A SPECIALIST oil, bottled by a Sheffield family in the cellar of their home, is gaining a reputation among connoisseurs as the latest ‘must have’ ingredient.
Pumpkin Oil, produced by the Hutton family of Nether Edge, was snapped up by exclusive London department store Fortnum & Mason – which has sold 60 bottles in just 40 days.
One of those found its way to top chef Oliver Lesnik, at Langtry’s of Knightsbridge, who was so impressed that he has offered to endorse it.
Now producer Gary Hutton – who also has a full-time job in IT – is pulling out all the stops to keep up with demand.
Gary, who came up with the idea after discovering the oil in Slovenia, is delighted. “It gives me such a buzz – I’ve always been a bit of an entrepreneur,” he says. “It means so much when people like it.”
He first came across pumpkin oil on holiday in Slovenia with wife Jenny and their three children, Harry, 16, Grace, 13, and Alfred, four.
They became regular visitors to the country, always bringing back bottles of the nutty oil with its magical green-and-red appearance. “We loved it and couldn’t understand why we were unable to buy it in the UK.”
Gary came up with the idea of importing a stock to sell back home. And his neighbour, José Adanic, suggested growing the pumpkins themselves. The two families rented a plot of land, planted six acres of pumpkins and produced the first 100 litres of oil a year ago.
“We expected it to last a year, but we’ve got through 350 litres since then,” says Gary. “Once we get people to try it, 98% of them are blown away by the stuff.”
The secret is partly in the growing of the pumpkins and partly in processing of the oil. Styrian pumpkins are grown for their huskless seeds. The fruits are harvested by hand, chopped in half, the seeds scooped out into huge vats and the flesh left to refertilise the soil.
The seeds are cleaned, washed, dried and gently dry roasted in a giant pan before being milled into a powder and cold pressed. The extra virgin oil is then sealed into large bottles for shipping to the UK, and when it arrives in Sheffield, Gary and the family take over.
The cellar of their Nether Edge home has been fitted out as a bottling plant and for days at a time they stand around the table, bottling, labelling and packing.
Then they cart it off to local restaurants, delis and farmers markets, where they all take a turn at selling.
The oil has a distinctive nutty flavour that goes well with salads, pasta, vegetables and breads. It can be stirred into soups and stews or drizzled over vanilla ice cream.
It has other qualities too: being high in omega oils and vitamins E, B and D. “The Austrians call it ‘green Viagra’!” says Gary.
Already pumpkin oil can already be found on menus at Artisan, the Cricket Inn and Losehill House Hotel near Hope.
Home cooks can find it at Whirlow Hall farm shop, the Sharrow Marrow, farmers’ markets around the area and from the website: www.pumpkinoil.co.uk. A small bottle costs £4.50.