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Favourite Five stops on day trip through Huron County

30 Apr

IMG_9773

By Diva Heather Boa

Fuelled with a cup of coffee and the voice of Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Café for company, I headed out for a day trip to some of my favourite stops in Huron County. Today is a food-themed tour, a gathering of locally produced food to stock my fridge.

Stops along my three-hour, 120-km trip take me from Goderich through Hensall, Zurich, Dashwood and back to my lakeside home.

As I drive, the sun throws its warmth across the countryside and farm machinery massages the winter-worn earth, getting ready for another season of growing. Rows of mailboxes mark the ends of country laneways, hand-painted names clustered along family-owned farms. Small cemetery plots give evidence of lives lived.

Here are my Favourite Five stops for an afternoon day trip in Huron County:

  1. IMG_9752Laithwaite Apple Park, 35563 Huron Rd. (Hwy. 8), just east of Goderich. Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. This year-round farm gate store is tucked behind a scattering of sculptures George Laithwaite (1873-1956) fashioned from fieldstones, metal and cement. Inside the store, I usually have a chat with Ed Laithwaite about topics ranging from pesticide use to the disappearance of fruit and vegetable farmers in Huron County. Then I’ll buy apples, potatoes, strawberries, asparagus, onions, turnip or whatever happens to be in season. At the height of harvest, the shop overflows with squash, gourds and pumpkins for children to pick through. Today’s purchase: Courtland apples.
  2. IMG_9758Metzger’s Meat Products Inc., 180 Brock Ave., Hensall. Hours: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, closed. The freshly butchered meats, rows of deli meats, display cases of frozen meats and variety of cheese hold so many possibilities for a backyard barbecue, intimate dinner or even a breakfast start to the day. Purchases by other patrons in the store include London broil, smoked pork chops and breakfast sausages. Today’s purchase: Tuscany turkey and prosciutto salami deli meat.
  3. IMG_9762Rader’s Homestyle Market, 38110 Zurich-Hensall Rd., Zurich. Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (There is also a store in on Stanley Street in Goderich.)The market’s namesake, Jerry Rader, is out front today, preparing the yard for the summer season. He begs off a photo, and refers my questions to his children, who now run the business. This is a neat store to poke around, with racks of giftware like scarves, purses and glittering slippers surrounded by frozen pies and gravies, fresh salads and daily lunch features. At the height of summer, the gardens will be bursting with flowers, there will be entertainment on the lawn – under that tent Jerry is putting together in the photo – and rows of local produce will be on display outside the store. Today’s purchase: A small container of baked beans.
  4. IMG_9767 copyCoastal Roastery Café, 17 Goshen St. N., Zurich. Hours: Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Watch Facebook and Twitter sites for expanded spring hours.) I’ve followed the owner of Coastal Coffee Company, Ben Gingerich’s, story from its start when he roasted coffee beans in a popcorn maker and used his wife, Brianna’s, hairdressing clients to test his small batches of coffee to their success in marketing the fair trade, locally roasted coffee in retail outlets and restaurants throughout Southwestern Ontario and at farmers’ market across the county. But I’d never been to his new 1,400-square-foot storefront and roastery in Zurich. Today’s purchase: A cup of micro-batch Nicaraguan medium roast coffee for the rest of my trip.
  5. IMG_9774Hayter’s Farm, 37467 Dashwood Rd., Dashwood. Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hayter’s is a delightful one-stop shop just on the outskirts of a small rural village. It’s delightful because on one side is frozen and fresh turkey products of all kinds, from breasts to sausages to schnitzel, along with frozen pies, sauces and berries, then on the other side is the LCBO outlet. All you need for an early barbecue in one stop. Today’s purchase: Turkey thigh roast and spinach & cranberry turkey burgers.

IMG_9778Okay, I said there were five favourites. However, I took a wrong turn and discovered a sixth: The Whole Pig, 37871 Dashwood Rd., Dashwood. Hours: Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, call ahead to 519-237-3255 or cell, 519-851-3327. This shop is set up in a shed on the farm, with pepperettes and pepperoni in a fridge at the front entrance, an information table, and all the good stuff in a walk-in freezer. Just have a look over the lengthy order form, and a staff member will retrieve the product for you. My purchase: A package of four Chilly Hot Sausages.

