festival it will encourage more people to take up jam-making.

And although Joseph beat off competition from 100 jam-making men, he wasn't there to collect his prize.

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"My grandson was playing football that day and I always go to watch him. You've got to get your priorities right."

So what is the secret of the 2010 men's champion.

"I only use the best ingredients," he says.

"There is nothing but goodness in my jam, which makes it taste so much better than the jam you buy in the supermarkets."

And even though Joseph jokingly refers to jam-making as a 'sissy's game' he has no plans to hang up his apron and jam pan any time soon.

"There is no better way of using up fruit rather than throwing it away."

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