If you are suffering from cabin fever this winter and missing the good food and social buzz of our seven very visible outdoor farmers markets, take heart. We still have farmers markets; they are just hidden. Seek them out, and you can still eat local food, support our local economy and enjoy the social interaction that will help us weather these cold winter days.
There are three indoor farmers markets in the area, each with a different personality. The Tuesday Boalsburg market has changed locations from the Boalsburg Fire Hall to the social room at St. John’s United Church of Christ on Church Street in Boalsburg. The quarters are close, but all the same vendors are there with winter vegetables, poultry, pork, lamb, salmon, prepared foods, bread, eggs, goat milk, cheese and even wine. The market is very well- supported by residents, so go early for best selection and enjoy the familiarity of the village.
The Friday State College Farmers Market is newer and under the locavore radar. It takes place in the lobby of the Municipal Building on South Allen Street, where you can rub elbows with Mayor Elizabeth Goreham and other borough administrators while you shop for your groceries in a bright and congenial venue. The vendors are still getting established, and some of their legs are a little wobbly, but give them support and they will adapt to demand.
Jenne Senator, herdswoman at Valley Grassfed, is a case in point. A new vendor, the Spring Mills farm has been raising beef cattle for 30 years but worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to convert the operation to completely grass-fed four years ago.
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“It’s really a change of pace to be face to face with the consumer, but I like it,” said Senator. “It’s the consumers that drive the market. We have been retailing our grass-fed beef for a year, selling by the piece and specialty pack. There is just more demand for a healthier product these days.”
Other types of meat available at the market include pasture-raised pork from Chase Farm and from Over the Moon Farm, which also has a wide array of specialty sausages and chicken.
If you are accustomed to the outdoor Friday State College Farmers Market when customers stand at the tables, money in hand, waiting for the bell to signal the official 11:30 a.m. start time, rest assured that the rules are more lax indoors in the winter.
Betsy Green, of Egg Hill Gardens in Spring Mills, said she can sell while she sets up, as early as an hour or so before the market officially begins. Another big plus is that Green runs Egg Hill Cooperative at this market in the sunny front window and has products from many different familiar vendors. Looking for Ecosophy Farm garlic, Gemelli breads or Scenic View Farms maple syrup? Green carries all those products, as well as Creekside Kitchens potato chips, Lost Hollow Honey and Piper’s Peck preserves. Egg Hill Cooperative also sells Jennifer Tucker’s herbal salves, made with herbs from the Learning Garden near the outdoor market pavilion, and Cindy Law’s exquisite dried arrangements, currently featuring bird’s nests complete with decorative eggs that hint at spring.
Dee and Tony Musso, of Nittany Valley Organics, produce organic health and beauty products that they make in their State College kitchen. Their line includes soaps, body wash, shampoo, candles and even dog shampoo. Highly recommended is their lip balm, which cures chapped lips in just a few applications, always handy to have in February when you want your lips to be in tip-top shape.
The Mussos are seasoned veterans of five years at the outdoor North Atherton Street market, and this is their second year at the Friday indoor market. They report that sales are building steadily.
A brand-new vendor at the market is Elle Morgan, with Yeti Coffee, an invigorating blend of W.C. Clarke’s Ethiopian coffee with local butter and organic coconut oil added to boost the antioxidant power. Don’t knock it until you have tried it; the frothy potion is topped with cocoa powder, coconut or chilies, and packs a powerful jolt.
If the borough meetings on Friday afternoons need a wake-up call, Morgan has it. For the less adventurous, she also sells the Ethiopian coffee unenhanced.
Raymond Fisher, of Spring Bank Acres, is an anchor at the market with long tables still filled with carrots, potatoes and huge knobby celeriac, in addition to his popular raw milk and raw milk cheeses and yogurts. A proponent of probiotics, Fisher also makes and sells kombucha and sauerkraut.
If you are hungry for fresh local fish, stop by and see Dan Brigham, of Elk Creek Fisheries. He has his farm-raised fresh trout and frozen salmon from his annual summer Alaska fishing expedition. He also sells smoked salmon and provides samples for tasting. Don’t ask for his Alaskan sable fish; it is all sold out until next year.
On Saturdays, there is an indoor market at the Bremen Town Ballroom in Millheim that is well worth the drive out Route 45. Very well-supported by the Penns Valley community, the market takes place in a renovated barroom that used to be Brownies Tavern, also the Handlebar D, but was best known locally as the “Green Door.”
Behind that former green door is a small world of commerce and conviviality sponsored by property and Ecovent Catering company owners Erin Condo and Josh McCracken. Vendors’ tables in the front room are lit by twink-ling lights, which lend a festive air.
Ben McNeal and Brian Futhey are co-managers of this market and maintain the valley’s loose and easy conviviality.
In addition to McNeal’s local apples and maple syrup and Futhey’s grass-based beef and European-style raw milk cheeses, Tamarack Farm, Cow-a-Hen Farm and Mountainside Homestead all prove that our local farms still have plenty of goods for sale in winter.
Kathy Shimp prepares a hot dish to sell for lunch each Saturday, often a rendition of a spicy Burgoo, made with her own beef and pork.
Just past the vendor room is an inviting social area with tables and chairs for lounging. Step lightly between the crawling babies and toddling children and a commercial kitchen is in the back, with Brian Burger at the stove. On a recent Saturday, he was demonstrating how to properly disjoint a chicken to use the various parts for different dishes and then how to use the carcass to make scrapple.
Burger, who lives and farms at New Harmony Farmstead in Coburn, often does cooking demonstrations at the Saturday indoor market.
“You can’t sell food to people who are intimidated by it. You’ve got to show them what to do with it.”
Burger also has done applesauce and apple butter demonstrations, using what is available that day at the market. His scrapple-making demo also included samples of a scrapple he had made with rabbit and chicken that was fried to a crispy golden turn on an iron griddle.
Best of all, Burger answered a question that has perplexed me since I have lived in Centre County: “What do you serve with scrapple — ketchup or maple syrup?” The Montgomery County native opts for ketchup, but he says his wife, from central Pennsylvania, uses maple syrup.
“Basically, city scrapple has more meat in it and was more savory, so ketchup is favored, while country scrapple is heavier on the cornmeal, so more grainy and suitable to syrup.”
Finally — mystery solved. Burger shared his recipe so that you can make it yourself and put whatever you like on it, either Ben McNeal’s maple syrup or Creekside Kitchen’s homemade ketchup. It’s all right there at the market.