Goderich Makers Market carries hint of spring

7 Mar
The smell of freshly ground coffee from Coastal Coffee Company assails every visitor at the Goderich Makers Market.

The smell of freshly ground coffee from Coastal Coffee Company assails every visitor at the Goderich Makers Market.

By Diva Heather Boa

GODERICH – A sure sign of spring? The first sighting at the Goderich Makers Market of tender green pea shoots with stems that grew long from trying to reach the winter’s sun.

peashootsShoppers gravitated to the patch of greens so neatly tucked between plastic containers of chicken broth and jars of beets and carrots, in a building full of vendors selling roasted coffee, honey, chocolate croissants, soft pretzels, soups, soaps and other homemade offerings. True, the pea shoots were grown in a greenhouse, taking advantage of the sunny winter days, but they were still prized for all that they promise in the months to come.

One wall of the market, held at Goderich’s MacKay Centre on the first Saturday of the month through the winter, was once again taken up with baskets of carrots, potatoes, turnips, beats, cooking onions and apples, much to the delight of shoppers. Folks commented on the vendor’s absence through the dead of winter.

makersmarketOut on the floor, neighbours stopped to compare winter holiday stories and chat about summer markets, planting techniques and all things sunny and warm.

A quick door check of one shopper yielded a bag of potatoes and a bag of beets, pepperettes, two cartons of eggs and some chocolate dipped pretzels for the road. All that while balancing a cup of coffee from Coastal Coffee Company.

The winter market is the brainchild of Amy Zoethout and Donna-Jean Forster-Gill of Feast for Good, who wanted to share their love of locally produced food and goods.

The market continues through April and May, until the opening of the Goderich Farmers Market opens Saturday, May 16.

Other communities throughout Huron County also host farmers markets through the summer months. For more information on these summer markets, visit online.

If you go to the Goderich Makers Market:

Date: First Saturday of the month. April 4 & May 2.

Time: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Location: MacKay Centre, 10 Nelson St. E., Goderich

Things you should know: Best to bring cash rather than relying on debit or credit.

 

Mushroom Appetizers popular party fare!

18 Dec

PlumStuffedShiitake
Plum-Stuffed Shiitake Mushrooms (from epicurious.com)

Here is an Asian twist on stuffed mushrooms. Chinese plum sauce and sesame oil make the satisfying, intensely flavored glaze. Small portobellos can be substituted for the shiitakes, if you like.
  • 40 small shiitake mushrooms (about 1 1/4 pounds), stemmed
  • 12 ounces bulk pork sausage
  • 1/2 cup Chinese plum sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oriental sesame oil
    1/2 cup chopped fresh chives

Place shiitake mushrooms stem side up on large rimmed baking sheet. Mound each with about 1/2 tablespoon pork sausage. Stir plum sauce in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until melted. Whisk in oil. Brush mushrooms with all of plum sauce mixture. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake mushrooms until sausage is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer to large platter. Sprinkle with chives.

_ _ _

Susan Weth, Incubating mushrooms

Susan Weth, Incubating mushrooms

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Susan Weth, co-owner of Weth Mushrooms. I was surprised that mushrooms there are not grown in the dark, and they are not grown in horse manure.  These mushrooms are grown in a “Natural” mixture that is wood-based, as these farmers try to replicate the forest floor as a growing condition for their mushroom crops.  At Weth Mushrooms, a new crop is incubated every 10-12 weeks. They’re planted in plastic bags in that special mixture of soil, grain and sawdust that eventually hardens and colourizes (Incubates), at which stage the bags are removed.   Within one week the mushrooms are sprouting in temperature and moisture-controlled sprouting rooms. Once harvested the block-growing material is composted back into the field.

