One year ago I was blessed with the chance to visit Gascony for a bucket-list style food experience. Four incredible weeks of producer visits, feasting and well-oiled learning across the heavily romanticised regions of Basque, and Lot-et-Garonne, all in search of the secrets of ham.
But as incredible as the touring experience was, guided by the well publicised ham-guru host Kate Hill, what was to make the experience truly iconic and invaluable was the hands-on of being thrown into the production within the farm based boning room of the Chapolard family. I was let loose on the cuts and charcuterie that little to my knowledge was to be presented side by side with the Chapolard’s work the next day at market.
Walking away from the farm one month later, I knew that this experience had to come home with me to Australia. Luckily enough, barely a year later, Kate Hill and Dominique and Christiane Chapolard obliged.
Thanks to the generosity of the Jonai Farms, an ethical and holistic pork producer based in Eganstown on the outskirts of Daylesford, Victoria—I had somewhere to host them and our 25 willing students. What was to follow was 10 hours of butchery, charcuterie production and in true French style, extended feasting and wine (more on this to come).
After unveiling the knowledge of the likes of noix de jambon, ventreche, pate de tete & fricandeux as is the way in France, the politics of food were discussed. Opening the eyes of some, and offering others an opportunity to vent their frustrations—this group of 30-odd insanely passionate producers, butchers, farmers, chefs and food advocates tackled both local and global food concerns. It was an unexpected but incredible informal round-table style discussion on the state of the food world.
Many thanks to be given to Kate Hill for her ham knowledge, translation and good company all the way from her farmstead in Gascony, Kitchen at Camont,
Dominique and Christiane Chapolard for leaving their 7-day a week production behind for two weeks to share their skills and knowledge of everything to do with the pig,
Clare Burder of Eminence Wines in Whitfield, Victoria for her incredible wines, salami know-how and event write-up,
The Jonai Farms owners Tammi & Stuart Jonas, for hosting and helping co-ordinate the day and their three kids for vacating their rooms to sleep on the couch in order to host their guests,
Anthony from Greenvale Farms, another fantastic Victorian ethical pork and lamb producer for doing a stella job washing up after lunch,
and of course Mick Nunn, for helping me cook everyone lunch, a Chef and new friend from Ballarat’s Forge restaurant—he is fellow Kitchen at Camont Alumni and rumour has it, future Victorian ham mafia.
Till next time,