Holiday Food Shopping: Bag The Supermarket And Go Straight To The Source
By Katherine Abbott
Orange and green gourds pile up at shop entrances, and the local food co-op has a flyer for free-range turkeys. The harvest season is winding down, but as Pittsfield opens a new winter farmers market and Berkshire Grown expands its holiday markets, it becomes clear that farm-grown food is not just a warm-weather phenomenon — and more than the turkey can come out of local fields. Local farms are offering a widening range of condiments, ingredients and prepared foods for holiday tables. We’ve rounded up a few just as you’re making your shopping lists.
Winter Greens at Chatham Berry Farm
A leaf of arugula tastes sharp and fresh, and the rows of green leaves in the warm tunnel stand out in November. Joseph Gilbert started the Chatham Berry Farm store in 1982 as a summer fruit stand, bringing berries to markets in New York. Now he grows eight kinds of kale even in mid-winter, and red and green bok choy, mustard greens, arugula and many others, even dandelion. In its expanding greenhouses, the farm grows produce all winter.
Its store carries fresh vegetables and soups, sauces, hummus, pestos, dips and salsas made there, plus local farm eggs, cheese, milk and butter; honey from a beekeeper who keeps hives on the farm; pumpkins and squashes, and at least eight kinds of apples, many from Mead Orchards. Gilbert also carries Chatham Berry Farm brand relishes and pickles made regionally.
“We want to be like the old corner store,” he says. “Here you can buy one apple or one ear of corn.”
2304 Route 203, Chatham, N.Y.
Gobbling It Up at McEnroe Farm Market
To the south, McEnroe Farm Market in Millertown, N.Y. strikes a similar chord. Along with apples, squash, potatoes and farm meat, they stock their own deli counter. They’ve already sold out of Thanksgiving turkeys, but the moist, thick-cut turkey in the sandwiches is their own, and so is the chicken in the chicken salad and the kale, broccoli and squash in various deli salads flavored with local maple syrup and white balsamic vinegar.
That turkey sandwich comes with melted brie and a relish tangy with cranberry and onion — worth remembering as a new use for leftovers.
5409 N.Y. Route 22, Millerton, N.Y.
The farm store will be open through Dec. 14, and will then close for renovations in order to focus even more closely on local products.
High on the Hog at Climbing Tree Farm
Half a dozen young pigs come up to investigate visitors under the oak trees at Climbing Tree Farm in New Lebanon, N.Y. A mix of breeds — amber and brown and black — they forage freely in the woods.
Young farmers Colby and Schuyler Gail found their sloping land and then found hardy animals that would do well on it — Shetland sheep in the fields, highland heifers (who will grow into highland cows) and geese. They make their products available to customers through retail locations and local restaurants.
At the holidays, anyone looking for pork or Climbing Tree sausage for breakfast or to add to the stuffing can find it through Red Apple Butchers at Berkshire Organics in Dalton, Mass. The Gails are raising poultry as well, mostly for local restaurants, and people can find the farm’s Christmas goose at places like Allium in Great Barrington, Hotel on North in Pittsfield and Fish & Game in Hudson, N.Y. Climbing Tree Farm sausage also gives its flavor and name to a breakfast sandwich at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge in Pittsfield.
“This is real food,” Colby says, “and it’s harder to find than people realize.”
“I think it makes you feel different when you eat real food,” Schuyler agrees,” healthier and more alive.”
436 West Hill Road, New Lebanon, N.Y.
Roast Beast at Whippoorwill Farm
Red Devon and Black Angus cows and calves gather in the barnyard at Whippoorwill Farm, as Robin Cockerline greets visitors in the farm shop, sorting out ribs for a birthday party or a roast for visiting friends.
Whippoorwill Farm produces some pork, eggs and chickens, and sells raw honey from a friend in Vermont who also makes a honey-flavored Barrhill Gin. (The Salisbury Wine Store just up the road carries it.) But mainly Allen and Robin Cockerline are known for grass-fed beef.
“You have to feed quality grass to get good-tasting beef,” she says, and her husband learned that in the dairy business, where the quality of the grass can affect the flavor of the milk day to day.
Today their beef cattle give them a wide range of cuts, from tenderloin and brisket to fillets and ox tail.
Rob LaBonne from LaBonne’s Markets in Southbury, Conn., comes in looking for beef jerky and leaves with smoked bacon. “You can taste the difference in grass-fed beef,” he says. “It’s the way of the future.”
189 Salmon Kill Road, Lakeville, Conn.
Farm shop open Friday and Saturday year round.
Life of Pie at A-Frame Bakery
Sharon Sutter pats dough filled with chocolate chips into a baking pan. She’s preparing for the holidays in the efficient purple triangle of the A-Frame Bakery in Williamstown.
For Sutter, Thanksgiving means pie — apple, pumpkin, cranberry and blueberry, pecan, maple apple mincemeat — as well as tarts, pumpkin rolls, cheesecake with cranberry pear conserve… the list goes on. As the holidays go on, too, she’ll make Hanukkah treats, often for families wanting to send a holiday memory to students away from home.
Christmas brings cakes, she says — yule logs (bûches de noel) filled and frosted with chocolate and decorated meringue mushrooms, decadent tortes, red velvet. People also come in for baked goods for breakfast: crumb cakes, scones, muffins and quick breads.
Anyone wanting a large order should call ahead, though. She makes all of her baked goods fresh daily, and plans carefully so as not to have much left over, but will willingly adapt for anyone who gives her enough time. The bakery is strictly kosher, and Sutter can make non-dairy or gluten-free treats if asked.
1194 Cold Spring Road, Route 7, Williamstown, MA
Filling in the Corners at Tierra Farm
For a savory almond or a chocolate-dipped hazelnut to round out the meal, Tierra Farm acts as a manufacturer and distributor, gathering and processing organic non-GMO nuts and seeds, and often buying directly from farms.
Along with a retail store at their headquarters in Valatalie, N.Y., Tierra supplies roasted and chocolate-dipped nuts and dried fruit to many co-ops and farm markets in the area. Their maple tamari mixed nuts — walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pecans and cashews — are lightly salty, sweet and roasted for crisp flavor, and make a crunchy treat for holiday guests.
Tierra Farm nuts — as well as nut butters, dried fruits, coffee and other good things — are available in Massachusetts at Wild Oats Co-op in Williamstown and the Berkshire Co-op Market in Great Barrington, Guido’s Fresh Marketplace in Great Barrington and Pittsfield, and Lenox Natural Foods . In New York, you can find them at Chatham Real Food Market, the Main Street Grainery in Chatham and McEnroe Farm Market. (But a trip to the store in Valatie is something you need to experience if you are attracted to the aroma of chocolate and coffee.)
2424 State Route 203, Valatie, N.Y.