Prince Albert sits in an enviable location – sheltered and watered by the Swartberg Mountains, lying in a long narrow valley that has warm days and cool nights, thanks to the southerly breeze.
This makes it ideal for producing a range of products from olives and figs to cheese and wine.
It’s growing reputation has been enhanced in recent times by the annual Olive Festival (April 30-May 1st), the establishment of a cookery school – African Relish, in the centre of Prince Albert, and the emergence of a whole host of artisan producers of local foodstuffs.
Our weekend trip unearthed the following gems. You’ll need three or four days to get around to see everything, including all the sights if you are to experience Prince Albert in an unhurried fashion.
And you might as well, as nothing hurries too much there.
Gay’s Dairy, is found at the top of Kerk Street, which runs through the centre of Price Albert. Gay Van Hasselt’s herd of award
winning Guernsey cows produce about 450 litres of top quality milk every day.
She sells the milk, makes cream and sells yogurt, wonderful cheeses and a product called Amasi. Amasi is an indigenous African dairy product, with its origins in Zulu culture. It is fermented sour milk, high in protein and health giving qualities. Take the tour, or just visit the farm shop. Call 023 541 1538. Open each day of the week at odd hours.
Soetkaroo is a small 1 hectare vineyard, producing award winning dessert wine, in the back garden of a beautiful Dutch colonial house along Prince Albert’s main street.
Herman and Susie Perold have planted up a hectare of land with Red Hanepoot, Red Muscatel, Petit Verdot and Touriga Nacional. Susie describes her vines as “forgiving”, and suitable for the terroir. They produce about 1,500 litres anually, and sell from their front living room, ie: the tasting room. As they live in “the winery” they are always more or
less there, but it would be polite to call first to arrange a tasting – 023 541 1768.
At this time of year it’s olive harvest time, and Swartrivier and Kredow Olive Farms harvest tons of Manzanilla, Mission and Leccino and other varieties of olives for processing and olive oil. You can visit both farms and be taken on a tutored tasting and watch the process from harvesting, to pressing and blending.
If it’s figs you are after then Prince Albert is the place for you. Swartbult Figs (023 541 1924), is the largest producer of dried figs in the Southern Hemisphere. 40 tons of fresh Genoa figs translates into 5-7 tons of dried fruit each year. Weltevrede Figs, nearby (023 541 1229) grow Adams figs, rear ostrich, and grow naartjies and oranges.
Prince of Hams, Jason Lucas has been selling his air cured Spanish style Serrano Jamon’s for 8 years. He learned to cure ham from a master ham producer in Spain. The pure water and air in Prince Albert are optimal for producing the highest quality jamon.
The hams come from acorn fed organic pigs in Stellenbosch and Grabouw. The pork meat from these pigs has perfect oil and fat marbling so as to ensure the best taste. A jamon leg costs R2,500.
I’ve seen them in Spain for four and five thousand rand. The crafty Spanish know that Jason’s jamon is good, and in return for
supplying him with the exclusive rights for the jamon spices on the continent of Africa he has agreed not to sell his produce into Europe.
With a glass of dry white wine and some fresh crusty French bread the deep nutty/salty flavour of this jamon tastes exquisite.
Lucas Jamon 083 675 0515. firstname.lastname@example.org. Or check out Jason’s great video on UTube. Just key in Prince Albert Lucas Jamon and up comes a 9 minute video that tells the whole story.