Showing posts with label Highbank Orchard Syrup. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Highbank Orchard Syrup. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Taste of the Week. Ballintubber Cheddar with Chives

Taste of the Week
Ballintubber Cheddar with Chives
This traditional West Limerick cheese has been handcrafted on Cahill’s Farm . It is wonderfully creamy and the chives give it a soft little crunch. It is an international gold medal winner* and our Taste of the Week.


I like producers who provide the consumer with hints and recipes and Cahill’s do just that on the back of the packet. They suggest grating it onto a pizza “for a gourmet twist”. They even suggest a wine: a spicy Syrah/Shiraz. Ideal they say for any cheese board - serve at room temperature with honey or red grapes.

I didn't have red grapes handy but the cheese, purchased at Dunne's Stores in Ballyvolane, sure went very well with the excellent Lisanley honey that you can buy at Bradley’s, North Main Street. And it also matched well with a wee drizzle of Highbank Orchard Syrup. So there you go, plenty of ways to try the Taste of the Week.

* In 2014, it took gold at the International Cheese Festival which is held annually in Nantwich, England.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Highbank Organic Orchards. Hundreds of Apple Trees. Billions of Microbes

Highbank Organic Orchards

Hundreds of Apple Trees. Billions of Microbes
I’m walking through long rows of apple trees, all in blossom, pink and white abound. The grass between is ankle height, lush and liberally populated with white daisies. Lush, but recently topped. Had I been there a week earlier, I would have seen battalions of dandelions.

I am in Kilkenny, in the healthy heart of Highbank Orchards, an organic farm owned and managed by Rod and Julie Calder-Potts.  This is excellent land for farming, recognised as such for many centuries - even the Normans had their eyes on it.  The farm-yard is 17th century, the house is 19th, and the distillery (which I've come to see) is 21st.  

Rod in the new distillery
Now though, on a lovely May evening, all is calm as Rod takes us through the orchard, though not through all its twenty acres. Fourteen of these are mature, planted with quite a few varieties, including Dabinett, Blusher, Bramley and, scattered in among the others, that lovely juicy Katy. Katy is an early apple and has lost its blossoms.

Nothing has been sprayed here for twenty years. It is not that nothing ever threatens the apple trees but they are essentially healthy and can look after themselves. And Rod reckons much of that is down to the microbes in the soil, billions of them, all "working", not necessarily together - some eat one another - but combining to preserve the habitat. They are not disturbed, not traumatized by chemicals, and so the orchards live on and thrive. “Soil health depends on a thriving population of organisms”, says Dan Barber in The Third Plate.
Orchard spirit!
The next big occasion for the orchard is, of course, the harvest. The Calder-Potts keep the apples on the trees for as long as possible, indeed they allow them fall off naturally when fully ripe. Then they are swept up and taken to the nearby yard.

They are transferred then to the apple press, an expensive piece of kit, and the juice is extracted to be used in the delicious products that Highbank now produces: Apple Juice, Apple Juice with Organic Mulled Spices, their famous Orchard Syrup (Ireland's answer to maple syrup and launched in 2010), Highbank Drivers Cider (a delicious, sparkling refreshing non-alcoholic drink), Highbank Proper Cider, and a honeyed Medieval Cider.
Proper cider!
Recently they have moved up the ABV scale with the installation of their little distillery and are making Gins, Pink Flamingo Gin and the premium Crystal Gin. And there’ll be more! We enjoyed the tour of the bright new distillery. It is small. The operation is small-scale, bottling is done by hand. Small yes, but these are top class products.


Highbank is the setting for many events but most notably, from a food point of view, they have hosted the Keith Bohanna Bia Beag series with subjects such as artisan bread, locally roasted coffee, bean to bar chocolate. And, of course, there is the Highbank Christmas Food and Craft Fair.
They are a busy couple and you’ll see them at markets and food festivals all over the country, including most recently, Sheridan’s and Ballymaloe LitFest. Besides, they are involved in promoting good food generally. Kilkenny too is naturally close to their hearts and so we couldn't have had a better guide on a quick Saturday morning run through the marble city than Julie.

She showed us, with pride, restaurants such as Zuni and the Salt Yard, Slice of Heaven and its newly opened cookery school, the food hall at the Kilkenny Design Centre. Then you need something to serve your food in so off we went to Nicholas Mosse in Bennettsbridge, you need some nice lighting while dining and we got that at nearby Moth to a Flame (Larry Kinsella’s hand-made candles) and you also need something nice to look at on your walls and shelves and we found plenty of that at the Bridge Pottery.
Needless to say, the credit card took a bit of a hammering. On the previous afternoon, left to my own devices, I was on the drinks trail! Called to Billy Byrne’s Pub (the Bula Bus and its excellent onboard restaurant is parked in the back) and sipped some nice local beer by Ger Costello and a pale ale from 12 acres.

