They are made with herbs from her own garden, her grandmother’s closely guarded recipes and lots of love.
Josie Robinson was very nervous when she entered her homemade products into the Outstanding New Zealand Food Producers Awards – and she was even more nervous about opening the results when they were emailed to her.
“I was really afraid to bring myself out and go in. People love what I make, but to have yourself judged is another thing,” Robinson said.
There was no need to fear – her Noir Garlik Black Garlic Sauce won a gold medal and her Artisan Honey and Balsamic Pickled Onions took bronze.
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She bought black garlic from Blackball on the West Coast and found a 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. It can be used in so many ways to add depth and flavor.”
It’s all a bit much for Robinson, who spent years adapting recipes she got from her grandmother.
“For a sauce that I make, which is made with my heart, this is really overwhelming for us,” she said.
“This has been really life-changing for us, it has opened a lot of doors. The phone just won’t stop, and we’re going to meet top people in the food industry.”
But Robinson isn’t walking too far on his own just yet.
All of her pickled onions, chutneys, sauces, relishes and pickles, marketed under the Robbies name after husband Gus’ grandfather, are still made in her kitchen at home in Gore, which is undergoing renovation.
Some recipes, including the award-winning sauce, can take up to two days to ferment on her stovetop, be bottled and labeled in the garage and sent to a growing list of merchants.
“It means we can maintain quality control because I don’t compromise on quality. There is 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’ve reduced it all the way to the basics with no additives. I’ve always experimented with flavors and I made things and gave them away until people started telling me to sell them.
“I’m really proud of making gluten-free food that tastes great. There should be no barrier to tasting for anyone.”
Seven years ahead, and she’s sold 50 bottles of her now-famous sauce in two days, and heads to Auckland later this month for the gala dinner.
“I don’t think I’ll fit in there, but I’ve been told I have to get over that. Everyone there will enjoy good food and taste, so we all have something in common.”
Invercargill’s Farm Fresh South also won gold medals in the dairy division for its South Raw Milk and South Whole Pasteurized Milk, and the Southland-based Meat Processor Alliance Group for its Pure South Lamb and Pure South Handpicked Beef – 55 Day Aged.