The next interview is from master free range pork farmer Amanda Hellier from Farm Gate Produce. This is producer to plate in its rawest state and a real producer suppling real meat from uncaged free range pigs and I can tell you when you eat them you can taste the difference.
Can I have a brief description of your business and what you produce?
Farm Gate Produce farm free range English rare breed pigs and Angus Beef. We also have chickens, ducks, geese, quail and pheasant.
Our property is situated 40km North of Kaitaia in a small settlement called Motutangi. Wayne Hellier is the Farmer. Manda Hellier is Head of Sales and Marketing. Harry Hellier is Head of Security and Jackson and Oliver Hellier are Head of Not Much except snoozing and keeping the mice population at bay.
We produce for the local market true free range pork. Our pigs have no houses or crates. The Devon Large Blacks and Berkshires we run are not suited to the intensive pig farming which is quite common in New Zealand today. The pigs live and farrow outdoors. They have a wonderful life swimming in our ponds, snoozing in the mud baths and enjoy the ability to roam freely in their paddock of about 80 acres.
We also produce Angus Beef which we age on the carcass for 2-3 weeks before packaging. Once you taste beef aged this way it is very hard to ever enjoy beef that does not go through an aging process.
We started Farm Gate Produce in 2008 inspired by the want to give others the experience of eating true free range pork and pork products plus seeing a gap in the market for outlets to purchase aged Angus beef.
We entertained a great deal back then and were always being asked how come our pork and beef tasted so different to what they were buying. I would like to tell you it was our superior cooking ability that made our products taste this way however sadly this is not the case. It is as simple as totally free ranging our pigs and aging our beef.
We also sell at the local markets totally free range chicken and duck eggs. Our chickens are Brown Shavers which produce large brown eggs and Dorkings which produce this amazing small white egg which has lots of yolk and much less white than the Brown Shaver eggs. Absolutely essential for poached eggs on ciabatta.
Our ducks are Khaki Campbell and produce a large white egg. Great for baking 1 duck egg to two chicken eggs is the rule. I am not a baker and am very envious of anyone that can whip up a pav or a chocolate roulade in a heart beat.
The commitment is seven days a week and the early starts are not conducive to having a social life. However to hear every single week that our pork and pork products are amazing or our beef is the best that people have ever eaten makes it all worth while.
I still am absolutely thrilled every time we hear positive comments about our bacon and our sausages. Once people taste the bacon and sausages we sample at the markets they are hooked. We get people buying 10 packs at a time. This is what keeps us going knowing that people love our products and come back every week to purchase and have a chat.
The bacon has rich creamy fat and is Manuka Wood Smoked by the Best Butcher in the World - Bruce Scott from Kaipara Meats. We have no water in the bacon and the constant feedback we get is “your bacon tastes like bacon did when we were kids”.
Our ham is smoked in the same way and we have usually sold out of Xmas hams by October.
Our sausages are full of meat. In fact the one negative comment we have received about our sausages was from a guy at the Takapuna Market who said he was disappointed in our pork sausages as they had too much meat and not enough bread!!! HELLO.
Tell us who Otello’s are and how they are connected to you?
In 2010 we met Paolo and Luca from Otello’s. Luca and Paolo the owners of Otellos have been living in New Zealand for over ten years. Originally from the Lombardia region South of Milan they both learned to prepare artisan made cured meats and sausages from their grand parents and their parents. Otello’s have by traditional Italian process salted and hung to dry Farm Gate’s free range black pork to produce extraordinary products. The prosciutto and the Coppa can be served by themselves or with mozzarella, melon, figs and your favorite olive oil.
Pancetta is made with the pork belly, salted and spiced then hung for few months. That is why our Pancetta has that great spicy flavour you will find in original Italian made pancetta. Most of the pasta sauces are prepared using this fantastic ingredient.
All our products are gluten free, cured with organic seasoning and contain no additives or preservatives.
The Italian way requires time and quality meat together with a great deal of knowledge and experience handed down from generations. This is the reason behind the venture of Otello’s and The Farm Gate. Same vision and values behind every single product - just like a perfect Italian Wedding!!!!
What 5 items are essential in your kitchen?
In my kitchen I can’t do without pancetta, prosciutto, and mesclun salad with herbs, smoked salmon, Chuka Chinese Salad dressing and spring onions. With these products you can make a quick dinner or lunch in a flash. Of course the odd bottle of Pinot Gris helps as well.
What’s a great way of using your products?
My absolute all-time favorite with my products is Pork Belly served on Kumara Mash with Pomegranate Grapes, roast tomatoes and asparagus wrapped with pancetta. I absolutely love cooking Pork Belly.
A Chinese friend of my Mothers taught me how to cook this unique cut. I have cooked it for years even before it became fashionable and it never fails.
Take a 2.00kg piece of pork belly put in the kitchen sink. Pour a jug of boiling water over the pork and watch the fat come away from the meat. Take out of the sink pat dry, score, salt and oil and roast at 180 degrees for 1 hour and 220 degrees C for 30 minutes. Rest.
What is the most common sin committed when using your product?
The most common sin committed when using our products is when people over cook their food. There is this Guy I know - an ex butcher - who was working at our house one day. I had a whole eye fillet ready to go into the oven. He asked me how long I cooked it for. I told him GOLDEN RULE 220 DEGREES 20 MINUTES. He wouldn’t eat it and put his slice into the microwave to further stew for 5 minutes.
Do you eat your pork pink?
I know some people still over cook pork because of the perception they will get trichinosis. Trichinosis was caused by feeding out to the pig’s raw meat and undercooking pork. There is virtually no trichinosis around any more.
When we send the pigs to the Abattoir each week one of the MAF regulations is that no pig has been fed any type of meat.
Pork should be served a little pink with the juices running clear.
Can we get a top tip for using your products?
The top tip I would give anyone using my products is getting a meat thermometer and always rests their meat after cooking. The most common question I get asked at the Markets is “how long do I cook this for” and “What temperature”. I can tell by looking at the meat if it is ready or not but many can’t.
Meat thermometers are $20 at Mitre 10 and if you are unsure about how to cook meat and know when it is at its optimum temperature and cooked to your liking use the thermometer. 72 C gives perfect pinkish pork but with the juices running clear. 62 C gives perfect eye fillet.
Always rest your meat. Take out of the oven loosely cover with tin foil and rest. This allows the juices to go back into the meat. Absolutely essential tip for any person wanting to serve superbly cooked meat.
What is your death row meal?
First, I would have my friend Craig O’ Connell to whip up focaccia with salt and rosemary from the garden which he would bake in the pizza oven. While this is cooking and the smells of the bread are wafting outside he would make a mixed herb pesto to serve with the bread. The pesto will have heaps of sorrel in it.
Wayne’s fishing kite would have been flying at the beach all afternoon and he would arrive home with some huge snapper.
Craig would lightly pan fry the fish and serve with truffle butter and truffle mash. I love truffles and Craig’s truffle mash is to die for. There would of course be a mesclun salad from the garden with lime juice and olive oil.
Pudding – well I would have to have two. Apple Scone Cake made in the camp oven with lashings of mascarpone and Craig’s Grapefruit Syllabub to follow.
You’re on a pretty fancy death row there Amanda!
You live in Coatesville, the big question is do you know Kim Dotcom?
Do I know Kim Dot Com.? I don’t know him personally but have worked at his house. If I tell you any more I will have to kill you.
To keep upto date and goings on at the farm visit their face book page at
http://www.facebook.com/FarmGateProduceLtd?ref=ts&fref=ts or thier website at http://www.thefarmgate.co.nz/