South Australia’s independent farmers and makers produce everything from fresh seafood and dairy products to flavoursome olive oils and fruit and veg. The more we support them, the more they can create, says Callum Hann.
SA’s best regional produce
Fleurieu Milk Company
Farmers have a tough job at the best of times, and after struggling with the big supermarkets, mates Geoff Hutchinson and Barry Clarke decided to start their own label and sell milk direct. I do think the reason we have such a strong coffee culture in SA is largely due to the milk our cafes use. It’s also the reason our cheese industry is able to do such an amazing job! Fleurieu farm fresh milk is of a very high quality, and if you like a creamy mouthfeel then make sure you choose their Jersey cow products.
Rohde’s Free Range Eggs
Eggs might not be the sexiest piece of produce on this list, but after visiting the farm a few year ago I had to include Rhode’s. With the RSPCA stamp of approval, this truly free-range farm has plenty of happy chickens who can roam around the farm in Clare. I genuinely believe the care and respect we give our animals directly translates to the quality of the product, in this case eggs, which are used in myriad ways in our kitchen every day.
Cherries are nostalgic to so many South Australians as they evoke memories of Christmas Day and time with family. Most cherry varieties only fruit for about two weeks, so growers need to have several varieties planted to try and stretch the season out to at least two months. Ceravolo do this brilliantly and are one of SA’s biggest cherry growers, with their Ashton location helping the cherries to be plump, sweet and full of flavour. In recent years their team installed a new grader, which takes hundreds of photos of the cherries as they pass through, and then sorts them into boxes by size and colour. If you really want to impress your guests, grab a box of their 3-4 centimetre jumbo cherries!
Figs are one of my favourite fruits and their short season means they appear on our Sprout menus constantly – while we can get them! The concept of “pick your own strawberries” has been a favourite family activity for many years in the Hills, but Willabrand’s opportunity to collect your own figs has been a roaring success. The orchard is beautiful and fairly cool even on hot late summer and autumn days. The business does offer value-added products (think ice-cream and fig gin) but my favourite way is to simply enjoy eating them fresh and straight from the tree.
Woodside Cheese Wrights cheese
Kris Lloyd and her team at Woodside often get featured on lists such as these, and rightly so. For a long time, they’ve been known for their beautiful fresh goat cheeses, for products like the very pretty Monet (fresh chevre covered in edible flowers) through to their green ant cheese, which was named best cheese at the World Cheese Awards in 2016. Woodside has truly become an internationally known brand – for example, if you go to watch the New York Knicks play at Madison Square Garden, and ask for a goat cheese, guess whose you’re eating? The team now has a range of buffalo cheese too, which is perfect if you prefer a creamier, milder cheese than the slightly stronger goat versions.
Section 28 cheese
You’ve probably gathered from reading that I am very much a cheese lover. While they share a nearby location to Woodside above, that’s about where the similarities end. Section 28 is known for their alpine style cheese, which is designed to be enjoyed after a period of ageing, rather than consumed straight away. Many cheesemakers pass their products on to a cheesemonger or specialist affineur who’s job it is to look after the ageing process. However, Kym has taken the extra step of building a “cave” (a giant cool room with controlled temperature and humidity to achieve a similar result to cave-aged cheeses in France) at his production facility so he can carefully wash and care for the cheese for several months before selling. Kym does the hard work, we just get to eat the benefits.
Once used only for fishing bait, pipis (or cockles as most of us call them!) have to be one of the quickest dinners you can ever make. Simply tossed in a pan with olive oil, garlic or chilli and a splash of wine or lemon, served with crusty bread or with pasta, is a lovely and simple way to enjoy them. New technology and methods of storing and packaging shellfish means they are still super fresh by the time they are in your kitchen. Importantly, the Goolwa PipiCo have the MSC Certified Sustainable Seafood stamp. However, my favourite part about Goolwa pipis is the method of sourcing them from the beach. The “cockle dance” (where the team use their feet to agitate the sand where the cockles can be found) has to be seen to be believed!
SA Premium Oysters
I have wanted to visit an oyster farm for years and was fortunate enough to head out for a day with these guys when we were hosting a Sprout demonstration at the Ceduna Oyster Festival. The region of Smoky Bay isn’t quite as well known as Coffin Bay, but the clean, pristine waters make for plump, clean and deliciously salty oysters. I may be a little biased, but I believe our oysters – and seafood in general – is the best in the country. If you’re an oyster-lover you’ve probably unknowingly eaten the SA Premium Oysters, but if you’re ever in the area you can book an appointment to visit them and eat the freshest possible version.
Prohibtion Liquor Co gin
The team at Prohibition have plenty to be proud of, bringing home a swag of gold medals for their gin at both national and international levels. For the first few years of operation they have been distilling out of Applewood in Gumeracha. However, they have taken a leap of faith and had their own still commissioned within their gin bar in the city, so you can watch the team hard at work while you stand back and enjoy a beverage. The gin market has never been more crowded, but these guys stand out with some intriguing versions; I particularly like their Shiraz barrel aged and spiced Christmas gins.
People may be most familiar with Mitolo coffee through their stall in the Adelaide Central Market, The Coffee Bean Shop, where their big yellow espresso machine perks up hundreds of people each day. I suffer from (or should I say enjoy) a severe coffee addiction, so it’s important we have a good bean on hand at all times. We use the Toby One blend in our kitchen, but there are plenty to choose from, all roasted fresh at their production facility in Welland. Their coffee roasting is very much an artisan craft. The team are constantly analysing the coffee beans throughout the process to account for all the variations, such as temperature and humidity, to ensure each batch is perfect.
Pendleton olive oil
We are known as the wine state but seem to get little credit for our incredible olive oil. The soil and climate required for growing the best olives is very similar to that of grapes so it’s no wonder we bat above our average. We use Pendleton’s extra virgin olive oil for all of our classes and catering at Sprout. The olives are grown and processed in the Limestone Coast and have a fruity, robust flavour that we use for everything: salads and pestos, cooking and even in desserts. Try it drizzled over strawberries …
This story first appeared in the SALIFE FOOD & WINE LIST 2019 magazine.