The Red Hill Community Market is no new comer to Victoria's craft market scene. For readers who are not familiar or haven't yet made the trip, the Market has been around since 1975. What started as a community based event with only 28 local producers and crafts people selling and bartering their goods and excess produce is now over 300 stalls offering gourmet produce, fresh fruit and vegetables and local handmade art and craft.
An important characteristic of this market that benefits you as a customer is the strict quality control exacted on stallholders by the market management. All products offered for sale must be made and sold by the stallholder. Therefore you can be assured that whatever you buy at the Red Hill Community Market is handmade or locally made by a passionate stallholder and not a resold product from a wholesaler.
Another characteristic is the excitement and buzz created by the interaction between stallholders and customers who visit the stalls and try the products. There are just so many things to see, try and buy as well as interesting conversations about where the individual products come from and how they are made.
Kudos to the market management and the Red Hill Lions Club for facilitating onsite parking and helping to make everyone's visit to the Market a pleasant one from arrival.
This Market is massive and will require loads of time to complete. With the Market operating only on the first Saturday of each month from September to May and only from 8am to 1pm or 2pm, you can be sure of a large crowd. So make sure you're there as early as possible to get a park, chat up the stallholders and sample the goodies.
We couldn't get enough tasting of Grandma's Traditional Plum Puddings. My friend commented how the moist pudding packed with loads of fruit reminded him of the old-fashion versions he had during Christmas. The friendly ladies at Grandma's Traditional Plum Puddings explained that their pudding were handmade using a traditional recipe with fresh ingredients that delivered the real pudding taste without the use of artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. They are already cooked and ready to be served. The festive packaging with ribbons make these puddings an excellent Christmas gift or addition to the hamper.
The ladies at Red Hill Cheese were excellent at explaining and offering a tasting of a wide selection. The humble stall mask a family run business that excelled at making award winning cheeses from goat and sheep milk sourced from the Mornington Peninsula and south Gippsland. It reminded me fondly of the Grampians Pure Sheep Dairy based in the Southern Grampians which specialises in Pecorino and Feta. My favourite was the hand-crafted Mountain Goat Blue which delivered a tasty balance of goat's cheese flavour and blue. I can understand why all 21 judges at Dairy Australia's 2013 Australian Grand Dairy Awards (AGDA) awarded Red Hill Cheese's Mountain Goat Blue as the Champion Goat's and Sheep's Milk Cheese and 'best of the best' in its class.
A big winner with the ladies and mums looking for personalised hand-painted signs, Christmas baubles and picture frames for their homes and children rooms. You can choose your sign or other products and have it completed in 30 minutes while you visit the other stalls. The owner, Sue explained that she uses weather resistant MDF board and specialist signwriters paint to ensure the sings last in all weather conditions both in and outside the home.
Grand Ridge Beers
The "World's Most Awarded Brewery" was a crowd puller with its generous sampling of 6 beers and enthusiastic sharing of its medal stories. It was interesting to learn that Grand Ridge Beers from the Victoria small town of Mirboo North had won over 160 Australian and International beer awards since 2002.
This brewery 100% Australian, family owned company prides itself on producing high quality beers with exceptional standards of flavour and purity, with no added chemicals or preservatives that promise little or no hangovers. The mission at Grand Ridge is always to make the best beer in the world. I particularly enjoyed the easy drinking Gippsland Gold which reminded me of the pale ale at Little Creatures but with a fuller malt flavour. The wheat beer became an Aussie substitute to my favourite Weißbier at Augustiner Großgaststätten in Munich.
I'm not a huge fan of commercial peanut butter as most as too oily, sweet or salty. The homemade peanut butter from Darryl made without oil, sugar and emulsifiers were simply delicious. Just Imagine freshly grounded, creamy peanut sauce. From the taste test and quick sales, customers must be loving this stuff.
ArtRooms is a custom framing service that allows you to preserve your children's drawings, scribbles, paintings and sticky pasted pictures in unique collages. All you need to do is send your select art pieces in a provided box and the folks at ArtRooms will design, print, frame and deliver the finished collage to you, complete with your originals. How innovative!
