Category Archives: Food

Torrington’s timeless tipple

“Our mead takes around one year in the main vat and another year in the bottle, at least.”

SITUATED ON A plateau between Glen Innes and Tenterfield, the village of Torrington was once a thriving hub of tin mining. Now its natural benefits have given rise to a tasty and very traditional tipple created by mead makers Pierre and Glenice Armand.

The couple created 2 Wild Souls Meadery after purchasing land at Torrington in 1979. “It was the beauty of the granite landscape,” Glenice recalls. “There was plenty of bushland without any cultivation of crops, and the benefit of four seasons. The mead making came about due to our property carrying timber species of interest to the local bee farmers. They’re always on the lookout for good bee sites, and our property had just that.”

“They paid for access to the sites by giving twenty-litre buckets of honey,” Pierre recalls. “This gave me the raw material to experiment with mead making.”

MEAD MAKER Pierre in the meadery.

A native of rural France, Pierre is the mead maker. “He grew up at the end of the subsistence farming era,” Glenice says. “The farmers produced everything for the table including wine in the south of France and cider in Brittany and Normandy. The production process was traditional and very simple. Quality was directly related to the quality of the grapes or apples and a rigorous hygiene in the making process. These are the principles applied in our mead making.”

Glenice’s qualifications and interest in alternative health underpin her passion for getting the 2 Wild Souls product out to appreciators of naturally-brewed, preservative-free beverages.

The mead making process comes from Pierre’s country of origin: “The méthode champenoise was devised by mistake when white wines of the Champagne region of France were sold to the court of England and they were bottled before the fermentation had run its full course, creating bubbles in the drink,” Glenice says.

“This process was perfected later to achieve a consistent product, and safe pressure levels in the bottles. The fermentation in the bottles produces a sediment which is called ‘lees’. In the méthode traditionelle the lees is disgorged, or removed, to enhance the presentation of the champagne to give a clear drink; whereas the méthode champenoise ancestrale that we use is a simpler more primitive process where disgorging is not carried out.”

The fermentation of honey in the mead making process is much slower than that of wine, due to the complexity of the sugars in the mix. “Our mead takes around one year in the main vat and another year in the bottle, at least, and a maturing process goes on from there,” Pierre explains. “Torrington is well suited for mead making due to its temperate climate and chemical-free environment. The cold of the winter requires heating of the shed but the summer heat is not excessive. The forest environment is there giving the raw product and the spring on our property gives us water of the best quality for mead making.”

WILD DROP 2 Wild Souls traditional mead.

Pierre and Glenice love offering mead tastings at regional festivals. “People want and expect more natural products,” she says. “We need to educate people about our mead because it is a completely new version of an ancient drink. Artisanal production like ours allows for small batches of high-quality mead to be produced without the back up of  preservatives or additives found in mass produced wines and beers.”

“We feel very proud and happy when we see the positive response from people liking our mead and giving compliments of the lovely blossom taste of our four varieties, especially when they experience the bubbles,” she says.

“Most times we hear ‘wow this is so different to what I have tasted in the past’, ‘can we drink this with different types of foods?’ and ‘when should we drink it, in the evening or only in winter?’ and our response is that people should chill the mead and enjoy it with all food day or night any time of the year.”

“Pierre and I met through our love of horses,” Glenice says. “All horses have a free spirit within them and nearly every young woman’s dream is to ride a free-spirited horse through meadows and woodlands, so our logo represents a beautiful powerful free-spirited horse with a free-spirited woman, which equals two wild souls.”

“Our dream is to see our mead being sold in the overseas market.”

This article first appeared in New England Living magazine.

Talking of Spam

A FEW weekends ago, the Woop Woop Twitter account was temporarily hacked-into to spread some dreadful weight loss spam.

We were tipped-off by one of our followers (thanks Megan), and the problem’s been fixed, but we’ve decided to celebrate this milestone by sharing one of our favourites from the cook book shelf.

This unique title, which I don’t even think Mary Moody has in her extensive retro cook book collection, is bursting with ideas for turning the humble pressed meat into delightful culinary experiences.

SPAM is a registered trademark for chopped pork and ham owned by Hormel Foods Corporation. SPAM The Cookbook, by Marguerite Patten, is published by Hamyln.

For that reason, we cannot share the recipe for SPAM Porcupine here, but let the image inspire you to explore something different for dinner this weekend in your part of Woop Woop.

We did think of embarking on a Julie and Julia-style year-long exploration of the book, but one of Woop Woop’s resident chefs may be willing if there’s enough interest.

© Australian Country Life, all rights reserved.

Follow Michael Burge on Twitter @burgewords

Free-range free-for-all

1380708_566840856715963_1727262266_nWHAT is it about free-range eggs that ruffles so many feathers, sets governments against corporations, farmers against consumers, and treats ethical producers as the lowest member of the economic pecking order?

Every year there is another squabble in the mainstream media, blaming one sector of the egg industry for upsetting the economic balance of the whole, followed by another crow for clear production standards regulated fairly by government.

Last year, freshly-laid Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, expressed his fears about bird flu destroying the egg industry, all supposedly because of free-range chicken flocks!

Understandably, free-range egg producers are crying ‘fowl’ …

It’s probably wildly inappropriate to make light of the issue, especially while animals are suffering as we fail to overcome the obstacles; it’s just that the politics of egg production match the terminology of the chicken coop so well.

The facts at the moment are this: if you buy eggs labelled “free-range” at a supermarket, you’ll be paying a premium, and there seems no way of telling, whilst standing at the overwhelming display of product, whether the eggs are truly free-range, or the expensive result of bending the rules.

If you really want free-range eggs, it’s probably best to have your own chooks. Most Australians live in areas where produce stores will sell you everything you need to set-up and maintain a backyard flock, including the birds themselves.

You’ll have to feed, nurture and care for your birds extremely vigilantly, and wait a while before you get eggs; but when they come, you’ll soon have enough to feed your household and the neighbours’. The eggs will be delicious.

By that stage, you might be left feeling like you put a lot of time, energy, and pricy chook feed into the venture, and may come to understand why paying more for truly free-range eggs is completely justifiable for the producers who do it within the voluntary ethical codes of practice.

If building (or buying) a predator-proof chicken house, and allowing the birds to roam a bit every day, is not for you, the next best thing you can do is to find a local free-range egg producer.

Your fruit and veg shop probably stocks their products. The best way to check their free-range credentials is to pay them a visit. If they’re a bit cagey (sorry), then they may be using the term “free-range” a little loosely.

Farmers in Australia are getting increasingly wary of visitors. It’s a combination of activist intrusions, on top of the traditional “Get orf moi land!” emotions.

But there is also the growing phenomenon of the farm-gate, akin to the cellar-door movement amongst wineries, allowing consumers to see what we’re getting for our dollar.

You might only be exposed to the friendly face of the farming operations, not the behind-the-scenes realities, but a farm visit will give you an idea of the people and the practices you are paying for.

For me, the best way to cut through the marketing spin of “free to roam” (yes, with 20 birds per square metre, PR people), and “barn laid” (give me a break), is to open the egg carton before you pop it in your trolley.

The sight of a range of slightly different eggs – some a little misshapen, some with a patina of the farmyard, even a trace of chook poo and feather – will see me place that carton very carefully where the milk cannot crush it, because I know my $7.00 is going towards birds who are truly liberated.

I have been an egg producer in my own backyard, and I can spot a real free-range egg from a fake.

© Australian Country Life, all rights reserved.

Follow Michael Burge on Twitter @burgewords