They’re made with herbs grown in her own garden, her Nana’s closely guarded recipes – and a lot of love.
Josie Robinson was really nervous about entering her homemade products in the Outstanding New Zealand Food Producers Awards – and she was even more nervous about opening the results when they were sent to her by email.
“I was really scared of putting myself out there and entering. People like what I create, but to put yourself out there to be judged is different,’’ Robinson said.
She didn’t need to be scared – her Noir Garlik Black Garlic Sauce won a gold medal and her Artisan Honey and Balsamic Pickled Onions picked up a bronze.
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She sourced black garlic from Blackball on the West Coast and found high-quality vinegar to use in the Noir Garlik Black Garlic Sauce so the garlic would be the hero, she said.
The judges’ tasting notes said: “Wow! A great finishing sauce. So many ways it could be used to add depth and flavour.’’
It’s all a bit much for Robinson, who has spent years adapting recipes handed down from her Nana.
“For a sauce that I make, that is made with my heart, this just really overwhelming for us,’’ she said.
“This has been really life-changing for us, it’s opened a lot of doors. The phone just doesn’t stop, and we’re going to meet top people in the food industry.’’
But Robinson isn’t getting too far ahead of herself just yet.
All of her pickled onion, chutneys, sauces, relishes, and pickles, marketed under the name Robbies after husband Gus’ grandfather, are still made in her kitchen at home in Gore, which is being renovated.
Some of the recipes, including the award-winning sauce, can take two days to ferment on her cooktop, before being bottled and labelled in the garage and sent out to a growing list of stockists.
“It means we can keep up the quality control because I won’t compromise on quality. There’s no compromise, they are exactly what they say,’’ she said.
Robinson has always grown and cooked her own food, but she started taking it more seriously when her daughter was diagnosed with ADHD.
“We stripped it right back to basics with nothing added. I’ve always experimented with flavours and I used to make things and give them away until people started telling me I should be selling them.
“I’m really proud to make food that is gluten free that tastes good, there should be no barrier to taste for anyone.’’
Fast-forward seven years, and she’s sold 50 bottles of her now-famous sauce in two days and is off to Auckland for the awards gala dinner later this month.
“I think that I won’t fit in there, but I’ve been told I need to get over that. Everyone there will love great food and flavour, so we’ll all have something in common.’’
Gold medals were also won by Invercargill’s Farm Fresh South in the dairy section for its South Raw Milk and South Whole Pasteurised Milk, and Southland-based meat Processor Alliance Group for its Pure South Lamb and Pure South Handpicked Beef – 55 Day Aged.