This family owned and operated company produces savoury baked pita bread chips and gourmet sauces in the Yarra Valley. The bread chips with no artificial flavours, colours and preservatives were popular with visitors looking for a healthy snack. I was more interested in their gourmet sauces in particular their soyoza dipping sauce infused with lemon grass, vinegar, garlic and chilli. It was excellent for dipping my Vietnamese rolls and for cooking Thai-style blue mussels and recreating the dressing of the hot and sour prawns I enjoyed at Longrain during the Look.Stop.Taste festival.
Anyone who loves river stones will stop by the Engrave Stone stall where any words or motifs can be hand-etched into them. You can choose from any size, colour or shape of stone to be transformed into unique pieces for happy occasions like Valentine's Day, weddings and wedding anniversaries, Xmas presents, table place settings and even mementos for themed events. A glassware range using recycled glass, water glasses and preserve jars are also available for etching purposes. All they need are your words.
If you're looking for a cookie cutter, the folks at Bisk-Art can offer over 300 handcrafted shapes for you to choose from, whether for cutting biscuits, scones, pancakes, sandwiches or fruit and even for using on pottery or needlecraft. Each is hand cut, folded shaped and finished by Daryl Bilney, veteran metal worker of 25 years. This Australian owned and operated business based in Ballarat is the go-to-cookie cutters-source for every need and occasion.
The hand-rolled soap balls at Est caught my eye and those of many visitors crowding around the stall. The soap made from extra-virgin olive oil and blended with other organic ingredients promised a rich, creamy and moisturising lather that will nourish dry skin and treat blemishes and wrinkles. Est's range of all-natural handmade body products for women and men include face, feet and body moisturisers, lip balms, hand salves and aromatic bath salts and oils. I loved the organic-looking packaging using raw materials like muslin, unbleached paper, wood and twine. You could choose from gift boxes, satchel and drawstring bags, jars and tins.
Kids will love the petting zoo operated by Australian Farmyard Friends at the Market. There were young farm animals like calves, sheep, chickens and goats to interact with the children and parents in a clean and safe environment. This travelling animal farm also operates in the Melbourne metro area and surrounding country regions catering to birthday parties, kindergartens, child care centres, schools, aged care facilities, markets, fetes and festivals.
Lovers of licorice will be thrilled to find traditional molasses licorice made from a classic recipe, prepared in small batches and made fresh for the market. Uncle John's explained that their licorice is 99% fat free and cholesterol free with no artificial colours or flavours. This is where modern packaging meets old fashion texture and taste that draws licorice lovers from all over Melbourne to buy direct at the market.
The weathervanes at Windthings 'n' Bootthings simply catch your eye. Hand produced entirely out of steel, they come in various colours and shaped as a cat, rooster, witch, boat, fish, horse, cow, kangaroo, a girl with umbrella, golfer, surfer, dragon and dolphins. They make excellent additions to a Federation and Period type home.
The first images that came to mind when I saw the giant paella pans were Queen Victoria Market'sSuzuki Night Market and Simply Spanish at South Melbourne Market. Seems the Spanish cuisine invasion has also extend to the Red Hill Community Market. Lady Paella offered the popular versions including seafood and chicken and Valenciana with spicy chorizo which were popular with visitors looking for a freshly cooked, tasty and wholesome meal.
Forget about the cider brands of the big beverage companies like Carlton & United Breweries, the small batch ciders made by a passionate woman on Mornington Penninsula is what you want to drink. Lisa Cresswell of Seven Oaks orchard in Merricks North, studied at a cider academy in England before returning to Australia to produce a slightly sweet cloudy yellow beverage with the aroma of flowers. You might have a problem getting through the throng of customers though.
You can't miss the giant of a man and his portable barbeque spits at the Spithouse. With Summer and school holidays upon us, those Melbourne-made spits that fit up to about 8 kilograms of meat are great for the backyard BBQ and also small enough to bring it camping. This is one stall for the guys.
