Sunday, October 17, 2010

To market, to market

My in-laws are visiting this weekend, so yesterday we planned a little excursion to a place that we thought they'd like: the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers' Market in Kingston. We've only been there once ourselves, as it's only open on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and it's not really close to anyplace else we'd normally go on a Saturday. It is on our normal route to Princeton that we take every Thursday—but it's always closed by the time we go past. We did stop by there one time when we were on our way to someplace else, just to see what they had (the answer is "pretty much everything"), but we couldn't take full advantage of it because we hadn't brought a cooler to keep our purchases chilled during our day out. This time, we came prepared.

First we stopped by King's Salads and Jellies, where we tried some samples of different pickles and jellies that they had available for tasting. I didn't buy anything from them, but Brian's folks picked up a half-pint of pickled red peppers and one of cherry jam. Then we visited the woodworker's stall, where we oohed and aahed over the beautiful handmade furniture and gasped in awe at the prices. Brian's dad eventually hustled us out of there, saying "We have to leave before I start to get ideas" (not about buying anything, but about trying to duplicate the pieces with his own woodworking equipment at home). We also looked at the handmade quilts and pillows, and Brian's mom was highly amused by an embroidered one that read, "I smile...because you are my daughter. I laugh...because there is nothing you can do about it."

At the poultry stall, we bought two pounds of "country turkey sausage" for $3.89 a pound—less than the $6 a pound we used to pay for free-range chicken sausage at Trader Joe's, back when they carried it, and far less than the $8 a pound they currently charge at Whole Foods, the only other place we've ever found it. Then we popped into the baker's booth, where we found two things that absolutely delighted us. The first was a two-ounce bottle of maple extract, which is a key ingredient in a recipe I have for homemade pancake syrup. We've looked absolutely everywhere for this stuff and never found it. The Whole Earth Center only had "maple flavoring," which had nothing in the ingredients list to suggest that any part of it had ever come from a tree, and noplace else--from Whole Foods to Penzey's Spices in Indianapolis, which is supposed to have absolutely everything--had anything remotely close. A friend of ours even looked for it on a recent trip to Vermont and came up empty. We could have bought it online, but we'd have had to pay $6 to $10 in shipping for a $4 bottle. And there it was all along at the Amish market, not half an hour away from us. The other discovery was a container of "pink pig sprinkles," which are exactly what they sound like: sugar sprinkles, the kind you scatter over cupcakes, in the shape of little pink pigs. We didn't buy any, but we were tickled to know that such a thing exists.

We browsed around the other stalls, trying more samples, and at one point my mother-in-law emerged in great triumph from a bakery declaring, "I found pecan rolls!" This is apparently a delicacy that she hasn't seen anywhere since their local bakery stopped carrying them. (We had some for breakfast this morning, and they're quite tasty.) Then we had a bite to eat at the pretzel stall and headed outside, where we spent an additional fifteen minutes sticking our heads into all the sheds that the woodworker had for sale out in the parking lot. Some of these looked so much like little houses that we were musing about what it would take to actually live in one (a bit of insulation, a pellet stove, a composting toilet...). There were also a couple of garages, a horse barn and a truly magnificent hen house.

All in all, I would heartily recommend this type of market—for anyone who lives within striking distance of one—as a highly entertaining place to visit, and possibly a good place to dig up some tasty and hard-to-find treats at a good price.
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