There is something about the Nelson region that encourages people to have a go, to be the first try something new, I am not sure what it is but the region can be very proud of the gourmet entrepreneurs that have led the way in creating wonderful products.
Businesses that come to mind immediately are Pic’s Peanut Butter and Proper Crisps that are both national successes. However there are a number of quiet achievers too, take for example the late Nigel Price and his wife Jane who were one of the first in New Zealand to roast coffee in small batches and serve it fresh from the roaster to you. I can remember when Pomeroy’s opened in Trafalgar Street (where Ford’s is now) in about 1990 with a small coffee roaster in one corner, one of the very first in New Zealand to start the gourmet coffee trend; look what they started, I wonder how many coffee addictions Pomeroy’s was responsible for.
Another to lead the way was Moutere Gold, established by Maggie John in the 1990’s Moutere Gold was a pioneer of the gourmet products industry in New Zealand. One of the first to stock Moutere Gold products was a wee store on the Appleby Straight called Hedgerow that was co-owned at the time by Joanne Costar.
Several years later when Jo was living and working in the Upper Moutere area and looking for a new challenge she would go for long walks and see all this wonderful fresh produce being grown in the area and had memories of the delicious jams and chutneys produced by Moutere Gold. She contacted Maggie John and bought the brand and recipes and started production in a converted garage behind the old Post Office building she owned at Upper Moutere.
The Old Post Office Store is now the home of a thriving gourmet producer and while they sell many other local products in the store it is the Moutere Gold products that dominate the business. It may not seem like it when you walk in because these jams, chutneys and other great products made using fresh local ingredients take up a small part of the shelf space.
The real work happens in the commercial kitchen in the converted garage out the back where thousands of bottles of products are made in small three kilogram batches on the stove-top and despatched to all parts of the country. Jo told me in the month before Christmas one Auckland retailer ordered 1000 jars of the very popular Citrus Passionfruit Curd. This is produced in batches of eight jars at a time; that is 125 batches of hand stirred curd for just one customer.
Of course Jo could invest in bigger equipment and make large batches of product but she says her jams would then just be the same as all the others on the supermarket shelves, made from bulk pulp rather than fresh hand-picked berries and if she did that then the end product just wouldn’t be the same.
As you can imagine handmade products are much more expensive to produce but as a mum of three young children and living on a budget like every other family she is very aware of the cost of the product and does her best to keep it affordable. Jo says “why shouldn’t young families have access to beautiful products made from fresh ingredients rather than just cheap mass-produced products? Good, fresh, wholesome products should be available to everybody and shouldn’t be elite products”. Her jams made from hand-picked berries and produced in batches of eight jars at a time retail for about $5.50 a jar and I think that is outstanding value.
This year Moutere Gold will turn about two tonnes each of locally grown raspberries, boysenberries and blackcurrants into jam. Jo says the top three products are the Raspberry jam, Blackcurrant and Vanilla Bean jam and the Citrus Passionfruit Curd but she is always looking for more recipes to turn beautiful local products into tasty treats for you and me to enjoy.
You can buy Moutere Gold products at Fresh Choice Nelson and Richmond as well as at Benge & Co stores and the Swedish Bakery. You are of course most welcome to buy them from the place they are handmade with love, the Old Post Office Store at Upper Moutere.