February 5, 2014

Julie Sullivan grew up next door to an orange orchard, and thanks to her ability to eat oranges all day long was nicknamed ‘Fruitfly’. She moved to the Hawkesbury more than 30 years ago, to take up a Home Economics teaching position at Hawkesbury High School, and is a passionate devotee of the region’s fresh produce. “I love everything that this beautiful region offers, especially the river and the surrounding farmlands,” she says. “Pitt Town has produced some of the finest oranges in the country.”

These days, Julie is putting those oranges to good use in her growing preserves business, Julie’s Kitchen… Made with Love.
“All the citrus fruit used comes from Pitt Town, and in most cases is organic,” she tells us as she checks the next batch of mulberry jam, with fruit picked just the day before. Many of her recipes have been handed down from her mother: “My mum was always preserving fresh oranges as well as the blackberries, lemons and plums grown on our farm property.”

Julie only makes small batches of preserves, as she sources so much locally – from her own garden, as well as gifts from neighbours and friends. “The local mandarins (on Grenville St in Pitt Town) have been sensational this season,” she says. “Whatever I can’t source locally I buy at Sciberras Farm in Freemans Reach.”

When Julie went into semi-retirement from teaching, she said she’d give the business a year. But already it has sky-rocketed in just a few months, with people travelling from as far afield as Canberra to buy her lime butter. She’s also produced a limited run of Vermont Marmalade, available at the sales centre.

You’ll find Julie at the Windsor Markets every second and fourth Sunday so don’t miss your chance to taste these preserves – along with her homemade crispbread. To find out more, see her facebook page at www.facebook.com/JuliesKitchenMadeWithLove.

We spent some time chatting to Julie about living in the area…

What brought you to this area?

I was born in Goulburn, and when I moved here to teach I liked the similar climate, fresh produce and fresh air. I also like the area’s history – it was Sydney’s first foodbowl and is still rich with that heritage.

What’s your favourite thing to do in summer?

I love the river and go kayaking as much as I can with my girlfriends. I would go more now if I wasn’t so busy bottling jam! I’ve done the Windsor to Brooklyn race twice and made it as far as Wiseman’s Ferry – it’s a big day. But these days we usually just put in around Cattai National Park and go about 7 or 8 kilometres. My husband prefers fishing on the river, where he catches flathead, jewfish and bream.

What’s the best thing about running your business?

Meeting people at the markets and seeing their reactions when they taste things. My daughter has described me as a ‘market rock star’.

Can you reveal your secret ingredient?

I like to put intense flavours in – it’s got to pack a punch. If it’s lime butter you need to taste the lime. And if I’m zesting an orange, I want to know it hasn’t been sprayed. You also need patience – and I learned that through teaching! Patience, practice and top ingredients.

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