Although there are bio-security issues in certain parts of the plant we were invited inside. There are three brands of mushrooms grown at Weth’s.  Susan’s favourite brand grown here is shiitake,  so much so that she no longer uses the very popular white button mushroom, and uses Shiitake in “everything”.  Shiitake mushrooms are not native to Southwestern Ontario.  The second type, maitake, can sometimes be found in Huron County, growing in the wild.  It has a nutty flavour.  And, the third type, pioppino is a small brown variety that has a bit more texture and remains slightly crunchy even after cooking.  Maitake and Pioppino mushrooms grow faster than the Shiitake, but temperature changes can wipe out a crop quickly.

Maitake Mushrooms available from Weth's

Maitake Mushrooms available from Weth’s

Susan tells me she prefers maitake fried in olive oil and butter until the tips brown.   Shiitake are flavourful in omelettes, stuffed with roasted red pepper and goats cheese or marinated and barbecued.  Pioppino’s are nice in stews or stir fried dishes.  All three have good meaty textures and are an excellent substitute for meats.  Mushrooms are loaded with anti-oxidants.   And, to my surprise, Susan does not eat or serve mushrooms uncooked as they do have some toxins.  In some cultures, mushrooms are used raw for cleanings, but Susan does not recommend using them this way.

pioppino mushrooms

pioppino mushrooms

Mushrooms are shipped from this site every week and many local restaurants buy direct from the farm.  Susan indicated their future would likely include more varieties and increased yield.  As Weth Mushrooms are organically grown, their product is popular, especially with growing consumer demand for organic produce.  For the most part the Weth’s can’t keep up with that demand as mushroom farming is extremely labour intensive.  Picking or harvesting is all done by hand, and although there is no grading system in Ontario Weth’s internally grade and price their product as premium, utility and baby.

Shiitake

Shiitake

Weth Mushrooms is iocated on 89 acres of reforested land in the Township of Central Huron.  They’re open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 until 3:30pm or by appointment.  Tours are sometimes available so call Susan for more information.

WethMushroomSignWeth Mushrooms
35809 Union Side Road
Goderich, ON
N7A 3X8
519-524-4263

or on Facebook “Weth Mushrooms Inc.”

Are Rutabaga’s on the Menu this Holiday season?

16 Dec

RutabagaMy favourite side dish with turkey or beef is rutabaga … and, apparently, it’s a really healthy choice.  Last spring we met with the Hubbard Family in Blyth to learn about their business.

George Hubbard started a family business, G.L. Hubbard Ltd., in 1962 when he purchased the plant located on Dinsley Street East in Blyth from Russ Dougherty.

The rutabaga is a root vegetable with a yellow flesh.  It is a cross between a turnip and a cabbage.  It reported originated in Scandanavia or Russia and was first found in North America in the early 19th century.  They are served a variety of ways in many countries, but in Canada they are most often used as filler in mincemeat and Christmas Cake or served as a side dish.

Rutabaga are planted 6” apart, and only 12 acres had been planted when we visited this producer on May 13, 2014.  2013’s extremely long winter delayed the planting season this spring.  Plans were being made to plant another 12 – 17 acres in the couple weeks following, with planting all finished by the end of June.  The rutabaga is a 90-day crop and harvest begins in October, taking approximately three weeks to complete.

Phil & Karen Hubbard trimming the rutabagas for shipping

Phil & Karen Hubbard trimming the rutabagas for shipping

The rutabagas are pulled in the field by a harvester, trucked into the plant and unloaded via stackers to prevent bruising and cracking.  They are kept at 33 degrees in a humidity-controlled room and  about 50,000 bushels are stored in the two on-site storage sheds.  There are two more sheds off-site.  Each week this plant processes  2,000 – 4,000 bushels, depending on the market – typically less in spring and more in fall and winter months as that’s when the harvest take place and when the consumer demands this tasty root vegetable.

Buckets on a tractor transport the rutabaga from the storage shed to a wash station. Rutabagas are then washed twice.   Hubbard Farm is still using its original washing equipment.  Rutabagas travel, via an auger, into a holding bin where they drop to be trimmed and sized/sorted by hand.  Trimming is done only for esthetics. The next step in the processing is waxing – a process that requires six people.  And, finally, stickers with Foodland Ontario’s bar codes are applied and the rutabaga are boxed in 50lb boxes for shipping.

