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How Sweet It Is!

22 Mar

maplecreek6By Diva Caroline Thuss

March Break…for those of us who did not escape the cold for much warmer weather to the south it is usually difficult to come up with activities that the kids will love to do while off from school. This Diva did not have to look too far to come up with a delicious and educational excursion that only meant a short drive to just outside of Blyth. The Blyth Creek Maple Farm was a big hit for kids of all ages (including mom and dad, and grandparents too).

maplecreek1When we first arrived we were greeted by the Bachert Family and told that the wagon would be leaving for the bush shortly. What great timing. After a short and bumpy drive back into the 30 acres of bush, we were taken back in time to see how the Aboriginal people discovered the sweet sap from the Maple tree and how to turn it into maple sugar.

maplecreek2After a chance to try our luck with a bow, we were off to the next camp area that showcased how pioneers worked with the knowledge of the Aboriginal people and developed their own method to make sweet maple syrup – a three-kettle process. Everyone got a chance to try out a two-man push saw – just like playing tug of war over a toy – and to play a traditional ring toss game that would have been used by early settlers.

maplecreek4maplecreek7Then we were off to see the modern vacuum system that the Becharts use. This helps them extract more sap from the maples, which increased their production. They still had several trees that had buckets on them as well but it is so impressive to see how technology is making this job easier.

maplecreek5After, we were back on the wagon and it was another short trip to the sugar shack where the magic happens. I am always amazed to hear how it takes 40 litres of sap to make one delicious litre of maple syrup. The modern day evaporator was not running yet that day but I could imagine the smell of the sweet sap boiling away working its way to be the best topping on so many things.

maplecreek8 maplecreek9 maplecreek10Next stop was to sample the finished product in the tasting room. This place is a great spot to finish off your visit. They had a fire going and a variety of games to keep everyone busy while the freshly made pancakes and sausages were getting ready for us to devour.

maplecreek12 maplecreek14We opted for pancakes, sausages and baked maple beans – although the maple milkshake was tempting. These were topped with a hearty helping of the Becherts’ work that was lovingly enjoyed by everyone in my family.

Maple products are also available to take home with you as you will be wanting to keep enjoying this liquid gold treat in any way that you can think of.

maplecreek12Maple season runs well into April so I would make room on your calendar to check out Blyth Creek Maple Farm this spring. You should plan on spending at least two and a half hours there.

Blyth Creek Maple Farm

Where: 52232 Montcrieff Road, Blyth

What: Family Adventures

(during maple season)

Sugar Bush Tour

  • $5 + HST (children 2-14)
  • $6 + HST (adults 15+)
  • Family Pass $20 + HST (2 children & 2 adults)             

Meal Menu (prices vary)

  • Pancake & Breakfast Sausage
  • Eggs, Pancake, Sausage
  • Eggs, Pancake, Sausage, Maple Baked Beans
  • Waffles
  • Specialty pancake of the day
  • Hot and Cold Drinks available

(applicable taxes not included)


There’s a hint of spring at Goderich Makers Market

10 Jan

makers market 1
By Diva Heather Boa

GODERICH – Environment Canada issued the snow squall warning just as I was unpacking into the fridge a dozen fresh eggs and a bunch of carrots and putting into the cupboard a jar of fermented turnip and carrots from the local market.

On this Saturday morning, about 300 visitors were greeted by the aroma of chickpea, quinoa and spinach soup, made by the Goderich Makers Market creator, Amy Zoethout, of Feast for Good. A few steps into the lobby of the Huron County Museum, percolating coffee from Coastal Coffee filled the air with wonderful smells of beans from around the world, all roasted in Zurich, Ont. Beyond the glass door, in the History Hall the historic storefronts and imposing locomotive shared space with tables of canned goods, natural soaps and lotions, baked stuff, knitting and jewellery. In the exhibit hall, farmers from neighbouring communities sold produce.

makers market 2

I spent a good 15 minutes just within the front door, as friends stopped to chat about Christmas holidays, winter getaways, and the disadvantages of a Facebook account. Then I walked through the halls, talking to vendors who have become friends over the years of regular visits to various farmers’ markets.

As I write this, the wind throws snow against the window and I’m convinced that winter is finally here. But thank goodness there will be monthly markets to get me through to springtime.


What: Goderich Makers Market

When: First Saturday – Feb. 6, March 5, April 2. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. After that, find these vendors at the Goderich Farmers’ Market, starting May long weekend.

Where: Huron County Museum, 110 North St., Goderich

Cost: Free, or goodwill donation to view the museum exhibits.

Enjoy the harvest of your local farmers’ market

25 Sep



By Diva Caroline Thuss

GODERICH – I have always enjoyed heading to the farmers’ market to enjoy the bounty that is available every week. This past weekend I ventured to the Goderich Farmers’ Market with a few recipes in mind from some Canadian chefs to make and enjoy.

farmersmarket5The first stop for me is always the Red Cat Farm Bakery to get some beautiful breads and some yummy treats that keep my younger companions happy while I continue
my way around The Square in Goderich. As you can see, the size of their baked goods are enough to satisfy even the hungriest market-goer.

farmersmarket4Next stop is the Maitland Market and Supply to visit with Erika. There is such a beautiful array of colours as you look at the local veggies and fruit that are available. The windy weather did not hold us back from purchasing a bag full of produce that my son chose. I had to limit him as we only have so much room to store all these beautiful veggies and fruit. I was happy to see that she had some raspberries available. These were put together with rhubarb from my backyard to make a beautiful pie.

As we continued along the square we picked up some lovely pork sausage (that ended up on the barbecue and in my chili), some beautiful sweet potatoes (for my favourite Fall comfort dish: sweet potato soup) and more veggies that made it into a variety of delicious meals. As you can see, I was
very successful and my total cost was just under $60. I spent most of the day Sunday preparing meals with this haul from the market.

There are a variety of Farmers’ Markets all over Huron County for you to enjoy. Most run until October. Check out your local market while the harvest is plentiful and enjoy the bounty that Huron County produces.




Clinton and Central Huron Farmers’ Market 2pm-6pm, Grand Bend Farmers’ Market 8am-1pm, Wingham Farmers’ Market 3:30pm-7pm


Exeter Farmers’ Market 3pm-7pm


Bayfield Farmers’ Market 3pm-7pm, Brussels Farmers’ Market 2pm-6pm


Dungannon Farmers’ Market 9am-11:30am, Howick Farmers’ Market 9am-noon, Goderich Farmers’ Market 8am-1pm, Old 86 Farmers’ Market 9am-6pm



Chef Michael Smith’s Sweet Potato Soup


2 Tbsp olive oil

2 onions, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 large sweet potato, or 2 small, peeled and cut into small chunks

2-3 cups chicken broth

1 Tbsp cinnamon

Sprinkled sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Place a saucepan or soup pot over medium heat and add the oil. When it begins to get hot, add the onions, carrots and celery and sauté until softened and fully aromatized.
  2. Add the sweet potatoes and enough broth to completely cover all the vegetables. Season with cinnamon, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
  3. Cook until potatoes are very soft and then puree with a hand blender, food processor or countertop blender until smooth. You may also serve the soup ‘as is. Taste and add more seasoning if need be.




Favourite Five stops on day trip through Huron County

30 Apr


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

Plum-Stuffed Shiitake Mushrooms (from

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.



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

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.