Four South Africans are doing things the natural, old-fashioned way, from cheese making to meat curing to flour milling
Nico Steyn of Eureka Mills
Great things often come from small beginnings, and that is certainly the case with Eureka Mills, South Africa’s smallest commercial flour mill. Set amid the rolling wheat fields of the Overberg, Eureka was born in 1998 when two farmers decided to mill their own flour using traditional stone-grinding methods. This gentle grinding keeps the wheat as natural as possible, says Nico.
“Unlike commercial roller mills, with a stone mill the temperature is much lower so the enzymes that help you to digest the glutens are still present. Our flour comes in from the field, gets milled and goes straight into the bag. We don’t bleach or fortify any of our flours.” What goes into the bag is only as good as what comes from the fields, and caring for the land is key to Eureka’s philosophy. “We’ll plant two years of wheat, one year of canola and then let the land rest for four to five years.
This gives us healthy soil and healthy wheat, so we can use less pesticides and fertiliser. We also no longer use disc ploughs, so we don’t disrupt the soil structure. After it rains, you can still find earthworms in our fields. This kind of farming and milling is definitely more labour-intensive, there are no shortcuts.” Nico and his team of millers are on a mission to reacquaint South Africans with the lost art of baking: “It’s about informing people, getting them to think about the flour they use and the bread they eat. We’re so used to refined breads here, and nowadays you get bread that’s still fresh after 10 days – how natural can that be? I want South Africans to make conscious decisions about the bread they eat.” Call 028-722-1887 or visit www.eurekamills.co.za.
Slow-cured meats: Richard Bosman of
Richard Bosman’s Quality Cured Meats
There’s a quiet intensity about Richard Bosman; a tireless enthusiasm for his craft that finds expression in his delicious charcuterie. As with other successful small producers, passion and patience make all the difference. Richard started curing meat as a hobby when running his own deli, and the popularity of these products made him open the factory two years ago.
“We only use traditional charcuterie techniques,” he says, as we stand surrounded by racks of drying salami, coppa, pancetta and prosciutto in his modern charcuterie near Cape Town. The only time we add our own little flair is in tweaking the flavours of some of the products.” And delicious tweaks they are; like his delectable cidersalami made with handcrafted Elgin cider, or the air-dried pork neck cured with spices and red wine. The flavours, however, are nothing without the best raw ingredients, and Richard will only use pork from a single farm in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley, where farmer Charlie Crowther rears pasture-grazed pigs that feast on wild grasses and acorns.
“Our philosophy is to use the best of what’s available around us,” says Richard, “and only those ingredients that are of the right quality.” He says he will happily hang a leg of prosciutto for an extra few months if that will cure it to perfection. “We do everything by hand, and it takes a long time. There are quicker, more commercial ways of making this kind of product, but that’s not what we’re about.” Call 083 277 3494 or visit www.richardbosman.co.za.
Jason Snell of the Drift Farm
Take a wander down the veggie aisle of any supermarket and you’ll be astounded by the lack of variety: two or three types of tomatoes, one or two varieties of carrot… hardly nature’s bounty. But Jason Snell and the hardworking farmers at The Drift Farm are trying to change this, introducing South Africans to the cornucopia of vegetables we’re missing out on.
“We grew 15 or 20 different varieties of tomatoes last year,” says Jason, whose passion for heirloom vegetables borders on the religious. “Not just tomatoes… turnips, kale, carrots… we grow incredible mixed-colour carrots! And candy-striped beetroot!” Long popular in Europe and America, heirloom vegetables are“open-pollinated, non-hybridised varieties” whose diversity has largely been blotted out by the monoculture of industrial farming.
“But if you look at nature, it works by using variety to combat disease. Heirlooms are actually stronger because there is variety in the species.” The Drift Farm, which rolls up against the Akkedisberg near Hermanus, works with, not against the environment. “We try and farm as close to nature as possible,” says Jason, “because what’s in your soil directly relates to what’s in the vegetables you eat.”
While The Drift’s veggies are available through a few specialist retailers and vegetable-box schemes in Cape Town, Jason says the most rewarding point of sale is his stall at the weekly NeighbourGoods Market. “We want customers to know the farmers and build up trust. At the market you’re buying veggies directly from me: it really is a case of farm to fork. It’s about education: I think we have lost touch with our vegetables, and we’re hoping to change that.” Call Jason on 072 532 3388or visit www.thedrift.co.za.
Wayne Rademeyer of Buffalo Ridge
Getting your hands on a water buffaloisn’t as easy as you might think, as Wayne Rademeyer discovered in 2006 when he decided to hang uphis advocate’s robes and go into the buffalo-milk business. “I got fed up with the standard of socalled buffalo mozzarella in my caprese salads and felt sure I could make it better myself,” he says. “My legal background helped me navigate the minefield of rules for importing disease free water buffalo from Australia.”
Today, his growing herd of Mediterranean riverine water buffalo – a more docile relative of the African buffalo – provide more than enough milk for the fromage blanc, yoghurt and balls of stretchy mozzarella produced at his small cheesery outside Wellington in the Cape winelands. It’s a simple operation where almost everything is done by hand. Wayne’s other ethos is that only good milk leads to great cheese. “Our buffaloes are entirely pasturefed. We don’t use any artificial fertilisers or pesticides and we try to follow biodynamic principles as far as possible. Because our animals are pasture-grazed, the calcium content of the milk is a lot higher. They’re outside walking all day, so they’re using energy and the milk volumes are lower, but the animals are healthier and that gives us better milk.”
And better cheese, one which Wayne points out is higher in protein and calcium and lower in fat than cow’s-milk cheese. “There are just four ingredients in our mozzarella: whole buffalo milk, to which we add rennet and culture. Then there’s some salt in the brine. And that’s it. It’s a completely natural product.” Buffalo Ridge mozzarella is available at good delicatessens. Email Wayne at [email protected].