Of course, I couldn't leave Kilkenny without calling to Le Caveau. Pascal himself was busy on the road but we did take advantage of the reductions for Real Wine Month and went off happy with a couple of his organic wines.

And it was the drink that brought us to Kilkenny in the first place! In Highbank's internet competition earlier in the year, I won a meal at The Strawberry Tree and, in addition, I also won a bottle of Highbank's new Crystal Gin and that was in the car with us as we said au revoir to the Marble City and to two of its outstanding citizens, the Calder-Potts.
Le Caveau (left) and Bennettsbridge (from the Nicholas Mosse pottery)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Roughty Foodie. Generation to Generation

Roughty Foodie

Generation to Generation
Garett, on duty.
“I believe the survival of the English Market over the last hundred years is down to the families who have ran the stalls from generation to generation. They have kept it going.” So said Garrett Murphy, as we chatted over a cuppa in the Farmgate Cafe. Garrett, a current stallholder, knows what he is talking about!

For fifty years, his father Michael ran the Roughty Fruit King stall in the centre of the market, until ill health came in 2011. Four generations of the Murphys worked there, in different locations, until they settled on the current stall in 1961. Nowadays, Garrett and his sister Margot Ann work in the new look foodie stall (now called The Roughty Foodie) and they have help from time to time from younger members of the family.
 Two thousand and eleven was the year of the Queen’s visit and the Murphys, in transition from a specifically fruit stall to something more general, weren't ready for her but, with help and encouragement from the City Council and fellow traders, they were up and running for the peak summer months.


“It kinda fell into our laps,” says Garrett as he recalled those anxious months. “But we could see the change of emphasis to quality. We could compete with the supermarkets on quality though not on price. So we took that new direction and grew organically. We soon had a few local producers on board, including Macroom Mills, Glenilen and our home-baker.” Garrett will never forget that first Saturday. “Everything cleared. We had nothing left on the shelves.”


They moved along from there with new producers coming on board, including Brian from Beechwood Farm and his brother Colm from Horizon Farms, Mags (who makes a great Lemon Curd) from Heavenly Preserves and Betty Smith with her jams and marmalades. Also joining were Harty’s Jellies, Taste the View, while local strawberries came from Rathcooney.

“The two months July and August of 2011 were great. The tourists came flooding in and kept buying, the locals too despite the parking problems. Traders told us it would get better in October and November but that didn't happen and we were worried until December and the run-in to Christmas which proved massive for us and had us back on track”.

 Two of the stall’s suppliers, Seymour Biscuits and Kilbeggan, may be bought at the upscale Dean and Deluca in New York but “we have no big-name suppliers” says Garrett. “Some are part-time and some were professionals who lost out in the recession and turned to what they knew. Nicola of the Big Red Kitchen is an example of the latter.”


I asked Garrett what the most popular products are. “It is seasonal so, for example, we sell a lot of porridge in the winter months. Jams, preserves and honey are always very popular and so too is cheese.” What has surprised you over the past few years? “This Christmas it was the amount of hampers and Irish cheese and crackers that we sold. At Christmas 2011, goosefat was a huge seller.”


What are his own favourites? Licking his lips he had no hesitation: Eddie Hicks’ fantastic bacon jam and Ballybrado Supreme Spelt muesli. He has great time too for Kitty Colchester’s Happy Heart organic rapeseed oil and the High Bank Farm Apple Syrup. And indeed is enthusiastic about every single product he displays!

The stall is packed with food. But it is not just food. Tourists love the Seaweed Bath. The Goats Milk soap from the Burren is very popular too and he has a great candle-maker from Portmagee on Valentia Island. So do go in and explore. You never know what treasure you’ll find in Roughty Foodie.




Thursday, September 4, 2014

Taste of the Week. Highbank Orchard Syrup

Taste of the Week
Highbank Orchard Syrup
Highbank's Julie and her syrup at Ballymaloe last Saturday.

Highbank Orchard Syrup is not a new product - it has been around for about four years - but it is a top class Irish product and it is our Taste of the Week. It has many uses, aside from obvious ones such as drizzling it on your pancakes and porridge.

Here is a list I got at the Ballymaloe Garden Festival last weekend where Highbank Organic Orchards had a stand:
Drizzle it on blue cheese;
Drizzle it on rice pudding;
Drizzle it on French Toast;
Drizzle it on Waldorf Salad;
Drizzle it on fruit salad and yoghurt;
Glaze on oven vegetables and ham;
Decorate paté and terrine;
With sausages;
Drizzle on vegetable soup;
Drizzle on flapjacks;
Drizzle on Banana.

So you can see it is a very versatile syrup indeed and a very tasty one too. And don't worry if the bottle goes down slowly - it will last for ten years. But, a word of warning. Keep it at “ambient” temperature; don’t store it in the fridge as it will go solid and become unusable.