Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Disaster Bay Chillies

Bereft of another community garden to report on, Ms Tagalong thought you might like to know about this enterprising Eden venture. Certainly no disaster for the two friends Stuart and John who amalgamated forces growing organic chillis and turning them into award-winning produce.

They are not climatically as lucky as us in Newcastle and their 1-2 tonne chilli crop is annual, growing 15 different varieties together with 5 tonnes of tomatoes used in the various products. About 10,000 jars of each annually, Stuart told us, plus 10 – 12,000 bottles of wine. Half an acre produces enough for their needs. They plant 10% more than they need having decided to use no biological controls losing some to red grubs and ladybirds.

Ms Tagalong was initially seduced by the idea of sourcing local chilli chocolate after having bartered her last remaining bar for some bastard trumpeter at the camp-site.

For those unknowing gardeners, the bastard trumpeter (not an illegitimate relation to Winton Marsalis) is a very meaty fish.
Succulent and filleted, fresh from the sea, it very nearly made up for the ongoing lack of chocolate.

Back at the factory Ms Tagalong was disappointed to hear that the chocolate is only made in the cooler season and is in fact not much of a profit maker but an award winner, taking the best chocolate at Good Taste Awards in the UK.

Ms Tagalong hummed and hawed about what to buy:
Hot Chilli Wine – their signature product
Exotic Masala – Chilli sauce, spices personally blended by one of the two resident Indian ladies in the area

Spicy Kasounda – Indian Chutney
Chipotle Sauce – smoked jalapeno and garlic, a Mexican taste import. Imagine smoking these in the wood-fired pizza oven which we just must have!
Chilli wine liqueur – liqueur conserve
Lemon Stinger – Chilli marmalade, more a Zinger, said John, but the herbal teas have cornered the name on that one!
So what would you have done? Probably listen to Mr Ideasman and buy one of each!

Where on earth did the idea for a chilli wine come from, we asked Stuart?
You might say that Stuart saw a light, literally, after his stint as Green Cape lighthouse-keeper.

He had learnt the recipe from an old bushman he used to camp with and after making some brews he floated the idea to go commercial by his friend John, an organic market gardener.

John asked his wife, who said no. Stuart then gave John's wife a sample and she said yes!
The rest, as they say, is history with more and more awards stacking up will be happy to know all products can be purchased at Newcastle Farmer's Market.

Although Ms Tagalong and Mr Ideasman were both offered jobs cooking the two giant kettles of tomatoes (8-9 hours, reduced with no thickeners)
they declined but did take the proffered manzana chillis, black-seeded to plant in the garden.

Now, who has a big kettle?

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