Edible Gift #3 – I’ts “Berry” Good

Practically every day I’m reminded of how many wonderful people I’ve met in this past year during my new Fork and The Road adventures.  This morning, as I was checking out the tempting cookies, baklava, pierogies and more ( yes, more means marshmallows – they had ROOT BEER ones today!) at the Pittsburgh Public Market, I turned the corner and there were the folks from The Blueberry Patch in New Florence, out past Ligonier. I bought some of their Spiced Blueberry Jam this past summer at the Ligonier Country Market and figured I would have to wait until  spring when the market opens again to get another jar. It was my lucky day. The  jam, thick with berries and loaded with a cinnamony, spicy flavor, is just right for toast or a bagel on these 20 degree mornings.  So happy to see them, I wanted to buy everything in sight – I’m a bit of a food hoarder –  including their precious flaky mini-pies, which they call empanadas. But I held off.  With too many holiday parties this weekend, I thought I should  show a little restraint. I sampled (and bought) The Berry Patch’s pumpkin butter. It’s like a mouthful of pumpkin pie minus the crust and if your pie crust is anything like mine, that’s a good thing to be minus the crust.  And their new product, beer jelly is made with East End Brewing’s Snow Melt Winter Ale (try a sample or buy some actual beer across the aisle at East End’s stall at the Public Market.)  My first thought was “ick”, but it really is fantastic on cream cheese or served with an aged Cheddar.  They even sell the beer jelly in a pint beer mug. So cute, or maybe handsome is a better word  . . and such a great gift.   I can’t think of better treats for your friends and relatives.  Just drive on down to the PPM tomorrow (Sunday, December 5) and stock up for those last minute hostess gifts. (The Berry Patch won’t be there next weekend, but will be back the weekend before Christmas.)

Apple cider, pumpkins and squash

Apple Cider Press

Last weekend we drove on over to Soergel Orchards in Wexford, a place that holds many precious fall memories of hayrides, cornstalk mazes and sticky candy apples. But those days are long gone and now the barn where the cider is made interests us more than face painting (thank goodness.)   The whole building was filled with the sweet smell of apples.  It was really  pretty neat how the fruits were mashed and spread on a riveted tray. Then the trays were stacked until there were about twenty all piled up; then they were  squished with a large steel “presser.”  The cider ran off the sides of the stack, into a filter and then to a pipe that transported that sweet juice into another room for pasteurization.  I love the mechanics of food processing, so I could’ve stayed here all day.

And I love Soergel’s, but my favorite place for pumpkins is the farmland near Lancaster. The farmers put out giant piles of pumpkins on the side of the road. Folks stop by, select their pumpkins (top price.  . . one dollar . . . no kidding) and put the money in a little  metal box near the pumpkin pile. It’s the best pumpkin deal around (okay, it does take a few hours to drive there) and the lack of commercialism is downright charming. Last year I bought a nifty metal stand at an Amish store which allows me to make fun  pumpkin piles.  Look at the great selection that I chose for my front porch decor . . all at a total cost of about $2.75.

Nifty Stack of Squash

On to other squash. I love butternut squash. Nutterbuts as we call them here.  But acorn squash are another story. Why don’t I like them?  Why?  I feel sorry for the four or five acorn squash on my counter right now.   I’ve been accumulating them each week from my CSA box. They’re so cute, but . . . ick.   If anyone has a good recipe for acorn squash, please send it my way. In the meantime, I am getting out my fave oldtimer vegetable cookbook. The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash. Maybe tomorrow I’ll post photos of my acorn squash cooking results.

Lancaster Farm Markets

Yesterday when I looked up  at the sky, it looked like Fall.  It had to do with  something in the color of the clouds against the sun, a different kind of shading, a  filtered type of light. Winter is not my season, so this first feeling of autumn makes my heart sink a bit, but then I remember that fall means pumpkins, gourds and apples at the farm markets. It’ll be okay.

Two of my favorite large farm markets are located mid-state. One is Roots . . . correctly pronounced  like soot and not toot, if that makes any sense. I am too lazy to type it out phonetically. Roots Country Market and Auction is located in Manheim, PA and it’s held on Tuesdays from 9 til 9  (May to October) and 9 to8 (the rest of the year.)  My other favorite market is the Green Dragon, located in Ephrata, PA. The Green Dragon Farmer’s Market and Auction is open on Fridays, from 9 til 9 . From January 1 through February 26, it closes at 8PM instead of 9. Bring coolers, because there is a lot to buy.

Who can be sad about Fall when there are pumpkin gobs to eat?

Both markets have indoor and outdoor stalls, and sell a mish-mash  of everything from local produce, to Amish canned foods and baked goods, to livestock, to the usual flea market items like socks and designer knock-off handbags.  There’s something for everyone. It’s not for uppity folks. I love it.  My favorite stands are the ones with the Amish baked goods, the home canned pickles and the home brewed root beer. I also try to scout out any  butcher stalls because they always have giant smoked turkey legs and ham hocks.  Homemade split pea soup can sure cheer me up on a chilly fall day.

Now that's what I call a turkey leg!

By mid-September, I  can always find lots of different shapes of squash and pumpkins for outdoor decorating, along with apple cider, apple butter and pumpkin whoopie pies ( gobs to some of us) to get me excited for the season.  Let’s hope a visit to the markets does the trick, because I feel old man winter breathing down my neck already and I’ve got to prepare. Get me some of those pumpkin gobs, a bag of apples and a few butternut squash. Pronto!