Hubbard’s ship every day with Friday being their biggest day to accommodate shipping schedules into the United States.  They have enjoyed a long term partnership with Stovel Siemon of Mitchell for shipping their products across Canada and into the U.S.

Yearly inspections are required at Hubbard’s for food safety standards. It is a year-round business with down-time in July for repairs and cleaning.  A recent new shed was erected on the property to meet food safely requirements.  It houses packing cartons and skids.

This operation currently keeps six families in Canada and seven immigrant families employed including two of George’s daughters, his son and one of his grandsons.  Many of the immigrant families have other jobs in their native Jamaica such as driving a taxi, farming, and building furniture. Since 1988, foreign workers have been a part of the Hubbard Farm with nine arriving each spring, rising to 13 each fall.

Rutabagas are high in Vitamin C. I asked Susan Hubbard what the most intriguing recipe she’d heard of and she responded “Cheese Whiz and mashed rutabaga” – I guess I should try it that way too, although I find it most delicious mashed with a little browh sugar, salt and pepper, and slathered in gravy. It can also be served with apples. 

If you haven’t tried Rutabaga put it on your bucket list.  It can be purchased year round at most grocery stores, or direct from the plant at 367 Dinsley Street during business hours.

Hubbard RutabagaG.L. Hubbard Ltd.
367 Dinsley St., PO Box 340
Blyth, Ontario, Canada  N0M 1H0
(519) 523-4554 

_ _ _

Sadly, shortly after our visit at Hubbard Rutabaga plant last spring George Hubbard passed away.  He will be missed by his family and many friends and neighbours in Huron County and beyond.    His family will continue to operate the business and farms.

It’s Turkey Time (at Hayter’s)

14 Dec

Hayters Store SignIt’s that time of year when turkey is on everyone’s mind … and fork, so I thought it would be a great time to share this story about Hayter’s.  Enjoy!

Since 1984 this family-owned turkey farm in Dashwood is the place where the Hayter family has developed its passion for premium quality. Their devotion to taste and tradition in every aspect of turkey farming and turkey products continues through three generations and was evident when we met with Joanne recently.

This family decided to raise turkeys because their land was poor and they found that turkey manure proved to be the best fertilizer. They had farmed beef and cash crops until 1993.

The Hayter’s have 13 barns and this is only turkey farm in Huron County that also has the processing plant. 

Hayters Farm

Hayters Turkey grow poults from one day old until they reach average market size of 35lbs, taking toms up to 16 weeks.  The hens go to market at 13 weeks at about 18 pounds. Hayters raise 160,000 turkeys per year on their farm in South Huron.

Their onsite store was built in 1983 and has been expanded a couple of times since, although the Hayter’s have had a farm outlet for 50 years.  The more recent addition of the LCBO agency store brought increased notice of their products, particularly with the summer market travelling to the lakeshore.

Hayter Store 2

Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving is still the biggest sales opportunities for fresh turkeys.  To expand their market, further processing was needed to meet the needs of a time-challenged consumer.  Thus, turkey sausage, schnitzel, marinated fillets, wings and drumsticks, and burgers were added to their product lists.   Also offered through the store are frozen and fresh turkey products and condiments.  Hayter’s Turkey products are labelled with the Foodland Ontario brand.

Hayters Turkey employs 70,  including 5 extended family members.  Joanne’s brother Tom earned an animal poultry science degree from Guelph.  One son heads the marketing division in Toronto.   Joanne told us that they do ship to western Canada, but currently have no interest in the US market.  And, they attend farmer’s markets seasonally in North Bay, Sudbury and Sault St. Marie.  

A quota system for raising turkeys came into effect in 1970.  However, the Hayters Farm was a significant size at that time so that percentage of their quota doesn’t cost.  In Canada, farmers can’t grow more than 50 birds without a quota.

The processing plant at the Hayter Farm is provincially regulated.  Regular Inspections are deemed “necessary” as this family feels it is vital to promoting the message that their products are safe and healthy options.   Joanne feels they do have a voice but it’s difficult to advocate for change and to keep ahead of the ever-evolving health requirements while operating this size of business.

Joanne’s favourite product is the marinated fillets, and she wants everyone to know how healthy turkey is with just 2% fat in the breast.

