Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott, tackles the local produce of Queensland's Granite Belt.
For years and years I considered myself a true through city girl. I had no interest in visiting country areas and every time we would go away for a holiday I would zip off to some large city or an island and find joy there and I found that I left most of my very own country undiscovered. You see I thought that the country had nothing to offer me (well apart from a husband as Mr NQN is a country boy!)
Oh how I was wrong!
Now, ever since I started this job blogging full time over two years ago and have been privileged enough to visit country areas all around Australia, I keenly look forward to going to these areas. For starters, there is the connection to food producers that I look forward to. And country people are full of charm too, generally, what you see is what you get. Then there is the rush of freedom. There’s nothing quite like speeding away and leaving the city grind and gridlock behind and looking up at blue sky rushing past you, the smell of eucalypts, the green hued canopy of trees and the occasional car.
I don’t know about you, but if I get on a flight and the seat next to me is vacant then I feel like the gods of travel are smiling on me. And if two seats are free, then I feel like I’ve won the lottery. Thankfully with the 4.30am start I have won the airline lottery and have two seats so I stretch out asleep and in what seems like moments later, I arrive in Brisbane airport where I meet the lovely Kerry, a blogger and a journalist who is our host for the trip!
We arrive at the Granite Belt just a few hours outside of Brisbane. The what belt you may ask as Mr NQN and I did when I first heard of the Granite Belt. It is Queensland’s coolest area and one of high altitude – so cool in fact that they even have accommodation promotions where if the weather hits over 25 degrees Celsius then your stay is free. And you know what cooler weather and high altitude means right? That’s right, great produce! In fact it is the only area in Queensland that can grow apples and it grows about 80 per cent of the all of the grapes for Queensland wines. Yes Queensland makes wine!
I’m only an hour ahead but you know me. It’s an hour that stands between me and lunch and if you’ve ever wanted to see my head spin and the exorcist happen just stand between me and food. I’m glad when we arrive at Suttons, a lovely apple farm where you can do some apple picking and partake of a lusciously large apple pie. Now I know you’ve seen apple pies but have you seen anything as grand as theirs? A record 22 apples go into each of these pies and they’re sharing the recipe with us!
"I said we’d never do tourism and then I said we’d never open a cafe” Ros Sutton, along with her husband David owns the Suttons apple farm. Granite Belt apples are usually marked when they feature in products as they are a hallmark of quality apples. They have many varieties of apple juices available as well as apple products. And their cafe is made up of home made goodies that change according to whatever is ripe or ready to be picked in the orchard. All of the food is made on the premises with nothing at all brought in including tomato sauce and spreads and chutneys.
But what to give some thirsty parched travellers than some lovely apple juice? There are several different varieties that they bottle and the first one we try is the Sundowner apple juice. I love apple juice that tastes like the juice that drips out of a juicy apple when you bite into it and this is just that. There is nothing like it and many supermarket brands taste like you’ve bitten into an apple that has gone brown.
The apple juice is pure juice and nothing else, no vitamin C acid or ascorbic acid or bentonite that helps to make the apple juice lighter in colour by clarifying it. Their apple juice is also cold pressed and they freeze the apples just prior to pressing. We try the summer delicious and a few others and they’re all distinctly different but the Sundowner is my favourite. Customers can try any of their juices in the store before purchasing them and they retail for $4.50 per litre.
Apart from the apple juice they also make an apple jelly and a divine apple butter and apple chutney, apple cider (using an old English method and wild yeast) and apple brandy (whew! this is strong!) and apple vinegar which smells strong but tastes quite pleasant and mild-like salt and vinegar chips.
But enough of this juice, let’s eat! I choose the ploughman’s platter which features some gorgeous, perfectly cooked, tender corned beef, three relishes and pickles with the favourite being the cucumber relish, two types of cheeses and house baked bread which is soft and moreish. It’s just the right size for someone like me that also wants a bit of variety.
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