Local artisan brewer, Young Henry’s have concocted a special brew to celebrate our exhibition Eat your history: a shared table which opens this weekend at the Museum of Sydney. Its novel name, Porky’s Peach Prescription, hints at its historical connections with early colonial Sydney.
Seeding an idea
While chatting to boutique brewer and Young Henry’s co-founder, Richard Adamson, about our next Colonial Gastronomy event – Farewell Darling! dinner at Vaucluse House, and what colonists were drinking in the early 1800s, Richard became quite intrigued about the efforts early settlers made to introduce European honey bees to the colony. Not only would they be useful for any wax and honey they would produce, more importantly to the early agriculturalists, European bees were necessary to pollinate introduced crops and fruit trees. The many attempts to establish a successful colony of honey bees were unfruitful (excuse the pun) until the 1840s, frustrating farmers for several decades.
And what have bees to do with drinking? you may be wondering…
Native bees and other insects must have been doing their bit, as many varieties of citrus, figs, grapes, apples and stone fruit etc were producing fruit, but not necessarily ‘to perfection’. Honey bee historian – yes, there is one – Peter Barrett, author of Immigrant Bees 1788 to 1898, noted that apples ‘would be full enough in some quarters, but aborted and shrunken in others’, probably due to the flowers not being pollinated effectively, in season. But while fruit might be ‘imperfect’ for market, they would be ideal for making cider! Samuel Marsden, for example, at his property on the Parramatta river near Ryde, produced 60 gallons of cider in 1803.
One fruit that grew in abundance in Sydney was the peach, evidently without the introduced bees’ assistance. William Charles Wentworth noted in 1819, ‘Of all the fruits which I have thus enumerated as being produced in this colony, the peach is the most abundant and the most useful… Cider also is made in great quantities from this fruit, and when of sufficient age, affords a very pleasant and wholesome beverage.’ Later, in 1830, Wentworth was growing peaches on his harbourside Vaucluse estate, announced in The Australian newspaper (which admittedly he co-owned): ‘In this garden grows the most delicious fruit in the colony…. [a] Peach grown [at Vaucluse]… measuring nine inches in circumference.’ That’s a girth of almost 23cm!
Happy as a pig in – peaches!
So plentiful, according to Wentworth and other colonial diarists, that farmers would feed them to their pigs - perhaps because there were simply more than they could manage to brew?
… so plentiful throughout the colony, that they are every where given as food to hogs; and when thrown into heaps, and allowed to undergo a proper degree of fermentation, are found to fatten them very rapidly.
The lees, too, [from cider-making] after the extraction of the juice, possess the same fattening properties, and are equally calculated as food for hogs.
A long-standing tradition
It appears that history has a long habit of repeating itself: from The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Column 8 in 1966:
Camden park, long famous for its special milk, now employs a herd of aristocratic landrace and large white pigs to pick up the fallen fruit in its 100 acre orchard. This used to be a laborious and costly job but the pigs do it with utmost efficiency and for love. Their first preference is peaches, and peach-fed pork should delight the heart of the epicure.
December 20, 1966
The Macarthur family has had farming interests in Camden since John Macarthur secured a sizeable land grant there in 1806, with their estate house Camden Park, being completed in 1835. Feeding peaches to their pigs has also been a long tradition, according to Elizabeth Macarthur who wrote in 1816 of the success of their orchards at Elizabeth Farm, ‘We have an abundance, even to profusion, in so much that our Pigs are fed on Peaches, Apricots and Melons in the season’. It seems a logical step, and a great labour saving method (especially without the help of convict labourers to gather the fallen fruit) to release the pigs into the orchards to tidy up the fermenting mess in the summer sun.
Can pigs hiccup? We thinks they’d have been half pickled by the end of the season….
Porky’s Peach Prescription baked pork cutlets
This recipe celebrates Young Henry's special Eat your history signature 'brew' – a peach and honey 'braggot', or cider-style mead (or mead-like cider). You can substitute with another fruit-rich cloudy cider; adjust the fruit in the recipe accordingly. For a more traditional 18th- or 19th-century flavour, add one whole clove in place of the chilli, but remove it before serving.
This recipe works equally well with chicken thighs or drumsticks, but chicken on the bone will need a longer cooking time.
- 4 pork cutlets (or eight chicken legs or thighs)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon boiling water
- 1 cup Porky's Peach Prescription (or other fruit-rich cider)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 small red onion, finely sliced
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock (or water)
- 1 small red chilli, sliced, or 1 whole clove (optional)
- 1 firm free-stone peach, halved and sliced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- steamed rice or mashed potato, to serve
Preheat oven to C160.
Put the pork cutlets in a shallow dish.
Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water and add to the Porky's Peach Prescription braggot.
Pour over the meat and marinate for at least 30 minutes, preferably for several hours, in the refrigerator.
Melt the butter in a saucepan, and gently sauté the onion, ginger and garlic until softened. Drain the marinade from the meat and pour into the pan with the stock or water, and chilli or clove (if using). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the peach slices and cook for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a non-stick frying pan and brown the pork over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes on each side, until the meat is nicely coloured on both sides. Transfer the meat to a shallow baking dish. Pour over the peach and braggot mixture (remove the clove ), cover with a close-fitting lid or foil and bake for 15 minutes (30 minutes if using chicken legs).
Remove from the oven and test the thickest cutlet to ensure it is cooked through at the bone. Check the seasoning and adjust if required, and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Put the cutlets onto plates, spoon over some sauce and arrange the peach slices on top. Serve with mashed potato or steamed rice.
COOK'S TIP – If peaches are not in season, substitute with apple or cranberries (craisins).
Barrett, P. Immigrant Bees 1788 to 1898 p29
Wentworth, W.C. Statistical, historical, and political description of the colony of New South Wales and its dependents in Van Diemen’s Land. 1819