We uncover the origin stories of some famous South African brands like Mrs Ball’s Chutney and Black Cat Peanut Butter
Mrs Ball’s Chutney
Mrs HS Ball’s Chutney is a welcome guest at any dinner table. This popular chutney recipe survived a shipwreck to become one of South Africa’s most iconic pantry staples. As the story goes, the SS Quanza was shipwrecked off East London, en route from Canada to Australia in 1852. Captain Adkins and his wife saved a blueprint of the recipe and passed it on to their daughter, Amelia, who later married Mr Herbert Sandleton Ball. Bottles of the chutney were first sold in King William’s Town and it went commercial in 1870.
Ouma rusks and Simba chips
Ouma Greyvensteyn is a stalwart figure on South African grocery store shelves, and most of us have dipped an Ouma or ten in our lifetimes. The story of Ouma rusks started in 1939 in the small, northerly Eastern Cape town of Molteno. The great depression spurred Ouma Greyvensteyn and her friends to find ways of helping their community. She started by baking a batch of rusks using her trusted family recipe, and after selling these delicious treats to farming families in the community, orders soon started pouring in. Today, Ouma Greyvensteyn is still South Africa’s most famous rusk baker. The Ouma bakery in Molteno runs around the clock to ensure that South Africans will always be able to dip an Ouma. When the Greyvensteyns decided to diversify their business, Ouma’s son, Leon, met Herman Lay (founder of the famous Lay’s Chips brand) by chance in 1952. He travelled to the US to see a potato-chip factory in action. The family then started producing their own brand of chips called Simba.
On the Robertson farm, Klipdrift, Kosie Marais distilled his first brandy in 1938. It was marketed as a premium product available only by mail order. He was a maverick – turning to brandy while his neighbours focused on wine. Legend has it that the first drop of glistening liquid emerged from his copper pot still at precisely 08:02, and it hasn’t stopped flowing since. Robertson, just off Route 62, is a small town with a big heart. Stop by the Robertson Museum market on the first Saturday of each month. Here you can visit various stalls selling bric-a-brac, home produce, fresh vegetables, fruit and preserves. If you like your Saturdays a bit more active, head to Excelsior Wines for a morning trail run that cuts through the vineyard.
Black Cat Peanut Butter
Black Cat Peanut Butter started in Mokopane – then still called Potgietersrus – one of South Africa’s richest agricultural areas, producing wheat, peanuts, tobacco, cotton, beef, maize and citrus fruit. In 1926, a local company called Alderton Limited announced they would produce a high-protein wonder food, peanut butter, which was already a hit in America. Black Cat contains 99% proudly South African peanuts.
Words by Mart-Marié du Toit
Photography: Courtesy Images