Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Local Food for the Holidays

If you still have some last minute shopping to do, consider stopping at Three Rivers Market on Central Street. Thanks to their support of local growers, there is an abundant selection of produce, meats and baked goods grown and made by our neighbors in the Tennessee Valley Region. Here are just a few of the items available:

If you have not tried a genuine free range farm egg, you are missing out. The market stocks eggs from several local farms. My personal choice is eggs from Circle V Farm in Hancock County. I like them because the carton is stamped with a "sell by" date that is 30 days from the date the eggs were harvested. As a result, you know exactly how old the eggs are. Circle V also packs duck eggs. They are highly valued for baking, as the amount of yolk is greater than a hen's egg of the same size, and they taste absolutely delicious prepared any way you like hen eggs.

Believe it or not, you can buy organic miso made locally. Check the cold case for the different varieties by "Miso Master." Miso is fermented from soybeans and has a delicious, almost meaty, flavor.

Three Rivers Market probably has the best selection of local and regional cheeses around. Check out "Shakerag Blue" from Sequatchie Cove Creamery, or sample one of the exceptional offerings from the legendary Blackberry Farm in Walland. Sweetwater Valley produces some fine cheddars and flavored cheddars, and you will be hard pressed to find a better Gouda than the one from Kenny's Farmhouse in Kentucky.

Meat Products
In addition the the best bacon and country ham in the world from Benton's of Madisonville, you will find sausages and pork from JEM Farms and West Wind Farms, and fresh beef from Strong Stock Farms and Mitchell Farms. The latter two are both located in east Knox County. Circle V Farms produces the ground turkey I noticed today, and you can get farm raised trout from across the mountains in North Carolina.

The abundance and quality of cool season vegetables now available, most from Grainger and Loudon Counties, is remarkable. I cannot recall seeing bak choy, beets, kale (several kinds), collards, and turnips of such fine quality anywhere else in the area.

Cornmeal is not, strictly speaking, a vegetable, but I could not fail to mention the stone ground cornmeal from Grainger County. Made from the heirloom Tennessee Red Cob dent corn, it will make a pan of cornbread so good you won't believe it. Best of all, it is found in the bulk section, so you only have to purchase the amount you need.

Baked Goods
Magpies, Flour Head, Tellico Grains, and several others have outdone themselves with holiday treats and breads. The big problem for shoppers will be resisting the temptation to try one of every kind of the cookies, cake and other sweets on offer. Flour Head, a sister company of the Tomato Head restaurant, makes excellent sandwich breads and buns, and for a true artisanal sourdough you can't beat Tellico Grains, with their brick oven.

Dozens of craft brews are available, many produced within a couple of hundred miles of Knoxville. My personal favorite is "Loose Caboose Lager" from Depot Street Brewing in Jonesboro, but there are numerous others to try. So much to do...

Non-Food Items
You can also find a great selection of books on cooking, food gardening and related topics, including one of mine, The New American Homestead. I am hoping that Santa will leave a copy of Sean Brock's Heritage under the tree this year. Brock is the executive chef of McCrady's in Charleston, SC, and Husk, with locations in Charleston and Nashville. He is well on his way to becoming one of America's foremost chefs who specializes in the traditions of Southern cooking. Like many other great chefs, he was in the kitchen at Blackberry Farm for a while.

Whether you are looking for a special treat for the holiday table, or just want to support local businesses, check out Three Rivers Market.