Inferior nuts produce a superior oil

THEY were the first producers of hazelnut oil in the country and now Tasmanian business Hazelbrae has picked up two major food awards.

Business owners Michael Delphin and Christie McLeod were thrilled when they recently won the Best In Show Exhibit at the Royal Tasmanian Fine Food Awards.

The couple’s hazelnut oil also picked up the champion in the pantry and other products section and the champion Tasmanian product awards.

“There were 21 other champions in different categories, so we knew we had a reasonable chance but to win the two awards was just fantastic,” Mrs McLeod said.

The couple started developing the hazelnut oil in 2014 soon after they bought the Hazelbrae orchard which is situated near Hagley.

Mrs McLeod said initially it was a way to value add their smaller nut or those not suitable for sale as whole nuts.

“We got talking to a family in Victoria who have a family history in oil pressing and they were pretty keen to have a go at it,” she said.

As the first ones to product hazelnut oil in the country.

Mrs McLeod said they were not sure how it would go at first.

“We launched it at the farmers’ market in 2014 in Launceston and Hobart and we sold to whole 200 bottle batch in that one weekend, which was a really good response,” she said.

The oil is produced by cracking the nuts just prior to pressing which means they maintain their freshness.

“We don’t have them sitting around for a long time, so they are really fresh, but we do wait until they have a really good flavour,” Mrs McLeod said.

“Because hazelnuts develop their flavour over time we wait until they’ve got a really strong flavour and then press them.”

Hazelnuts contain 50 per cent oil so Mrs McLeod said while it is still an expensive product to produce the yields were quite good.

Most of the oil is sold through the one farm shop and online.

Mrs McLeod said now that the orchard is mature, they are switching their focus to increasing production.

“Up until now we’ve bene trying to balance tree growth and nut yield for the last few years, but now the trees are the size and shape we want we’re looking at boosting nut yield and we’re using a special fertiliser program to do that,” she said.

The new program will take about 18 months to produce better yields due to the trees’ natural production cycles. Most of the Hazelbrae crop is still sold as nuts.

“We’re still mainly retailing most of our, nuts, we have a few wholesalers and some distilleries that have started using the to make gin and liqueurs but most of them sell through retail and the farm shop,” Mrs McLeod said.

The farm’s cafe also provides coffees and cakes as well as platters to visitors. Mrs McLeod said they had a number of major projects happening on the farm which was their current focus including a new on farm dam which has just been recently completed