'Young: A pleasant country town in a bowl of low hills neatly laid out with cherry orchards'.
We've just returned home after spending the weekend in the country town of Young, 'Cherry Capital of Australia' and home of the National Cherry Festival. This year's festival, the 63rd, celebrated the Australian Year of the Farmer and one of the highlights was a loud and colourful street parade.
Seated on the open balcony of the famous Wilders Bakery above the crowds lining the town's main street, Peter and I enjoyed a meat pie with chips and gravy before watching our first such parade. It commenced with the whoop, whoop, whoop sound of sirens from police cars and fire engines, which led a spectacular procession that included a town crier, pipers and drummers, horse drawn carriages, tractors, vintage cars, motorcycles, a variety of floats, and a Zimmer frame, too. Other highlights of the festival included a Celtic Tattoo, Bush Poets, cherry pip spitting competition, and market stalls.
Cherry Festival Street Parade
In 1826, a certain Mr James White settled in the region where Young stands today. He built sheep yards and reserved the sheltered flat plains for lambing ewes. Hence the original name 'Lambing Flat'. The area expanded rapidly with the discovery of gold in 1860 and became a 'shanty town' home to 20,000 miners (and a few bushrangers!). On 14 July 1861, after ten months of unrest, a barbarous riot broke out between the European and Chinese miners. It resulted in the Chinese being driven from the goldfields chased by pick and spade wielding Europeans! Troopers were called in and the NSW Riot Act was read to the miners to restore law and order. If you're keen to learn more about this historic event, visit the web site of the NSW Government. The National Library of Australia also has a range of records from the newspapers of the day on their Trove online resource.
In 1861, after the riots, Lambing Flat and neighbouring Burrangong goldfields area were renamed as Young in honour of Sir John Young, the then Governor of New South Wales. The region has prospered since. With a population of some 13,000 in the Shire (and servicing 55,000 in the surrounding areas, Young is now considered to be one of the fastest growing towns in regional NSW. Despite this, the town has retained a relaxed country atmosphere. Combine this with historic architecture set amongst rolling hills of golden canola, orchards and vineyards, and you have a truly charming little place to visit.
The first recorded planting of Cherries in the Young district was in 1847 by a Mr Edward Taylor in his home orchard at Burrangong. In 1864, Nicholas Jasprizza arrived in the area from Dalmatia to mine for gold, but after six months started a vegetable garden and then planted an orchard. Using the original stock from Taylor's Kentish Cherries he experimented with grafting and by 1893 he had 7,000 full grown trees and 300 young trees. Sadly, Jasprizza was murdered by a gunshot in 1901 and the perpetrator never found.
The region now produces around 600,000 cases of cherries annually and supplies the domestic and export markets. The season runs from mid November to the end of December and during this time some of the orchards offer 'pick your own' experience, which is good fun, especially as a family outing. The Cherry Festival takes place annually during the season.
The growing food scene...
Hilltops is an emerging food and wine region comprised of the Shires of Young, Harden and Boorowa. There are around 25 cool climate vineyards as well as numerous restaurants and cafes, many of which feature local produce as part of their menu. Mullino Bar and Grill, for instance, lists CAAB Certified Australian Angus Beef, South Eastern Australia Pasture Fed Beef, and Wagyu Diamantina Darling Downs Qld Beef, produced within a 100 mile radius on its menu. Owners Andrew and Suzie Forrest, also farmers (born and bred in the district), bought an old Masonic Hall 12 years ago and have converted it to a stylish eatery (formerly known as Zouch). While steak is the specialty, Andrew is keen to mention to me that he and Suzi also cater for vegetarians with a range of dishes created from locally sourced produce.
Adriana's Bed & Breakfast Country Retreat
Milan and Adriana Brankovic made a tree change when they moved from Shellharbour to Young ten years ago. Milan grew up on a small acreage in Staro Petroco Selo in the then Yugoslavlia and says he always wanted to own 'a little piece of Australia' and have a block with land with a few farm animals. The couple run a rural retreat and bed and breakfast on the Olympic Highway in Young. There are sheep, Boer goats and a couple of alpaca. Many of the animals have been hand reared by Milan, so it's not surprising then to see sheep eating freshly picked almonds or apricots from Milan's hands. He calls out to one and the entire flock follow him through the fields on the property, which he is delighted to show to us.
Meanwhile, Adriana has been busy baking plum filled kifli for our arrival, and an exquisite apple and walnut cake for dessert later in the evening. There's a knock at our door around 6.30pm and Milan asks graciously, 'We are wondering if you would like to taste some of Adriana's cabbage rolls?'. As we're dining out, we politely decline, but Adriana has already packed them into a container and refrigerated them so we can take them home the next day.
There is a full breakfast provided in the morning: bacon, eggs, cereal, toast, stewed fruit, coffee, juice and home-made jam. And, of course, more of the kifli and cake. Such is the hospitality at Adriana's. We will definitely visit again!
ADRIANA'S APPLE AND WALNUT CAKE
4 free range eggs
18 dessertspoons sugar
18 dessertspoons self raising flour
100 mls milk
100 mls vegetable oil
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, grated
2 dessertspoons cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
2-3 cups ground walnuts
juice and zest of a lemon
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line a rectangular lamington pan. Make the filling by squeezing the juice out of the grated apples (Adriana says she drinks the juice, nothing goes to waste in her kitchen!). Combine the grated apple in a bowl with the cocoa, sugar, walnuts, cinnamon and lemon juice and zest. You will have a thick mixture.
To prepare the cake batter, combine the eggs and sugar and beat until creamy. Fold in ten dessertspoons of the flour, then the milk and the vegetable oil, followed by the remaining flour. Pour half the mixture into the base of the pan and spread it out with a spatula or palette knife.
Pour the apple and walnut mixture over the base layer of the cake mix in the pan and spread it evenly. Then pour the remaining cake mixture over the top and spread it over. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Dust with vanilla infused icing sugar before cutting into squares or diamonds to serve. Store in an airtight container.
Sincere thanks to the Young Shire Council, particularly Claire Myers, Marketing Officer, and 'Visit Young' for hosting overnight accommodation and a meal for our weekend in Young as part of the 2012 Cherry Festival.
Tell me, did you grow up in 'a pleasant country town? And have you taken part in or seen a traditional street parade?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.