Market Fresh: Check out boozes at farmers' market

Various creators of beers, wines and spirits are featured at Coquitlam Farmers Market's Port Moody Winter Market, writes Karen Curtis

Spring has sprung! And as the weather inevitably warms up, things at the farmers’ market start to warm up, too.

It won’t be long before we see more and more produce. The greens are coming already and the rest of the veggies will be here soon. In the meantime, there is still plenty of great food to be found.

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March marked the 10th anniversary of the Port Moody Winter Market. There will be lots of extra events happening before the market moves back to Coquitlam in May so it is an extra special time to come and show your market some love.

But just to go off the food track for a bit, did you know that there is some seriously good local alcohol being produced? The list is surprisingly long.

Anderson Distilleries is a Burnaby business that crafts delicious, not-too-sweet liqueurs. Made using B.C. grain, these beverages feature flavours ranging from mint to cinnamon, with a couple of citrus ones thrown in for good measure (the limoncello is my fave).

Northwest Distillery creates super smooth vodka in Maple Ridge. They are inspired by the beautiful scenery in their neck of the woods. The vodka is filtered eight times through activated charcoal. This one tastes great on the rocks.

Both these distilleries are committed to sourcing their ingredients locally, making them a great market fit.

Have you jumped on the craft beer bandwagon? Coquitlam’s Mariner Brewing makes it easy. They are at market every other week with a full lineup of stellar brews. Their motto — “Set no path. Never be lost” — is the perfect guide to the fun, experimental beers they produce. Along with a steady lineup of classics, they turn out a new exploratory batch every Thursday.

Alongside the craft beer explosion is a surge in ciders — long a favourite of mine. There are lots of new cider companies taking advantage of the amazing fruit that is grown right here in B.C.

West Coast Cider is another regular at market. David and Nena have created two great ciders that form the backbone of their cidery, which is based in Port Coquitlam, where they are building a new facility. The new cidery will allow them to experiment with more fruit and flavours. Pear cider, anyone?

Speaking of cider, Sea Cider Farms are new to the Port Moody Market. They use organic, heirloom apples grown on their farm in Saanichton. 

Keep in mind that these great spirits aren’t just for drinking. Cooking with them is fun, too. Beer Butt chicken is amazing. Choose a great dark beer and roast away. I like to add onion and garlic to the beer and rub the chicken with roasted garlic spice mix from Amazing Foods. Once the chicken is roasted, pour the beer into the pan drippings and make a simple gravy. So good! (And Rockweld Farms or Central Park have the chicken.)

Braising a ham in cider is another great idea. Take a ham from Central Park, place it in a baking dish, add some sliced onions and cider, cover it with foil and heat through. The ham will be moist and full of flavour.

Cooking with spirits isn’t limited to savoury foods. A simple dish of ice cream is elevated with a drizzle of liqueur; vodka is a classic pie crust ingredient; and a chocolate cake would taste pretty darn good with a brushing of peppermint liqueur over the top.

It’s easy to see how craft alcohol and farmers’ markets are a good fit. Next time you visit, be sure to try some.

RECIPE: BEER & BEEF STEW

You can make this amazing stew (source: Glebe Kitchen) from 100% market ingredients. I serve this with mashed potatoes and sautéed carrots. The gravy is amazing. 

4 lb. stewing beef

6 slices bacon

3 large onions sliced thin

3 cloves garlic crushed

3 tbsp flour

3 cups dark ale

3 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp cider vinegar

Vegetable oil as required to brown the meat

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium low to medium. Add 2-3 tbsp of oil. Working in batches, brown the beef well. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. Set aside.

Dice the bacon into 1/4-inch pieces and add to the Dutch oven along with the leftover oil and goodness. Cook to render the fat and add the thinly sliced onions. Add a bit of salt and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Uncover and cook another 10 minutes.

Add crushed garlic and flour, and cook another 2 minutes, stirring well. Add about 1/2 cup of the beer and scrape up any browned goodness on the bottom.

Pour in the rest of the beer, along with the cider vinegar, brown sugar, bay and fresh thyme. Add a bit of fresh ground black pepper as well.

Return the beef to the pot along with any accumulated juices. Add just enough beef stock to cover the beef (you may not need any at all). Add a good tsp of salt at this point, cover and place in a 325 F oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Start checking at about 90 minutes. You are done when the beef is tender.

At this point adjust the salt to taste.

Serves 6.

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