A new generation continues the tradition, writes Richard Cornish.
What is it?
A beautiful 20-hectare orchard in the hills of Red Hill home to hundreds of apple, pear and avocado trees. The fruit is sold in a farmgate shop and café housed in the orchard’s original cool room, and throughout Victoria via the Biodynamic Marketing Co. Old-fashioned table apple varieties such as Jonathan, Golden Delicious and Gravenstein are grown alongside newer varieties like Fuji and Pink Lady, as well as cider apples Sturmer and Kingston Black. The apples are juiced and also made into cider and cider vinegar. The Mock family also has another business freeze-drying fruit.
Who’s producing it?
Sisters Sheryn Strange and Mardi-Claire Mock are gradually taking over Mock Red Hill from their father, Neville. The pair have rejuvenated the already thriving business bringing new energy, new products, and even stronger community engagement. They have also embraced the fermenting bug and produce rich, aromatic cider vinegar. “We ferment here in the old cool stores in an old oak barrel and use a vinegar mother that looks like a slab of jelly,” says Strange. “It’s straightforward. Very basic. Nothing added,” she says. “It’s like everything we do here: what you see is what you get.”
Where is it?
The Mocks chose Red Hill because of its deep, red, rich volcanic soil and high rainfall. The region was a well-established orchard and dairying area with regular transport to Melbourne markets. Their farm shop and café on Mornington-Flinders Road is as rustic as the fruit is delicious; the apple pie, a collaboration with local food producer Johnny Ripe, is chunky, juicy, and perfectly sweet yet tangy.
Why it’s different
Sheryn and Mardi’s grandfather Wally was a good conventional orchardist who noticed an old solitary apple tree growing on a fence line. It was never fertilised and never sprayed. “He noticed that this old tree was thriving, and the fruit was crisp, aromatic, and very tasty,” says Strange. Wally and his wife Wilma met Alex Podolinsky, the father of biodynamics in Australia, and learned how to farm without artificial chemicals and fertilisers and how to look after the biodiversity in the soil, which in turn made fertile soil and healthy trees.
Who’s a fan?
Tony Lee from Foxeys Hangout serves Mock’s sparkling apple juice as the only non-alcoholic drink at his Red Hill winery cellar door. “We make biodynamic wines, so working with the Mocks is a perfect fit,” says Lee. He likes the full flavour and aroma of Mock’s Fuji apple, which he roasts and serves with radicchio and roasted hazelnuts, dressed with olive oil and Mock cider vinegar. He also slices the Fuji and serves it with a washed-rind cheese.
“I used to play footy with Neville – such a good bloke,” says Bairnsdale restaurateur Josh Thomas from East Handy Store. “Red Hill is the perfect climate for growing apples, and it’s no wonder their apples are so good,” he says. “Their cider vinegar is perfect to finish a dish of Spanish setas or mushrooms cooked in olive oil with parsley and a little garlic. It adds that tart note, but also the umami from all that yeast contact.”
Where can I get it?
Mock Red Hill is located at 1103 Mornington-Flinders Road and is open 10am-5pm, Thursday to Monday. Fruit and cider are sold at Torello Farm Gate, Dromana, and at organic greengrocers around the state.