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Fresh at Farmers Markets This Week

goat cheese and crackers_photo by Sarah Jones Decker

Are you a DIY gift maker (or baker)? Or perhaps in need of something special to bring to a holiday gathering? Sweet treats abound this time of year, but don’t overlook the savory and snackable gift. Shopping at farmers tailgate markets can be great inspiration!

Start with a batch of flaky and buttery herb crackers. You can make these with any combination of herbs you find at markets now. We’ve spotted fresh sage and thyme from The AppaLatin Farmstead (North Asheville Tailgate Market) and dried lavender from Lunar Whale Herbs (ASAP Farmers Market). Rosemary, oregano, or chives would also be great. 

To make the crackers, finely dice a tablespoon of herbs, reserving and handful of whole leaves or flowers. Cube 6 1/2 tablespoons of butter and freeze it for 10 minutes. In a food processor, pulse 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, the minced herbs, and the very cold butter. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle in two tablespoons of ice water. Knead until dough just comes together. Press into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 30 minutes. Roll out the dough to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch, depending on how thick you want your crackers. Cut into rounds with a 2-inch biscuit cutter or into squares with a knife and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Top with herb leaves or flowers and lightly press into the dough. (Just-washed herbs with a bit of water still on them will stick best.) Bake at 350 degrees until the crackers start to turn pale gold, about 15-20 minutes. 

Pair your crackers with local cheese and homemade jam. For a sweet-and-savory fall option, try onion jam. Slice about a pound of red or sweet onions. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pot and cook onions until deeply golden and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add herbs or spices if you want, plus half a cup of sugar or other sweetener and half a cup of balsamic or cider vinegar. Keep stirring and cooking over a low heat until jam thickens. Season with salt and let cool. You can preserve onion jam by processing in canning jars in boiling water, or just keep refrigerated. Look for onions from Ten Mile Farm at ASAP Farmers Market or Full Sun Farm, Flying Cloud Farm, and Gaining Ground Farm, all at North Asheville Tailgate Market, among others. 

Options for cheese abound at markets, including vegan cheese from Däre (North and West Asheville markets); pimento cheese in various flavors from Ali Rae Foods (ASAP and Weaverville markets); and local farm cheese from Spinning Spider Creamery (North Asheville and River Arts District markets), Three Graces Dairy (ASAP, North, and West Asheville markets), and Lane in the Wood Creamery (Weaverville Tailgate Market). 

At markets now you can also find winter greens like kale, collards, and mustards as well as lettuce, cauliflower, turnips, radishes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and mushrooms. Markets are also stocked with farm-fresh eggs, meat, rice, pasta, bread, pastries, drinks, and prepared foods. Find more details about farms and markets throughout the region, including special holiday hours, in ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at appalachiangrown.org.

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