HOW TO COOK FULL 15lb. TURKEY
Breast up – 450 degrees for 1/2 hour uncovered; then 2 – 2.5 hours at 350 covered.

Check the website for virtual tours of their farm – coming soon!

Hayters Turkey
37467 Dashwood Rd, R.R. 2, Dashwood
Ontario N0M 1N0
519-237-356
info@hayterturkey.com

Laithwaite Apple Park, a fun family outing

14 Nov applesfrompark_1

by Diva Rachel Lynn
A couple of weekends ago our family visited Laithwaite Apple Park.  The park is located 1km east of Goderich on hwy 8.   It’s not just an apple park.  It’s also a farm that has many sculptures from cement, metal, fieldstone and found materials by George Laithwaite (1873-1956).  Some of the figures were created as satirical or political commentary on world events, while others were based on comic strip characters.  Most of his statues were created as a hobby during slow economic times.

statueapplepark_1

The Apple Park also features a farm store selling seasonal products.  Some products include apples, fruit in season, potatoes, honey, jam, apple butter, apple cider, squash and many more.  It is open year round.

Products available at Apple Park

Products available at Apple Park

On our visit we had pumpkins in mind as well as apples.  There are so many kinds of apples so I asked which one I should use for apple pie.  Pauline (one of the owners) mentioned she likes Courtland.  These apples were huge!  And delicious too.  Thanks to Pauline’s suggestion, I made a mean apple pie.

applesfrompark_1

Bea choosing her pumpkin

Bea choosing her pumpkin

pumpkins found a happy home.

pumpkins found a happy home.

Although our main purpose was pumpkins and apples we also picked up Robinson’s Maple syrup, spaghetti squash and a rutabaga.  I love good food and supporting local.

Laithwaite Apple Park
35563 Huron Rd,
Goderich
519-524-7763.

A Busy Friday Afternoon at the Bayfield Farmer’s Market 

1 Aug


Whether it is stopping on the side of the road to pick up some sweet corn on the honour system or frequenting markets, eating local is both good for you and our economy!

Whether it is stopping on the side of the road to pick up some sweet corn on the honour system or frequenting markets, eating local is both good for you and our economy!

By Diva Calista Powell

We are so fortunate in our area to have beautiful lakes and land that make for the perfect farming climate. We are also very lucky that we have so many places in Huron County for small businesses to sell their harvest. As a past “Londonite” I made sure to visit the many markets the city has to offer, but had never been to one in HC. It just so happened that for one of my other jobs I was asked to sell tickets for a local initiative in Bayfield during the market hours on Clangregor Square. Boy, was I ever impressed. I thought that the sleepy beach town of Bayfield would have a small turnout, but each booth was so busy, I hardly had a chance to chat with the vendors. I was also impressed because there wasn’t just the regular old fruit and veggie stands lining the square. I enjoyed a hot coffee from Shop Bike Coffee Roasters and a vanilla cinnamon roll from the Red Cat Farms bakery cart. I also had the chance to say hello to Pat McDougall and Shelagh Sully of CovenTree Gardens and peruse through Irene Morris’ unique garden art. Overall, Bayfield Market has a great selection of vendors and is worth the visit this summer.

Check out the Bayfield Farmer’s market every Friday from 3-7PM on Clangregor Square.To find other markets in the area download Huron Perth’s Farm to Table, “Buy Local! Buy Fresh!” guide here:http://huronperthfarmtotable.ca/consumers/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/4th-BLBF-Map-FINAL.pdf

Firmly Rooted supplies many happy customers with fresh seasonal veggies.

Firmly Rooted supplies many happy customers with fresh seasonal veggies.

Pat McDougall and Shelagh Sully pose for a shot with their fresh cut flowers. Coventree Gardens is known as the home of Bayfield lilies.

Pat McDougall and Shelagh Sully pose for a shot with their fresh cut flowers. Coventree Gardens is known as the home of Bayfield lilies.

Irene Morris smiles alongside her work that was originally inspired by art she saw in Ottawa.

Irene Morris smiles alongside her work that was originally inspired by art she saw in Ottawa.

 

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