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Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

persimmons from Lee's One Fortune Farm

Are you a handmade gift-giver? Farmers tailgate markets are a great place to get inspiration and ingredients for these extra-special holiday gifts (or treats to keep for yourself—you definitely deserve it). Here are a few DIY ideas to get your started this season.

Apple butter: The easiest way to make this spreadable gift is in a slow cooker, and it’s especially good for using up bruised or blemished apples from the bottom of a bushel. Buying local apples in bulk is a great option as they’re cheaper and will last for months. You can ask your farmer to set aside a case for you. Find our recipe for slow-cooker apple butter, including how to process in a boiling water canner, at fromhere.org. Creasman Farms (Asheville City Market, River Arts District Winter Market) and McConnell Farms (Asheville City Market, The Holiday Bazaar, West Asheville Tailgate Holiday Market) still have plenty of apples.

Candied ginger: Ginger is a versatile gift-making ingredient and can yield syrup, candy, chews, cookies, and more. You get two for one with candied ginger, since its byproduct is ginger syrup, great for adding to winter drinks. Start with a simple syrup of 3 cups water and 3 cups sugar, then add 1 cup peeled and sliced ginger and boil for about 45 minutes, until the ginger is sweet and tender. Drain the ginger (reserving the syrup) and let dry on a rack, then toss with additional sugar to coat. McConnell Farms also has ginger.

Dried persimmons: Lee’s One Fortune Farm (Asheville City Market, River Arts District Winter Market, Riverside Tailgate Market, West Asheville Tailgate Holiday Market) has persimmons, which can be dried using a traditional Japanese method (hoshigaki) of hanging for four to six weeks until until the fruits wither and a powdery white sugar appears on the surface. Another option is to make fruit leather by blending three ripe persimmons with a few tablespoons of honey, to taste, then spreading the puree on a Silpat and baking in a 175-degree oven for several hours. 

Onion jam: Jam season doesn’t have to end with the last of the summer fruits and berries! Onion jam is a fantastic sweet-and-savory addition to a cheese plate, pizza topping, or sandwich spread. Slowly caramelize several pounds of sliced red onions or shallots, then combine with balsamic or cider vinegar, sugar or maple syrup, and preferred herbs and spices and cook until syrupy. Divide into sterilized canning jars and process in a boiling water canner. For meat-lovers, you can take this to the next level by adding bacon, but you’ll want to consume quickly or freeze it, as it’s not safe to preserve for the home canner. Look for onions from Olivette Farm (Asheville City Market) or Gaining Ground Farm (The Holiday Bazaar).

Celery salt or herb rubs: A clutch ingredient for bloody marys, celery salt is often overlooked. But you can gift fresh and local versions of this spice (or other herb rub combinations) by drying farmers market celery leaves or herbs and blending with salt. Celery leaves and high-moisture herbs like parsley, basil, or mint will dry out best in oven set to the lowest temperature possible for 30 minutes to an hour, checking every 15 minutes or so. Herbs like rosemary, thyme, or oregano can be air dried or oven dried. Look for herbs to crumble easily between your fingers before cooling completely, blending, and storing in air-tight containers. You can find celery from Gaining Ground Farm or Ten Mile Farm (Asheville City Market) and an assortment of herbs from Myseanica Family Farm (Asheville City Market, Riverside Tailgate Market).

Area farmers tailgate markets take place throughout the region. As always, you can find information about farms, tailgate markets, and farm stands, including locations and hours, by visiting ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at appalachiangrown.org.

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