Click here to read the February 2017 Newsletter, with news of my adventures in and out of the grove…
I was interviewed by the lovely Helen Shield for Tasmania’s ABC Radio Drivetime show, broadcast just before Christmas. It was a fun experience, if a bit scary! If you’ve got 7 minutes, have a listen and find out a bit more about what we’re doing at the moment, how we got here, and what the future may hold!
Want to get involved and be able to try our fabulous, fresh 2017 harvest oil later this year? Find out how to adopt one of our trees by clicking HERE.
I started writing this a while ago, but then got sidetracked and never quite got around to getting it posted. But it was a fun weekend, although a bit hectic, and I wanted to share some of the things I’d got up to! I felt as if I hadn’t achieved much that weekend, but looking back, I’d got through quite a lot!
Pruning has been continuing, but it’s felt like slow progress at times. The area of the grove I’m working on has some of the bigger trees, with quite complex branch structures. I’m trying to simplify the main branches to 3 or 4 coming off the trunk at just over a metre height, but it’s difficult to do this without removing too much of the canopy. Added to this, it sometimes feels as if the trees aren’t happy about what I’m up to, and are fighting back. The leaves are just the right size and shape to poke me in the eyes, ears, and nose! The branches I want to prune are often just slightly too high, so I’m stretching up on my toes to try and reach. While still being VERY careful not to get my fingers anywhere near the powered secateurs!
When I cut one successfully, it seems that the branches try to hit me on the head on the way down. Pointy end first… I feel as if I’m under attack! And then I look around, and it feels as if the grove goes on forever! But I am almost done. Out of our 1000 or so trees, there are only about 125 left to go. And then it’ll be pretty much time to start again! I think it’s going to be like the Sydney harbour bridge…
When I’ve been getting overwhelmed by the pruning it’s hard to know whether to just keep going, or take a break! But I’ve been doing a few other things in between. I’m still experimenting with the olive leaf tea, and I have a couple of new batches to taste and compare with the original. One is dried at a lower temperature for longer, and another two have been steamed before drying, which halts the oxidation process. These different methods slightly alter the concentration of various compounds, and therefore alter the taste. The colour of the tea is also altered, as you can see from the photos (although I ran out of white mugs, so it’s a little hard to see).
Also on the development board are olive oil granola bars. I’m in the amazing position of being able to get tons of fantastic local ingredients, so local rolled oats (rolled at Callington Mill, a Georgian windmill in Oatlands), local honey, local walnuts, butter, and olive oil. I’m looking for local dried fruit to add to the mix too. These bars vanish as fast as I bake them – I had been worried that if I was baking several times a week that I’d struggle to find homes for all the goodies, but this hasn’t been the case so far!
And in between all this, I managed to fit in an evening visit to Whisky Live in Hobart, and a lunchtime trip to my friends at Wobbly Boot Vineyard for their quarterly fundraiser!
Whisky Live was an amazing event. It felt quite pricy when I bought the ticket at $99, but with well over 100 whiskies to taste from global distilleries, and a pretty constant flow of food and nibbles, it was worth every cent! I went through the event booklet afterwards, and although I felt I’d tasted most of what was there, it seems I managed less than 30. There were spittoons, but really, I wasn’t going to use them! I’m proud to say though that I ended the night vertical! There were about 30 stands, some for just one distillery, and others representing several. Some had just one or two to taste, and a few had more than five! The atmosphere was really relaxed and friendly, and although the event was busy, there was little time spend waiting for a drink! One of my more competitive companions was keen to make sure he tasted EVERYTHING on offer, but I can’t vouch for his state of health the next day! My overall favourite was probably the Sullivans Cove Double Cask, which seemed to me to be a very easy drinking tipple…
Anyway, after this, Sunday got off to a bit of a slow start! We had bacon and eggs cooked on the BBQ, with the compulsory Aussie side of avocado (I’m trying to identify a suitable avocado growing zone on the farm!) After breakfast I headed out to do some pruning, before setting off to Wobbly Boot. I hadn’t been sure what to expect, as I hadn’t been able to make their previous Anzac Day event, but as I approached, idly wondering what they’d do about parking, it became apparent that this was a well-organised operation! A fluorescent jacket-wearing gentleman greeted my car on approach to take the $10pp entry fee (incl delicious homemade soup and bread), and direct me to parking. Cars were parked on the side of the road, with 4WDs at the edge of the paddock. There’s been a huge amount of rain in Tas, after months of drought conditions, and there were concerns that cars would get bogged in the muddy ground. I parked the Hilux, and got Blizzard out. I’d left Gunner at home because he’s much too excitable around other dogs! And there were LOTS!
The fundraising was in aid of Small Paws Animal Rescue, and the event has a tagline of “Wine and Woofs”. Wobbly Boot has a very proactive “dogs welcome” attitude, and have even got two secure dog areas, one for big dogs, and one for small. They are in an amazing setting, fairly high up in the Coal River Valley, and it was fabulous to see so many dogs and their humans having fun together there. I love the Wobbly Boot Pinot Noir, but after such a whisky-laden night I stuck to the soft drinks!
