Vintner’s Secret Vineyard has diversified during the COVID-19 restrictions and is now preserving and pickling a variety of produce, including eggplants.
Eggplants are also known as aubergine or brinjal, and Vintner’s Secret Vineyard’s Marianne Lethbridge said they grow amazingly in the Bundaberg Region and with the abundance she has had to come up with a way to preserve them, hence her new Brinjal Pickles.
The spongey purplish-blue eggplant is used in several cuisines worldwide; it’s typically used as a vegetable in cooking, but it is a berry by botanical definition.
Vintner’s Secret Vineyard’s Brinjal Pickles is served perfectly with roasted meat and vegetables, or any slow-cooked dish.
Marianne said, as a small agri-tourism business in Childers, Vintner’s Secret Vineyard was faced with the unexpected issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that’s when she and partner Ed Murray thought they would try to diversify to survive.
“Here at Vintner’s Secret Vineyard we already grow grapes and run a cellar door at our vineyard,” Marianne said.
“As a natural extension we also run a vineyard café and, being passionate about growing things, we decided to enlarge our café vegetable garden.”
The couple enjoy being self-sustainable and using super fresh food, so they decided to use their newly-found spare time to expand their garden and produce new products, such as the pickled eggplants.
“Over the years I have dabbled at making preserves, jams and pickles,” Marianne said.
“I have always enjoyed the process but often seemed to run out of time.
“I grew up on a farm as a child and recall helping mum preserve peaches and apricots into the tall glass vacola preserving jars.”
Marianne said before long they had a surfeit of produce from their beautiful vegetable garden, so she decided to make more food from it.
“Everyone was getting into a garden one way or the other, as we all began to realise how important it was to follow some sort of sustainability in life,” Marianne said.
“I think many people have focussed more on this during the pandemic.
“Eggplant, or aubergines as they are also known, did really well here so I researched what you could do to preserve them.”
Marianne said Brinjal Pickles seemed to originate from the Middle East and India, and after trial and error, she had cooked up the perfect pickle.
“After a few test batches we seemed to have nailed a reasonable recipe,” she said.
“We made some small test batches. I added some lovely Middle Eastern spices and ingredients such as tamarind, star anise, cinnamon and nutmeg.
“Each ingredient shows up on a different part of the palate. I learned that from making wines.
“Then they marry up with other foods it is being served with. Quite an interesting process!
“When you think about it, people crave flavour and that’s when you tend not to eat too much – it’s like cooking and eating creatively.
“It creates such wonderful layers of taste sensations of flavours on the palate – it is lovely with meats and roasted or slow-cooked dishes.”
Extra time leads to a range of pickled products at Vintner's Secret
With the little extra time on her hands Marianne has kept busy in the kitchen and also made a number of other products including peach chutney and pineapple pickles.
“I have a local friend who has a peach orchard, so I tried peach chutney, peach conserve with peach brandy in the background,” Marianne said.
“Mango chutney with our own white port, beetroot relish using extra spices and often favoured as a dipping extra to food, pineapple pickles with pineapples from a roadside farm stall in Torbanlea.
“Each product has a local hero fruit or vegetable which we grow here or buy locally.
“I use the approach of ‘what food would this partner with' then start to add the herbs and spices.”
Marianne said she enjoyed experimenting with the pickled eggplants so much that they decided to sell them to the public.
“It was such fun that we had labels designed by Bundaberg graphic artist Renae from Excellerate Designs, and this helped create a very attractive presence on a display shelf,” she said.
“I’m very passionate about locally crafted food. And I love finding my hero product and working with it. I guess it is my food art form!
“People have been very encouraging and supportive, so we will certainly go on with the ideas.
“Passionfruit, tomato, chillies are going into the ground here so we'll see where that might lead.”
Pineapple Pickles an easier recipe
Marianne has shared her pickled pineapple recipe with BundabergNow, and says it is an easier dish to make, and even amateur cooks could give it ago and succeed.
- 2 large cucumbers
- 4 large white onions
- 1 cup water
- 1 and a half cups white vinegar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 425g crushed canned pineapple (use fresh pineapples if you can-much nicer)
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 2 tbspn salt
- 1 tbspn flour
- Peel cucumber if desired remove seeds, dice finely. Blend with water.
- In large saucepan combine cucumber pulp, onion, sugar, vinegar, pineapple, curry, turmeric, and salt
- Boil for 20 minutes, thicken with cornflour.
- Bottle into hot sterilised jars and seal.
Earlier report: Vineyard’s secrets are for all to enjoy