A day at Fat Pig Farm – The perfect 40th Birthday Present
Turning 40 this year isn’t something that I have done easily. In the weeks leading up to my birthday, I really struggled with the idea of it all, especially when being reminded by my daughter that I am now classed as ‘middle-aged’. Where on earth did my 30’s go?? It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was struggling with the idea of turning 20, and no longer being a teenager! But with growing older, comes a sense of finally finding self, and appreciating the little things. Of wanting less ‘stuff’ and more experiences and memories.
My husband, Mark, and I have dreams of a simpler life. Not a life of doing less, but a life of doing things in a more meaningful way, spending more time with family, and growing most of what we eat. In 2010, we made our first step towards our dreams by purchasing acreage with ocean views, south of Hobart, Tasmania. 30 acres of mixed terrain, pastures, woodland, a natural spring; all pulling at our hearts to call it home. Fast forward seven years and we’re still living in Melbourne, hubby is still commuting over two hours by train each day for work, and our land is still calling us from afar. That’s the thing about life…..it doesn’t pay for itself, and at the moment, Melbourne has better opportunities for us than Hobart.
Fortunately though, we’ve had The Gourmet Farmer television series to get our fix of the country life we crave. Numerous nights and weekends have been spent watching Matthew Evans swapping the big city for small farm living in Tasmania.
It’s no surprise then, that I was more than thrilled to receive a ‘group’ birthday present from Mark’s family, of a day at Fat Pig Farm for their ‘Preserving the Harvest’ class with Matthew and Michelle Crawford. (https://www.fatpig.farm/event/preserving_the_harvest/) Matthew, Sade, the piggies, gardens, good food - I was excited to say the least.
The moment we arrived in the carpark, Sade greeted us and invited Mark and our two children down for a coffee and hot chocolate before we got underway. The sun was shining, there was bread fresh out of the oven, and trays of tomatoes, fresh and juicy, ready to be made into passata. It was a beautiful start to a magnificent day.
There was a reason we were making the passata outside. It was messy. I can’t imagine trying to do it inside. Matthew and Michelle showed us what to look for in a good tomato, and led us through the process of making an amazing product that we eventually bottled in ‘tallies’; reused 750mL long necked beer bottles that brought back fond memories of Dad and Pa’s home brew. These were placed into a Fowlers Vacola Steraliser and we used the leftovers on the best wood-fired pizza I have ever eaten. It’s true what they say, less is more - let the fresh, high quality produce speak for itself. And speak it did. The goat’s cheese sourced from a neighbour’s farm, plus Matthew’s own salami, were a match made in heaven.
Nestled in a quiet spot near the Huon River, Fat Pig Farm is home to many animals, including cows and super cute Wessex Saddleback pigs. I’ve had pet pigs in the past, and I love the little creatures! I just wanted to jump the fence and give them a cuddle. The apple orchard is spectacular, with numerous old varieties. It was a highlight to pick and taste the different apples, especially ones you can’t buy from supermarkets. They were super crisp and super sweet. Head Gardener, Nadia’s knowledge and passion for soil health, growing and eating was evident. The soil smelt and looked so healthy and full of nutrients.
We picked some produce which we would preserve or eat for lunch, and popped back to the kitchen with Michelle for preserving basics, pear preserving, and some more cooking. I have to admit, I had never heard of Michelle before this class. I discovered that like Matthew, Michelle is a published cookbook Author of ’A Table In The Orchard – My Delicious Life’, a talented Food Stylist, and home economist. Check out her blog at: http://www.hugoandelsa.com/ She is an absolute wealth of knowledge of all things preserved, and has an amazing eye for making things look spectacular as well.
We sat down for an enjoyable feast of farm produce for lunch, with Sade and Michelle. It was a great opportunity to get to know these amazingly talented women more. It’s a wonderful thing, being able to sit with a group of like-minded, food-loving people. The food did, however, ruin every other meal I had on my holiday….it was that good!! (In the days after visiting Fat Pig Farm, I think I complained quite a few times that the food we got elsewhere ‘just didn’t cut it’.) Throughout the course of the day, I had eaten so much great food, I thought Mark would have to roll me back to the car at the end of the day. I was full and very satisfied.
My bounty of goods to take home from the day were two bottles of passata, a beautiful jar of preserved pears, a jar of chilli garlic sauce, a jar of caramel apple rum jam, a booklet of preserving tips and all of the recipes from the day, and the experience of making Bohemienne (Tomato and Eggplant Casserole) with Matthew Evans.
It was a wonderful end to a magnificent day, having Mark and our children come back for another coffee and hot chocolate and a mingle with everyone prior to leaving. People have asked me since coming back to Melbourne, if Matthew and Sade are as down to earth and friendly as they appear on TV, and the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. They really are warm and genuine people, who make you feel like you’ve just popped over to a friend’s place for a cuppa. Their passion for healthy, ethical sustainable, and locally grown produce is inspiring, and makes me even more impatient to give it a go ourselves.
If you’re down in Tassie, or need an excuse to go for a holiday, check out their Cooking School or Friday Feasts. (www.fatpig.farm) It’s a fantastic experience and a memory that you will look back on and want to do again. I’ll definitely be back. Perhaps I’ll see you there.