Big City to Small-Town: Flavours & Finds

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Experience the world by food & drink in your own backyard & local community.

An original small-town girl, Lisa Culbert has spent the past 6 years living and working as a lawyer in the “Big Smoke” of Toronto and recently resumed living in what she can only describe as the welcoming and wonderfully peaceful town of St. Marys. Now working remotely, she delights in sharing her local town and county discoveries that highlight her passion for world travel, city trends and fine food & drink, but without the traffic jams and a whole lot more fresh air.

This Weekend: Forget Brexit and think Berries in your own Backyard!

Not sure what Brexit means for us as small-town, Canadians? Me neither.

What I do know (and thank) Great Britain for however, is the birth of delicious recipes that highlight our local, Ontario-grown, fresh-picked Strawberries. From Shortcake to Scones to Jams & Jellies, those Brits sure know how to highlight the berries’ sweet, juicy red flavour.

At this time of year, whether one is in Britain or in Canada, the search is on for the season’s best berries. What makes a “best” berry? Well to many city folk the “ best” can be found in seeking out those mini fruits of a local, natural and “organic” quality. With endless shopping options, one would think this is an easy endeavor… but instead, mainstay City grocers feature mostly imported products with a small organic aisle and neighbourhood gourmet shops offer few local options. Any of these come at a ridiculous premium – sometimes nearly $8-10 for a full quart of fresh-picked, Ontario berries.

While our English neighbours across the pond happily purchase an order of overpriced berries (and cream) when they attend this month’s Wimbledon matches, we thankfully have a few more options in small-town Ontario. Yearning for a taste of this season’s best, a recent visit to St. Marys’ Farmers’ Market caused my jaw to drop (and not only to pop in a few berries). In addition to the vendor’s mouthwatering goodies, what struck me the most while wiping the red juice running down my chin, was the signage at Schmuckers & Family Fresh Local Produce stand, which read “Spray Free Strawberries” and for only $3.50 a quart! This kind of strawberry and price point is what many of my city-dwelling friends dream of, especially as they stand at their counters rationing measly, pricey quarts for only a few recipes.

You can bet we stocked up and have been savouring the plentiful berries fresh out of their quart boxes and featured in some of our favourite recipes.Top creations so far are:

• Strawberry Freezer Jam (see the back of the CERTO box) – this recipe lets you enjoy the incredible flavour of berries all year long;

• Strawberry & Goat Cheese Salad (add berries and cheese to a bed of greens, perhaps some crumbled pecans and an easy balsamic-olive oil dressing seasoned to taste for a sweet-savoury start to a Summer evening); and • who could forget the British creation of macerating strawberries with sugar, whipping up some fresh cream, and spreading the two fillings between your favourite short cake, sponge cake or even some homemade, pastry crust for an indulgent, slightly crunchy and oh-so-buttery take on the British dessert.

With those recipes whetting your appetite, take a break from any British political worries and delight in the “best” kind of berry bounty that’s available (and affordable) in our own backyard.

St. Marys Farmers Market is open every Saturday from now until the end of October from 8 a.m. until noon and Schmuckers & Family Fresh Local Produce is available through the week at their 136779 13th Line location.

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