The Good Life: Putting Up at the Market

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Friday, October 9, 2015, 9:19 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

Image: Peppers for sale at Wildflower Eco Farm.

It’s funny what a difference a preposition can make. In English, putting up with refers to tolerating something or someone. But putting up refers to preparing a foodstuff to keep over the winter.

One way to put up with Michigan winters is to put up beans, peaches, and other yummy food in the late summer. Most people in East Lansing are probably too busy to dry or can food for themselves. But they can make a few last trips to the East Lansing Farmers Market to prepare for winter before the market season ends on Sunday, October 25.

Here are some of the products you can stock up on at the market this Sunday for a yummier winter and a locally-focused holiday gift season:

Dried goods: Various vendors at the market have dry pasta and granola that can be stored in the cupboard or in attractive closed glass jars on open shelves or countertops. You can also get dried herbs that are freshly picked and dried—really packed with flavor.

Vegetables that keep for months: At the market, you can now buy garlic, shallots, and hard-variety onions, potatoes, and squash and keep them in a cool, dry place for use over many months. I have successfully kept these products for up to three months in either the cool of our garage or in the refrigerator. You can also buy hot peppers and dry them, or purchase hot pepper seeds or pepper oil at the market. (If you make your own specialty oils from market vegetables or herbs, make sure to store it in the frig to avoid botulism.)

Canned products: Various vendors have jams, jellies, and pickles of many varieties. Many jams and jellies are good not only on toast and pancakes, but also on meat roasts. Pickles can be eaten alone, of course, but are also great additions to bean salads and sandwiches.

Meats and fish: Our market now features many kinds of meats, including chicken, duck, pork, lamb, and rabbit, as well as various types of fish. Ask the vendors about which do best in the freezer. Remember that a fast and safe way to thaw meat or fish is to seal it well in a plastic zip-bag and thaw it in a bowl of cold water. (Do not use warm or hot water because you don’t want to warm it up too much.)

Syrup and honey: Locally-produced syrup and honey are available every week at the East Lansing farmers market and can make soothing sweeteners in the cement-sky months of mid-Michigan winters. Both can wake up a vinaigrette or be used to sweeten cocktails or warm beverages. Syrup mixed with grainy mustard makes a particularly nice rub on roasted pork, but it also tastes very good on mixed roasted vegetables.

Holiday gifts: Is there a better way to shop for holiday gifts than to buy direct from local producers? Many of the items mentioned above make great holiday gifts, including hostess gifts, but remember also that the market often provides dried flower wreathes, beeswax candles (which smoke very little), scented soaps, handmade knitted animal toys, and greeting cards.

The East Lansing Farmers Market is open Sundays from 10 am – 2 pm in Valley Court Park through October 25.

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