Any Southern Ontario foodie worth his or her salt must visit St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, Canada’s largest. It offers a better selection of local produce and meat than even Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market but you must drive 90 minutes from the metropolitan centre into bucolic countryside. Fortunately St. Jacobs is only 40 minutes from Guelph. Throughout the summer good-quality, inexpensive produce makes this a canner and freezer’s Mecca. Some local and international prepared food specialties make the trip especially worthwhile.
In the heart of Waterloo Region’s 200-year-old Anabaptist Mennonite community, St. Jacobs is a popular travel destination. In the village itself, visitors can tour artisans’ studios or shop for a traditional quilt.
The farmers’ market is located 3 km south of town. Meat stalls are concentrated on the main floor of the main food building, with artisans upstairs. Produce vendors spread across part of the expansive parking lot during growing season. A large flea market is housed in an adjacent building. The whole market has a distinctly Mennonite flavour. Look for regional specialties like sausage, fudge, pies, preserves and, of course, maple syrup. Nose around for organic meat and gluten-free baking.
Last week, as the main strawberry season was about to end, Danny and I went shopping there with our friend, Lori. We brought home 9 quarts of strawberries and 6 quarts of raspberries. On Tuesday we revisited with my daughter and her partner to send them home with a bag of groceries, and pick up some sour cherries for ourselves.
Any visit is incomplete without sampling the food court. Even though I can no longer partake because of gluten-sensitivity, I recommend most highly apple fritters at The Fritter Co. These are not your typical fritters, but substantial apple slices battered and deep fried. At lunchtime on a Saturday expect to wait in line 45 minutes, but it is worth the trouble.
Yesterday my older daughter found an Egyptian food vendor offering samosas and Turkish delight, but she opted for an artichoke melawi, a yummy-looking wrap containing chopped vegetables, mint and hot spices. My younger daughter, who was not with us, favours the giant dill pickle-on-a-stick. Unfortunately the most appealing selections in the area are not gluten-free so I usually settle for some run-of-the-mill vegetarian sushi rolls. However, the pizza vendor makes good gluten-free pizzas, ready in 15 minutes.
The market is open Thursdays and Saturdays from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. year-round and Tuesdays 8:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the summer.
Coming soon: a post about our subsequent jam sessions.