Blizzard had a ball (she’s been to Wobbly Boot before, to help with the pruning!) and loved having a good sniff around. Lots of people had brought picnics and BBQs as it was BYO food, with Wobbly Boot wine, and a selection of Tassie beers available to buy. So plenty of good smells and new friends!
I’d arranged to meet Desma from ourstoryhouse ceramics at Wobbly Boot, as I’m on a mission at the moment to find some locally made ceramic tea strainers! They have a beautiful range of cups (amongst other things), and they’ve kindly said they’ll look into some strainer designs for me! I’m very excited, as I love beautiful, handmade items like these. I really feel that they add to the whole experience and ceremony of drinking tea and coffee with friends. By a happy coincidence, it turned out that they had recently adopted a dog from Small Paws, so it seemed very fitting that we could meet at a fundraiser for them!
Another couple of dimple tumblers. These guys are just so nice to hold! Fresh out of the kiln this morning, these have a spearmint glaze exterior with oatmeal glaze interior. #tasmaniaart #tasdesigned #hobartandbeyond #lovelocal #ceramic #ceramics #glaze #art #design #ceramicart #handmadeintasmania #handmade #discovertasmania #tasmaniagram #instatasmania #homewares #thebarnmarket #interiordesign
After that it was back to the ranch for the final pruning session of the weekend, and I managed to finish the row I was working on before the sun went down! FFx
I thought I’d write a little about what makes up a bottle of our olive oil. I’ve discovered over the past year that the work and decisions don’t stop once the oil has flowed out of the press. There’s a ton of other stuff to consider when it comes to packaging! Yes, yes, perhaps I should have realised this in advance… I started out with the idea that I wanted to package our oil using Australian components and companies as far as possible. Turns out that that’s quite a challenge, certainly for a business as small as ours.
I want to be able, and proud, to tell people about our product, and every part of the process that goes into it. So, the next few paragraphs give a bit more information about the bottles, the lids, the pourers, the labels, and of course the olive oil!
I really wanted to have Australian made bottles. Harder than I’d thought as the Australian glass industry is now predominantly flat glass (ie windows, etc.). Owens-Illinois does still make container glass in Australia though, and I was able to buy through Plasdene, who are Australian owned, and have a retail outlet in each state (including Tasmania!) There was really only the bottle I ended up with that was made in Australia, the right sort of size, and available to buy in small numbers.
With these bottles, and the small volumes, there wasn’t really a choice. The caps we’re using are called Novatwist, and are made by a company which is part of TetraPak. They’re plastic and said to be fully recyclable. When capped on glass bottles, they provide energy required for the melting process. I also bought these from Plasdene. I’d meant to try and find out where they were made, but never got around to it – it’s now back on my to do list!
Complete fail on finding an Australian version. The ones I ended up with are manufactured in India, and I purchased them through an American online store. Alternatives were from China, but it seemed difficult to get a sample. If anyone can suggest a more local alternative I’d love to hear about it.
Designed by me and printed by Labelpress in Hobart. They gave me lots of great advice on label types and how the design affects printing costs. I ended up with a laminated plastic material to avoid peeling or staining of the label by oil. These ended up being relatively expensive because I only wanted a very small quantity (and they’re full colour).
The EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
Last in this list, but not least! Our delicious, peppery, Tasmanian EVOO. Grown, picked, and pressed by us, all on site at our farm. The current vintage is from picual olives, harvested and pressed in the last week of June and the first week of July 2014.
But why am I telling you all this? Well, I like to know what I’m buying. When I purchase a product, I want to be able to make an informed choice about what it is and where it’s come from. This is often harder than it appears! I’m thinking particularly about food here, but it applies to much, much more.
Am I in a minority in feeling this way? This article from the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday discusses price and country of origin issues in Australia, looking particularly at processed fruit and vegetables (found via the Sydney Sustainable Living Facebook page). I do sometimes just pick the cheapest option when I’m shopping, but I’d still like to be able to know what it is. And if I’m spending more, on what I think is a premium product, I want to be sure that it is, and I’m not just paying for clever marketing.
I’d love to know more about what other people think! Should it should be easy to find accurate information about what we buy? Is price the most important parameter when you’re shopping? Is it worth spending extra on our packaging in order to support other Australian businesses? FFx
So today I’ve got a food based post for you. Want to know how to make sticky, tender, juicy chicken wings? Then read on…
Also this week I’ve come across what looks like a fabulous Australian made cast iron frypan. I have to admit I’m still a bit dubious about how social media activity translates to actual hard sales, but I found this project on Kickstarter when I was browsing tweets with the #AustralianMade hashtag after my post last week about using Australian made bottles, so maybe it does work. Or am I an easy target? Hmm…
These pans are called FONTE ‘Tough Love’ and will be “Made in Australia”, creating a new line of business for a foundry here. I think the price is really remarkable – $99 each, including delivery within Aus (but extra for elsewhere), and a donation to the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation. There are lots of “non-stick” frying pans around which are far more expensive than this, but in my experience anything with a non-stick coating doesn’t last forever, maybe 5-10 years if you’re lucky (and careful). I’m telling you about this project just in case you’re in the market for a new frypan. I’ve been after something like this for quite a while, so I’ve pledged my money for one and will be very disappointed if it doesn’t get funded! Click here to find out more here, or on the picture below.
