Local company wins Food Writers’ Guild award

A KILKENNY company has won a prestigious award from the Irish Food Writers’ Guild (IFWG).

A KILKENNY company has won a prestigious award from the Irish Food Writers’ Guild (IFWG).

Rod and Julie Calder-Potts of Highbank Orchard, Cuffesgrange were presented the award yesterday (Tuesday) for their innovative product, Highbank Orchard Syrup. The IFWG judges said Rod and Julie represent the very best of Irish, and were awarded for their outstanding produce and important contribution to helping retain Ireland’s reputation, at home and abroad.

“It is these wonderful, artisan producers that the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards celebrate and honour and they are truly deserving of the highest recognition,” said chairperson of the IFWG Myles McWeeney, who was speaking at the Guild’s annual Food Awards in Dublin. Derry Clarke, executive chef at l’Ecrivain, had created a lunch incorporating the award-winning products.

Highbank Orchard Syrup came about following years of careful research and experimentation.

The limestone-rich soil of Kilkenny is apparently particularly suited to growing apples. The orchard was established in 1969 and, since 1994, the land has been farmed organically.

Rod and Julie began farm-gate sales of surplus apples and producing fresh apple juice and apple concentrates to make wine – a product that attracted the interest of poteen-makers.

Rod has a keen interest in balancing the three essential flavours of apples: acidity, sweetness and bitterness and, as he discovered, this is best achieved by blending traditional cider-apple varieties with dessert and culinary varieties. One day, by accident, one of their concoctions became exceedingly concentrated on an ancient Aga cooker. After two years of fine-tuning, this delicious syrup, a unique flexi-food emerged.

So Highbank Orchard Syrup was born; a versatile product that boasts a two-year shelf-life stored at room temperature. The by-product, apple pulp, they found could be used to make a fresh sparkling, non-alcoholic Driver’s Cider. And, unwilling to waste the potential of natural wild yeasts, they also developed an alcoholic drink, which they call Proper Cider.

The development of the company was assisted by the ongoing support of Bord Bia. For information and stockists www.highbankorchards.com.