Recipe: Easy black bean and corn salad from Peplers, Te Kauwhata
Belinda Cox is the condiment queen in her Te Kauwhata home in north Waikato. She uses relishes, chutneys, jams and vinaigrettes every day and says she's always trying to be good about finishing one bottle before starting another.
Belinda and husband Tony Cox know a thing or two about tasty condiments that can transform the simplest meal. They're celebrating 10 years as the owners of Peplers Fine Foods, the condiment business in Te Kauwhata's main street that turns out handcrafted jams, jellies, chutneys, relishes, mustards, vinaigrettes, dressings, dessert sauces and savoury sauces.
Peplers tagline is "real food made by real people" and Belinda Cox says they cook their products just as they would at home, only on a bigger scale. The scale is nevertheless small in terms of some commercial condiment operations. Each Peplers' batch is made by hand, around 12 litres at a time for chutneys and jams, and nine bottles for vinaigrettes.
One of Cox's current favourites is a versatile chilli, ginger and garlic product marketed as Sensory Sauce. She developed it after tasting a memorable sweet-hot-sour-salty sauce on a trip to Melbourne. It took seven versions to get it right.
The couple didn't start out to be condiment makers. They were comfortably settled in careers in Auckland when the opportunity arose for them to buy the business started by Belinda's aunt and uncle, June and Colin Pepler, in the late 1980s.
Belinda Cox had spent school holidays as a youngster in Te Kauwhata with the Peplers, helping pick fruit in their orchard. She recalls how June began making preserves in a walk-in pantry at home, using stonefruit and strawberries from the family property.
June's preserves became the basis of a cottage industry and it outgrew the pantry and moved to mainstreet premises. Now her niece continues the family tradition. Many of June's recipes remain part of the repertoire and she pops in regularly to see how everyone's getting on.
Belinda and Tony have tripled the business since they bought it. They make on contract for other labels as well as for their own brand, and like the Peplers before them they are committed to sourcing top-quality fruit. They grow plums, crab apples and quinces on their own land and estimate that 80 per cent of the produce they use is from the Waikato.
Their herbs are grown in the township, strawberries are from nearby Rangiriri, blueberries and raspberries from Te Awamutu and wine for their recently developed Sauvignon Blanc Jelly is from Te Kauwhata's Invivo winemakers.
Fruit is bought in season and frozen to ensure year-around supply. They've just dealt with 400kg of feijoas, and tamarillos are about to roll into the kitchen.
EASY BLACK BEAN AND CORN SALAD
Great with tacos, or serve with green leaves and grilled haloumi for a satisfying lunch for three or four people.
1 cup dried black beans (or 1 can black beans)
1 can of corn kernels (or 3 cobs fresh corn*)
3 stalks of celery
3 spring onions
1 red capsicum
Peplers Black Raspberry Vinaigrette
If you are using dry beans cook in plenty of unsalted boiling water until al dente. Rinse under cold water to cool off. If using a can, drain and rinse thoroughly along with the canned corn.
Chop celery, spring onions and capsicum to a similar size to the corn and mix with the corn and beans.
Add chopped coriander and lashings of Peplers Black Raspberry Vinaigrette. Best made a few hours ahead for the flavours to develop.
* In summer, chargrill fresh corn on the barbecue and then take the kernels off the cob.
Peplers, 5 Main Rd, Te Kauwhata, phone 07 826 3838. See peplers.co.nz for stockists.