Now onto the cooking… Although our olive oil isn’t quite ready for sale yet, we’ve been experimenting with it in some recipes. It’s not an oil for the faint-hearted, as I’ve mentioned it has a very definite pungent and peppery taste with noticeable bitterness. These characteristics are associated with high levels of the antioxidant compounds in EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) that go hand in hand with the health benefits – the polyphenols. But they do mean that if you’re after a delicately flavoured oil, this one isn’t for you. It’s the rugged, wild, beautiful Tasmanian landscape in olive oil form! Do you think you can handle it?!
So, chicken wings – they’re something I associate with North America. I don’t remember eating them as a child in the UK, but I spent a couple of summers at the start of uni doing Camp America and BUNAC in the USA and Canada respectively. For some reason I was intrigued by those chicken wing nights some places do. It seemed like you could get a million chicken (or buffalo?!) wings for a couple of dollars. I’d tried cooking them at home over the years, but never had a great deal of success. I always found that in order to be confident they were cooked, and preferably a bit charred and crispy on the outside, the meat tended to be dry.
Then a while ago I found this recipe for “Sweet Chilli Chicken Drumsticks” in an Australian Woman’s Weekly book, that recommended cooking the chicken first by boiling, then marinating, and then cooking on the BBQ. I find it works really well, resulting in delicious juicy morsels of chicken without the worry of undercooking bone-in chicken. The original recipe was for drumsticks, but works just fine with wings too.
You can boil the chicken just in water, but I often add stuff like a roughly chopped carrot, an onion cut in half, a bay leaf, salt, and a few peppercorns. Put the chicken in a big saucepan or casserole dish with a lid. I can fit 2kg of chicken pieces in one of my big pots, but it needs a bit of room to move and cook through so don’t cram it in too much. Add any seasoning or veggies you want, and cover with cold water. Put the lid on, bring to the boil, and then simmer for 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Then, and I think this is important, leave the chicken to cool completely in the water / stock. This seems to help retain the moisture in the meat. When it’s cold, drain the chicken (keep the liquid if you think you might use it for soup), and either freeze or refrigerate, or move straight on to marinating…
Because our oil is robust, I wanted a full flavoured marinade to complement it. I found a half eaten jar of harissa paste in the fridge so I decided to look for a harissa marinade recipe. Having started writing this post, I’ve realised that I didn’t save the one I used anywhere. Sigh. And I can’t find it again. Anyway, it probably doesn’t matter too much because there’s such variation between different types of harissa, that what worked well for me might need tweaking for you!
So my marinade involved roughly:
- 1/3 cup harissa paste
- 1/3 cup robust fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil, preferably Tasmanian 😉
- 1 tbsp white balsamic (or apple cider) vinegar
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- juice of a lemon
- salt, to taste.
This was for 1kg of chicken wings, but would probably stretch to 2kg. Mix the marinade ingredients together, pour over the chicken pieces and stir around to cover the meat. Leave it all in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight. Then cook it on the BBQ until sticky and a bit charred, or in the oven – space out the pieces on a baking sheet and cook for about 20 minutes at 200ºC, turning once if you remember. Finger lickin’ good!! We had some oven baked potato chips (fries) to go with them this time.
I’m a rubbish food blogger because I forget to take photos, so this one’s after most of them were gone! (Do ‘proper’ food bloggers have little food studios in their kitchens so they’ve got nice backgrounds, accessories, and lighting?)
I wish you a week of happy eating, and maybe you could think about buying a new frypan too*, just to help me out. FFx
*(PS Not sponsored or anything, just really, really want one!)
I’ve been looking at packaging for our olive oil and one decision is which bottles to use. There are lots of lovely bottles around but our options this year are pretty limited, as many are only available by the pallet and we’re looking at smaller volumes than this.
We’re keen to use other Australian products where we can, partly to support other Aussie industries, and partly to try and keep the overall food miles down. It’s been more difficult than I thought though, to find Australian packaging. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. I knew it would be more expensive, but I still expected to have the option. Glass manufacturing in Australia includes flat glass production, and container glass. The container glass market has shrunk considerably in the face of much cheaper imports from overseas in recent years, particularly China. As far as I can determine, there are no Australian manufacturers of olive oil bottles, but it is possible to get Australian-made wine bottles.
The problem with wine bottles is that the neck size is ever so slightly different, and the regular easy pour, non-drip olive oil inserts don’t fit them. I’ve managed to find some Australian made claret-style wine bottles in a 375ml size, and I think I’ve also found some separate pourers to fit them (no luck with Australian made for these though). But they are more expensive.
So, my question is: Would you be prepared to pay about $1 more for a local product in local packaging? Or should we just get the cheapest available?
And if anyone happens to know of any other Australian, or even better Tasmanian, manufacturers of glass bottles or pourer spouts, then please let me know! FFx