On the outskirts of the bustle of Canberra International Airport is Pialligo – a quaint and quirky assortment of orchards, nurseries, homewares and gift retailers, and the odd restaurant or two line Beltana Road. But continue your journey around the bend and in a matter of minutes you’ll stumble upon Pialligo Estate – a veritable oasis in the middle of the city.
The Molonglo River snakes lazily alongside plantings of olive trees; further along you’ll find a neat orchard of over 1000 fruit trees just begging for a Spring wedding, and an impressively large pumpkin patch preparing the rich soil for the market garden which will service the The Pialligo Farmhouse Restaurant, due to open later in the year. It’s easy to forget you’re in the nation’s capital…but gaze across the trees, and Canturf’s overhead sprinklers just next door, and there’s Parliament House.
“Geez, must be tough to come to work everyday,” I comment to General Manager, Charlie Costelloe.
Laughing, the charming Irishman agrees.
I’m at Pialligo Estate because news has just broken that Pialligo Farm Smokehouse at Pialligo Estate in the ACT has taken out top honours at Australian Bacon Week - an initiative of Australian Pork celebrating the much-loved meat and drawing attention to the competition that local bacon faces from imported products. Their full rasher smoked and dry cured bacon was voted Australia’s Best Artisan Bacon by fleishmaster Horst Shurger, who has a Masters degree in butchering and smallgoods; and top chefs, Paul McDonald and Simon Bestly, who have broad international experience.
Voted as the best out of a record number of entries, the judges noted that Pialligo’s bacon boasts a ‘very nice appearance with an excellent smoky aroma, and well balanced flavour’ and also ‘great lean to fat ration, minimal to no shrinkage, and excellent texture’.
Master smoker and Smokehouse Manager, Peter Curry, is a classically trained chef by trade, starting work in the food industry in his homeland of Ireland at the age of 13 and learning from French chefs about charcuterie. At Pialligo Estate, Peter has designed and created a traditional kiln smokehouse with a natural brick kiln, and his smokehouse is used to create their quality artisan products. It’s not glamorous or high tech, but it does the job (just don’t stand down wind when the door’s open…I learnt that the hard way!)
“Our dry-cured bacon is produced to an age-old recipe that Peter has brought back to life using his secret blend of spices, which results in unsurpassed quality and flavour of award-winning standard,” says Charlie.
“There are no preservatives, colourings or artificial flavours used, and the traditional smoked bacon has been hung in the smokehouse and cold-smoked for up to 17 hours.”
This gong is no fluke. Since 2013 Pialligo Estate has proudly received 44 national food awards, including five Champions and nine Gold medals; 13 Silver medals; and 17 Bronze medals for their products, which include bacon, Tasmanian sea trout and salmon, free-range chicken, duck, ham and rainbow trout.
The Pialligo area has been farmed since the 1820s, and was the major supplier of fresh produce to the Canberra community for over 60 years; but as refrigerated storage improved, the demand for local produce diminished, as supermarkets grew in popularity. In 2010, Pialligo Estate started farming using best practice from the garden to plate, with the aim to identify environmental and economically sustainable diverse farm produce. The team’s aim is to see Pialligo prosper as Canberra’s food basket once again…and what better place to start than with bacon.
What: Pialligo Estate
Where: 18 Kallaroo Road, Pialligo
Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women.View all Amanda Whitley posts.