Farmers Market Know-how: Get familiar with these staples

CASEY HOWELL
Casey Howell

Both the draw and the crux of farmers markets is that they are entirely dependent on Mother Nature for their farm-to-table offerings. While some may still have visions of watermelon and sweet corn dancing through their heads, there are plenty of fresh alternatives to be thankful for during the colder months. The Current reached out to the growers, coordinators and market mavens at two of San Antonio's most popular spots, Pearl Farmers Market (open Saturdays, 9 a.m.–1 p.m.) and The Yard Farmers & Ranchers Market (Sundays, 9 a.m.–1 p.m.), to find the heartiest picks, some with a kick or a twist, that are sure to warm your body and your local-lovin' heart.

EAT

Meat

The husband and wife team behind South Texas Heritage Pork (Pearl), who regularly sell to Lüke and Jason Dady restaurants, offer a tasty selection of sausages, hams, roasts and even whole pigs for order and pick-up.

Run by fifth-generation butcher Ignacio Gallego and his wife Marisa Bushman, La Mancha Specialties (The Yard) boasts an impressive selection of chorizo sausage, some of which are made from 150-year-old family recipes. The popular Harvest Chorizo, offered throughout the holidays, is braised in local Busted Sandal Brewing Company's El Gourdo Pumpkin Porter and accented with cranberries, pumpkin seeds and spices imported from Gallego's native Spain.

Parker Creek Ranch (both markets) offers humanely raised poultry and eggs. Hailing from D'Hanis, Parker Creek is owned by Mandy and Travis Krause, who have bachelor degrees in wildlife and fishery sciences from Texas A&M. They've amassed a following of cooks who want their chicken free of nasty-GMOs—this includes turkeys, as the pair processed close to 500 birds for Thanksgiving in 2014. Don't expect ordinary fowl, either, as the couple raises sustainable chicks that take 12 to 14 weeks to mature (as opposed to their factory counterparts).

Fruits & Vegetables

Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, beets and asparagus dominate market stands December through April. As for fruits, it's slim pickings until May. Persimmons are finishing out their run and will dwindle by January, just in time for strawberries to take hold in March. Meanwhile, vendors at both markets offer produce perfect for recipes like stuffed cabbage rolls or kale and white bean soup.

Or if you want someone else to do the work, stop by HGD Foods (Pearl) for a pre-made "soup in a jar." Options include nine bean, navy bean or lentil. They also offer a variety of jams that source ingredients from other growers in the market. A holiday favorite is the cranberry jalapeño jam. Add a half-cup of chopped Granny Smith apples, pecans and some mandarin oranges, pour it over cream cheese, flank it with crackers and wait for the cocktail party compliments to roll in.

Dessert

La Panadería (both markets) serves its usual pan dulce selections, as well as a holiday walnut cranberry bread. Ms. Chocolatier (Pearl) breaks out the fudge, Texas lavender chocolate bark and pecan pralines, while relative market newcomer "Pie"-fect Pies & More by Elizabeth George (Pearl) offers gluten-free flavors ranging from cherry to buttermilk to apple bacon, and Vintage Heart Farm Pies (The Yard) boasts holiday eggnog and a "Better than Pumpkin Pie" made with roasted butternut squash. But the real seasonal winner is Texas pecans. With such a short harvesting season, the nuts are best when shared among friends in a hearty granola via Cowgirl Granola (The Yard), owned and operated by market co-founder, Heather Hunter (see recipe).

DRINK

When it dips below 50 degrees, a hot drink is an easy, albeit temporary, fix. What's Brewing? (Pearl) is a go-to for freshly brewed coffee and a rich, homemade hot chocolate, while Johnny Hernandez's True Flavors (Pearl) serves up an alternative with their Mexican hot chocolate. Austin-based Buddha's Brew Kombucha (The Yard) offers cranberry and mulling spice kombuchas and Shrub Drinks (The Yard) serve a hot apple spice shrub, which, according to their website, makes a mean Texas Hottie.


Market-to-Plate Recipes: Three recipes from our favorite vendors

Ginger, Apple and Pecan Granola
Adapted by Heather Hunter

Ingredients

Cooking spray or butter
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
2/3 cup raw honey (Hunter uses Youngblood Honey)
1/2 cup oil (canola or grapeseed)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups rolled oats (Hunter prefers organic oats)
1 ½ cups pecans
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup crystallized ginger
1 cup coarsely chopped dried apple

Directions

Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet with cooking spray or butter.

In a saucepan over low heat, slowly bring the fresh ginger, honey, salt and oil to a boil. Discard the fresh ginger.

In a large bowl, add the oats, pecans, ground ginger and cinnamon and then pour the oil and honey mixture over the top. Stir well to coat the oats and nuts and spread out on the prepared cookie sheet.

Bake the granola for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally so it all cooks evenly. When golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool. When the granola is completely cooled, add the crystallized ginger and dried apple and toss well to combine. Store in an airtight container or the freezer and gift to friends and family for the holidays.

Persimmon Margarita
Courtesy of The Yard Farmers & Ranchers Market

Ingredients

1 ¾ ounce tequila reposado
2-3 non-astringent permissions, such as fuyu
1/2 ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water)
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
Ice cubes
Cinnamon-salt mixture for rim
Limes

Directions

In a blender or juicer, puree persimmons (skin and all), adding simple syrup to taste. In a shaker, combine tequila, 1 ½ ounce persimmon puree and lime juice. Rim a cocktail glass with a mixture of cinnamon and salt by spreading the mixture on a salad plate, wetting the rim with a lime wedge and dipping it into the mixture. Shake with ice and strain into the rimmed glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Texas Hottie
Courtesy of Shrub Drinks

Ingredients

2 ounces spiced rum or brandy
4 ounces apple cider
1 ounce Shrub Drinks apple spice shrub
1 ounce fresh orange juice
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick

Combine ingredients in saucepan and heat until simmering. Serve in a mug garnished with cinnamon stick.

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