I found myself saying this over and over during the last two weeks-I heart Australia. And this is why.
Over the last two weeks, Christiane and Dominique Chapolard and I traveled the Victorian Countryside visiting farms, towns and markets. We came to meet some former students, make some new friends, and learn a little about life with pigs down under. The French Pig Workshops, farm chats and special lunches and dinners were shared with over 50 people-farmers, butchers, charcutiers and chefs. That would have been reward enough with new found energy for the sort of Seed-to-Sausage gospel we preach. But best of all was traveling the two lane roads lined with ghostly reaching eucalyptus trees from farm to homestead to charming gold rush villages and meeting people on their home turf-that vast sky over an end of summer golden, gum-forested landscape called Australia.
Jonai Farms- Eganston Victoria
Meet Mr. & Mrs Jonas of Jonai Farms. Jonai Farms spills down a slope of open fields edged in eucalyptus trees with a view of the paddocks and pastured farmland from the Moonrise Porch. Tammi and Stuart Jonas and their three bright and welcoming kids shared their home, their table and along with their their Large Black pigs hosted our first ever French Pig workshop in Australia. They generously offered their farm and life over a long weekend that stretched to just one more ample biscuits-and-gravy breakfast before we left.
Thanks to Charcuterie-at-Camont alumnus Sascha Rust (Chef and Editor of Scrag End Journal) who writes about the workshop here, I began speaking with Tammi about doing a workshop on their family farm. As articulate farming advocate, hardworking farmer and farmstead butcher, Tammi said yes within a heartbeat and we were off and running. Thanks to the Facebook community and Twitter flock (and a special nod to Carolyn McDowell of Culture Concept Circle for her comprehensive introduction here) the workshop filled within a week and in addition to hosting an evening’s Farm Chat before the event, we were able to meet and talk to over 35 people about how the family farm has evolved in France and what is the best way to promote farmstead meat products directly to the consumer.
Dominique Chapolard demonstrated the French approach to butchery for charcuterie products and the traditional French cuts with one for the Jonai Farms Large Black ethically raised pigs. We broke for lunch prepared by alumni Sascha Rust and Mick Nunn at the long table where talk, tastes and laughter dominated between passing colorful salad platters and wines by Clare of Eminence Wines.
While Dom and Chris spent the next day on a busman’s holiday sharing tips and back saving skills, Tammi shared her shoulder roast with crackling techniques with the Frenchies whilst I communed with the piggies in on their own red dirt turf.
We left the Jonas’ farm delighted to know that Tammi and Stuart would be joining us in France this summer and that this goodbye was just au revoir.
You can read more about Jonai Farms and the ethical Pork they raise here. And you can read more about the workshop we did here, here, and here.
When Andrew and Fiona Townsend wrote me last year about coming for a week to do a short Butchery and Charcuterie program at Camont, I was delighted to meet them and learn about their pig rearing programs on the family farm in Australia. Little did I know that within the year we would be driving from Melbourne under the watchful eyes of high-perched Koalas along a gum forest track. What awaited us when we arrived at the village was a gathering of creative souls, self-sufficient homesteaders, farmers and home-brewing bon vivants. We felt right at home with the butcher, the baker and the beer maker. A visit to paysan/boulanger or farmer/miller/baker Sim of Milkwood Mills and evening stroll around the abundant gardens above and home to Strathbogie Brewery with David and Sandy led to a home grown potluck dinner at the Townsends’. We left early the next morning to meet everyone at the monthly Farmers’ Market at Euroa and taste what the tablelands offered- everything from blueberries to alpaca wool to the local grey haired Neil Young cover band alongside Sim’s fine bread, David’s beer and the Townsends’ pastured pork. We loved getting to meet our new friends and seeing what they make and how they share it with their community. Our own market system in France, intact and continually running weekly village markets is a source of inspiration to our students as their own passion and determination to create their own cultural community is an inspiration to us.
Our new Strathbogie Friends in front of Strathbogie Brewery.
Annie Smithers & Du Fermier
Meet Smilin’ Annie Smithers. When a workshop alumnus/facebook friend and transplanted Australian Julien Slee insisted that I meet family friend Annie, it was echoed by all the other people I and been talking to about this whirlwind last minute trip down under. Thanks Julien and all! Our French Pig Masterclass and Dinner at Annie’s delicious Bistrot was like being airlifted from the bush into a small and perfect spot of France. Dominique felt at home with the deep red meat of the Wessex Saddleback that was delivered by farmer Marnie Zielinski of Zed & Co Freerange Farms. (hey- if you don’t already know about our Grrls Meat Camp group of Facebook, ladies- now is a good time to check it out!)
Annie Smithers comes to her kitchen with cageots full of the freshest vegetables from her own gardens in nearby Malmsbury. Together we cooked a Braised Shoulder with Prunes and Armagnac (and yes, I did use up the rest of the bottle- guilty as charged!), served the rillettes and fricandeaux that Chris and I prepaired in the masterclass on kitchen charcuterie as Annie finished with my favorite clafoutis recipe using local deep purple plums.
Dinner was served at yet another long table in Du Fermier’s Frenchie atmosphere dining hall and conversations among neighbors sharing family style servings of good food were animated and as delicious as the food. My eating neighbors were a lamb farmers, a vintner, a farmer and a chef-in good company!
The day rushed past in a whirl of good food, fresh epi baguettes, kitchen chatter and new friendships. Chris, Dom and I were delighted to have been hosted by one of Australia’s top chefs and included in the extended good food family of Victoria. Thanks Annie for opening your kitchen and your gardens! Sometimes I wonder what it must be like for our students and friends to come to Camont and be sucked into the Culinary Vortex that is Gascony. Now, I know. And I look forward to welcoming the new clan of friends and farmers, butchers and chefs who will pass through our big barn doors this summer.
At the end of the days- we left with a having had just a small taste of Australia, but one that has whetted my appetite for more. And to my darling travel companions, who make everyday’s new discoveries a joy and good time- merci, Christiane and Dominique for your friendship and willingness to share your handwork and savor-faire. We heart Australia, indeed!
So I dropped Dom and Chris at the airport for a return home and on to my own next road trip. But that story is still in the making and the truffle, wine, and restaurant scenes of Canberra remains to be told…