In Praise of Winter Markets and Comforting Community Flavours

by Kathy Mak

Winter may seem an unlikely time to visit an outdoor farmers market in Canada, but the milder climate in the Lower Mainland allows the markets and abundance of seasonal products to thrive. Deserving of more recognition, a winter market’s appeal lies not only in the quality and range of offerings, but also in knowing that it’s served by a passionate community of both food artisans/farmers and shopping foodies, all prepared to brave the elements in support of fresh local products. The charm of a winter market is in the smaller and manageable crowds. With shorter line ups, there’s time to sample and chit-chat with merchants. Live entertainment, food trucks and heating stations are also on hand to add some extra warmth.

To visit a winter market is to crave comfy and warming flavours. It’s easy to take inspiration for cozy dishes from the bounty of seasonal products that are locally grown and sourced, from healthy preserves and sturdy root vegetables to hearty ingredients. The vibrant Nat Bailey Winter Market is the largest of the outdoor winter markets in Metro Vancouver, operating on Saturdays from November to April on the perimeter of a popular baseball stadium. Although this market is located in Vancouver, you’ll take pleasure in the sensational range of regional products represented, including Burnaby, Richmond, Surrey, Langley, and Abbotsford.

On this or any Saturday, grab your down jacket and come sample the Valley’s most comforting flavours at the winter market!

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Lorne Stapleton worked in the retail meat market industry of Greater Vancouver for over four decades before launching his handcrafted sausage business, now called Stapleton Sausage, based in Surrey. He and his family (daughter Jennifer and son Michael pictured below) are committed to making sausages that are full of goodness and flavours; therefore, they use quality lean cuts (pork, poultry, lamb, beef and bison) and ingredients that are all local, natural, low in sodium, gluten free and contain no MSG, nitrates or other artificial preservatives. Stapleton sausages have been praised for being non-greasy and for their unique range of family inspired recipes. Choose from over sixteen flavours, such as Chipotle Cheddar, Duck Sausage with Blueberry, Sweet & Sour Pork with Pineapple, South African Boerewors, or Bison Andouille. These mouth-watering flavours and more are available at the winter market plus at select grocery stores throughout Metro Vancouver.

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The Langley Organic Growers is a collective of organic farmers where Julia Sandor is a member. She creates a range of certified organic sauerkraut products, called Biota, that are made with in-season cabbage, carrots, beets, horseradish, and herbs that are all grown on her farm in Abbottsford. These products are alive and naturally lacto-fermented, providing probiotic properties and other health benefits, as well as preserving many of the vitamins and minerals in the vegetables for use in the winter.

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Located in South Burnaby, Urban Digs Farm is the only farm in Metro Vancouver raising pigs in an urban environment. Their heritage breed of Berkshire and Tamworth pigs are nurtured organically in the pasture to be happier, tastier and nutritionally superior. Founded by Julia Smith and Ludo Ferrari, the farm is focused on ethical, sustainable meat products and whole animal butchery with custom cutting/smoking and organic products that include bacon, lard, ribs, steaks, roast, ground pork, chops, hocks to pepperoni. Urban Digs Farm products can be found at the winter markets or online. Visitors are welcome to their farm, opened on Saturdays (10-2) in the winter.

Cook Biota’s sauerkraut, Stapleton’s sausages and Urban Digs Farm’s ham hocks in wine, along with potatoes from Langley Organic Growers, and you’ll have the makings of a hearty Choucroute, a famous Alsatian dish.

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Beautifully handcrafted preserves are the specialty and passion of Genevieve Blanchet at Le Meadow’s Pantry, based in Burnaby and Vancouver. Inspired by a lifelong interest in wholesome living and preserving foods for off-season eating, she transforms local fruits into jewel-like jams, jellies and marmalades with French country flare. Her artisan preserves are made in small batches and copper pans to maintain the nutrition and vibrancy of the fruits. Hand-pressed lemon juice, pure cane sugar and honey are added in conservative amounts with no additional preservatives or colouring. Some of the preserves are combined with vodka, gin, vanilla extract, and bitters from local distilleries. The thick-cut marmalades, especially suited for winter enjoyment, include easy-to-love flavours such as Orange Vanilla Dream, Bitter Sweet Morning, Lemon and Vodka, Midnight Candy, and Grapefruit Smoked Sea Salt. Le Meadow’s Pantry preserves are found at the winter markets and variety of retail shops in Greater Vancouver, British Columbia and other parts of Canada.

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Did you know that it takes over 500 worker honey bees to gather 1 pound of honey? Liz Graham knows as she has owned a bee farm, Jane’s Honey Bees, for fifteen years. While she is based in Surrey, her bees (700 hives, each with 20-50,000 bees) forage for flowers throughout the Fraser Valley – Blueberries in Surrey, Raspberries in Abbotsford, Cranberries and Blackberries in Richmond, and wildflowers in South Surrey and South Langley. The pure local honey products from Jane’s Honey Bees are sold only at farmers markets.

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Winter Farmers Markets in Metro Vancouver

Nat Bailey Winter Market (Vancouver) – Saturday, 10-2 from Nov to April 17

Hastings Park Winter Market (Vancouver) – Sunday, 10-2 from November to May

Port Moody Winter Market (Port Moody) – Sunday, 10 am from November to April

Cannery Farmers’ Market (Steveston, Richmond) – Sunday, certain dates, 10-3 from October to April

Royal City Winter Market (New Westminster) – Saturday, 1st and 3rd, 11-3 from November to April