The Byron Farmers’ Market

When and Where?

byron farmers market for pintrest

A wonderful way to spend a couple of hours while stocking up on some of the best produce you will find anywhere in Australia is to go to  the Byron Bay Farmers’ Market.  Held every Thursday morning from 8 am to 11 am on the Butler Street Reserve, the markets deliver so much more than wonderful fruit and vegetables.

What can you buy?

My basket runneth over.
My basket runneth over.

The answer? Almost anything, providing it’s in season or freshly made and comes from the Northern Rivers. Of course, regular market goers look for their favourite things: amazing marinated olives, Tenterfield lamb, decadent offerings from the Byron Muffin Man and the French Patisserie, fresh Ballina prawns, piping hot samosas, Bangalow sweet pork, dry land rice from Nimbin, cheese from Burringbar, beef from Casino, a freshly brewed latte,  fruit and vegetables and so much more! This week I restrained myself: I bought carrots that smelled like carrots and broccoli that had been picked that morning. Just putting them in my basket made me feel ten times healthier. I noticed that the apple man from Stanthorpe was there. I read their family story.

stanthorpe apples

 Then I tasted and filled my basket with apples and pears. Will my selection last long enough to make an apple tart?  Mmm … maybe not. I bought some more just to make sure.

stanhope apples2

Some fresh silver beet and shallots and I was nearly done. I bought freshly cut pumpkin and the stall holder gave a great tip. Cover your cut pumpkin with a paper towel and it will keep for ages. I also purchased tomatoes and capsicums from Hayter’s Hill Tomatoes.

hayters hill tomatoes

Veggie Lasagne will definitely be on the menu this week!   A loaf of sourdough from Heartbreads  and my basket was full.

And then there was more!

Purchases completed, I could turn my attention to the entertainment on offer. There was a young indi trio whose original songs were very engaging.

entertainment at the markets 2
Love an acoustic sound!

Further down the market, was an older entertainer whose guitar work was amazing.

acustic guitar at the market 2
In the spotlight

I love it when someone does something new  with a song that you know well. It’s like meeting an old, rejuvenated friend. I reflect that talent doesn’t  reside only with the young but also with the young at heart.

No market day is ever exactly the same. The performers change and the offerings  change with the seasons. New stall holders appear often with unusual produce to sample. Besides wanting to feel more connected to the food we eat, I think that is part of the reason,we enjoy farmers’ markets so much. What do you think?

Churning it up in Mullumbimby

Hand made blue cheese
Hand made blue cheese

If our grandmothers and great-grandmother were stranded on a deserted island, participating in the latest season of ‘Survivor’,  I think  they could win. They had skills!  They could chop wood, start a fire, milk a cow, churn the milk into butter and make cheese.

Who wouldn’t love this face?

Whipping up a roast chicken dinner was child’s play: all they had to do was catch, kill, pluck and stuff said bird. Easy … for them. They knew how to turn fruit and vegetables into yummy jam and preserves and create delicious terrines and pates without giving everyone salmonella poisoning  … unlike me.  They were the original domestic goddesses.

Luckily for mere mortals like myself,  dedicated modern day domestic goddesses, like Debra Allard, cheese maker, teacher and dairy godmother, are helping others rediscover these lost arts. I first saw Debbie at last year’s Sample Food Festival which was held in Bangalow, just west of Byron Bay.

Judge Debbie at the R and A Dairy and Cheese Show.
Judge Debbie at the R and A Dairy and Cheese Show, 2015

There she was on stage,  demonstrating how hilariously easy it was to make mozzarella cheese in 30 minutes. When the chance to attend one of her classes arose, run by ACE education in Mullumbimby, I couldn’t wait.

I arrived, accompanied by my good friend, Annie Milic. Our ‘dairy’ for the day was all prepared. Taking our positions behind our bain marie’s, we examined our equipment and recipes. We donned head attire, obligatory for health and safety reasons. Suddenly we were transformed into Smurfettes, ready for any challenge.

cheese making
After reading the instructions, the Smurfettes are ready.

 Our first cheese was goat feta. This was a little complicated, but by carefully following Debbie’s instructions and  keeping a close eye on my thermometer, I was able to navigate my way to curds and whey. The curds were ladled into a large hoop and regularly turned and voila, there was my feta!

My feta waiting for its briny soak.
My feta waiting for its briny soak.

 All I had to do was take my briny whey home and soak my feta for a week. Then it would be ready for consumption. Apparently, it will last up to six months! Will it last that long in my fridge? Probably not!

But the day wasn’t just about making feta. We also made cultured butter which was truly delicious and paneer. I intend making a spinach and paneer curry with it but haven’t got round to it yet.

As well as learning age-old skills, Debbie provided morning tea (scones with jam and cultured butter) and lunch, a ploughman’s feast. There was crusty bread, Bangalow pork roast, home made pickles, salad and a selection of Debbie’s hand crafted cheeses. I particularly liked her take on blue cheese. All in all, it was  a great day and Annie and I will be back for more. Perhaps we will graduate to Brie or Jarlsberg. If you are interested in attending one of Debbie’s classes, you can find details on her facebook page.