Folks unfamiliar with "Red Hill Mud" might be inclined to think about building materials but this long-standing attraction of the Market since 1993 is a family owned business on the Mornington Peninsula making delicious desserts and sauces. The icky sticky date pudding, zest orange Cointreau pudding, pink rhubarb and cinnamon pudding, pear caramelised walnut, ginger puddings and complimentary sauces are all handmade in small batches without the use of additives or preservatives of any kind. The continuous line of customers is the best testimony.
If you love honey (and I have a friend who really does, especially the combs), the wide variety available from Pure Peninsula Honey including creamed honey, manuka honey, grey box, iron bark, stringy bark, yellow box, red gum and yellow gum will be most pleasing to your sight and palate. Owners John and Felicity have spent 25 years producing honey and bee related products from their own apiary in Moorooduc. They are exceptionally proud of their 100% pure Australian honey which are cold extracted to retain all of the natural goodness. They tasted as good as the ones I had from Patchwork Apiary in the Kallista Community & Craft Market.
Purchasing olive oil from Nicolas Olive Estate is basically buying into traditional and quality. The family pride themselves for producing the finest olive oil in Australia based on their history of growing olives for 3 generations in Greece, where they were reputed for producing the one of the finest extra virgin olive oils. In their 307 acres olive estate in Dimboola, the family continues to apply traditional methods to produce a quality oil of the finest flavour and distinction. Their varieties include Kalamata, Jumbo Kalamata, Oil Kalamata, Tiny Oil Kalamata, Volos, Sevillano, Miss ion, Verdale and Mediterranean. I enjoyed the fruitiness of the first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil.
Aromatic Spices offers a wide range of ready-to-use spice blends that you can add, sprinkle, season or coat your food quickly and without the fuss of mixing. The owners use different mixtures of pure and natural herbs and spices to create recipes tailored to the Australian cuisine. Currently there are 14 blends available in the 'Aromatics' Herb, Nut and Spice range.
Their name says it all. Ladies who make jams. But the difference is these friendly ladies make exceptionally good jam that's full of fruit and not the sugar and gelatine you get in the mass-produced versions. My favourite was the sweet citrus and bitter aftertaste of their cumquat jam.
Susie's Gingerbread Houses sell out really fast mostly because they look attractive, taste great, are excellent table centrepieces and make suitable gifts for family and friends during the festive season. No wonder they been in business for 20 years.
You don't have to look very far for creative and fun activities to keep the kids occupied while you enjoy a short break from walking about the Market. There's the onsite paintings and drawings from The Paint Pot People. They also stock a wide range of children's art supplies and run painting workshops for up to 100 kids in Melbourne and surrounding areas.
It was nearly impossible to get near to this stall as customers queued and clamoured for its handmade gnocchi and egg pastas like linguine and rigatoni and wide range of sauces including napolitana, sicilian, arrabiatta and basil. I'm guessing the offerings must be delicious.
For lovers of blueberries, there's Drum Drum Farm. This stall sells everything made from certified bio-dynamic blueberries grown on their own farm near the Market. You'll be able to get blueberry jam, blueberry topping for your ice-cream, blueberry cordial, blueberry muffins and blueberry ice cream in a dixie cup.
If you love wine barrels, Douglas Green of 55 Degrees Custom Cellar Design has cellar barrel display cases and plasma TV cabinets for sale as feature furniture pieces in your home. These interesting and unique designs are a sure way to get the friends and family talking.
Peoplewell based in the Yarra Valley are the folks behind the interesting and refreshing range of certified organic bottled ice tea that are caffeine and tannin free with no added preservatives, colours or flavours. Their Rapple was naturally brewed loose leaf organic rooibos and hibiscus combined with organic apple juice and their Zinga was lemongrass and ginger pieces combined with organic apple juice.
Came across a stall that was offering to print name cards, price tags, café menus, post-cards, invitations, greeting cards, envelopes and almost anything else you can imagine on wood instead of paper. They explained that its done with a digital printing process. If you think your name card is too common, you might want to check out the folks at Print on Wood.
Stalls with fresh fruits and vegetables from nearby farms are scattered through the Market offering strawberries, cherries, apples, herbs, root and green vegetables. You can't get any farm fresh than that.