Can you believe it’s May?! Winter was so long, it seems like Spring snuck up on us and whoosh! Mother’s Day is right around the corner. If you, too, are wondering when that happened and are stumped for just the right gift for that special mom in your life, we have you covered. In one stop here at the Calgary Farmers’ Market, you can get the fixings for a yummy family dinner, a unique gift to shower her with love, and a Mother’s Day Pamper Lounge on Saturday, May 10th to show mom just how much we appreciate her. Here’s a quick guide to some of the great local gifts you can find at the market; something for everyone, you’re sure to find the perfect gift.
1. Start with Art
Between the handcrafted art at Artistically Inclined, beautiful nature photography by Ursula Krol, unique finds at Have to Have, or the upcycled and trendy pieces at Rainbow Glass, there is sure to be a little something to perk up her day.
2. Give a Little Sparkle
Stillwater Design is full of gorgeous, handcrafted jewelry and the famous (not to mention fashionable, comfortable, and very popular) Neon Buddha line of clothing. You can’t go wrong giving jewelry…. ‘nough said.
3. Spa Time
What mom doesn’t love to be pampered? Splurge on all she needs for an at-home spa experience any time she wishes! Eden Essentials offers handcrafted bath salts and bombs, essential oils, relaxation accessories, and local Rocky Mountain Soap; you can create a little slice of spa heaven right in the comfort of your own home. That quiet time after the kids go to bed and the house is still just got better…. a whole lot better.
4. Sweet and Pretty
Sure, flowers may seem traditional, but the one-of-a-kind custom arrangements from Willow Blooms & Garden are anything but ordinary. Speaking of extraordinary, swing by Papa Chocolat for a delicious box of chocolates. Or, if your mom is happier creating her own masterpieces in the kitchen: LA CUCINA is the place to hit. Gourmet food items abound and she has super adorable aprons too.
We hope to you’ll pop by the market for that one-of-a-kind gift for mom. And then come back next weekend so she can enjoy the Mother’s Day Pamper Lounge and enter to win a gift basket too. The kids can even make a special Mother’s Day craft with Momstown while mom is being pampered. It’s like we’ve tied it up in a pretty bow for you; holidays made easy, right here at the Calgary Farmers’ Market.
Connecting with your food and your farmer is an integral part of any farmers’ market. We strive to take it one step further and give you a little more insight into the products you’re buying and who you are buying them from. Every once in awhile we get really lucky and can steal a few hours (or more if we’re truly blessed) from one of our farmers; I visit their farm, pick their brains, and learn all about their story. This week, perfectly timed with Easter approaching, I visited Spragg’s Meat Shop and Farm in Rosemary, Alberta. Greg and Bonnie Spragg are at the market weekly doing deliveries and saying hello, but we wanted to know more. Don’t you?
After being employed at a hog barn for a few years, Greg decided he wanted to take a crack at raising his own pigs. So, Bonnie purchased 3 little pigs for his birthday in May 2002. It may not seem like the most romantic birthday gift, but his herd flourished and by the end of the summer, Greg had raised 75 weaner pigs to market weight. He loves his pigs and it shows; he’s been nicknamed the “pig whisperer” and rightfully so.
They’ve now been farming at their present location for 12 years; growing to have approximately 1000 pigs roaming free at any given time. In addition to the free-roaming hogs, the Spragg farm has 200 acres of irrigated land on which crops of barley, wheat, and faba beans are grown to later grind into the necessary pig feed.
In order to increase production to meet the growing demand, they partnered with another local hog producer who specializes in breeding and weaning.
The baby piglets are born year round inside (where it’s nice and warm!), and are moved to their free-range environment at the Spragg farm when they reach 50lbs.
Greg and Bonnie’s pigs run and frolic in open interconnected pens, free to eat an antibiotic-free, plant protein diet when they please.
They live happily, hormone-free, in the fresh air… and they really are happy hogs. Their pastures are seeded with annual grasses to increase grazing time for the pigs. And in the colder months, they are provided with straw and alfalfa hay to keep the forage component in their diets.
I couldn’t resist jumping into the pig pen to take advantage of a more personal introduction. They’re curious little piggies, gently nudging with a boot-chew here and there, as interested in me as I was in them.
The above are the ‘little’ piggies, weighing in from approximately 50-70lbs at 3 months old.
They will bulk up to about 240 lbs by 7-8 months of age, like the hog above, before being sent to market.
If you ask Greg and Bonnie what sets their pork apart from the rest of the pack, they will tell you, first and foremost that they have happy hogs. But in more technical terms:
they do not spray the pastures that the pigs are on for weeds or insects
pigs do not receive antibiotics, hormones, or artificial growth promoters to ensure pigs grow faster or leaner than they would naturally
their pigs get a plant based diet, with no animal by-products in that feed
the barley and faba beans that are fed to the pigs have been grown conventionally (crops are sprayed once to kill the weeds in the field, and the barley crops are grown with inorganic fertilizer when necessary to provide the appropriate levels of fertility in the soil).
Spragg’s Meat Shop opened in Rosemary, Alberta in November 2005; due to increasing demand for their product, they built a new (and very impressive) processing plant, on the right, which opened a month ago.
You should see the smokehouse they have now!
The expansion to include processing allowed Greg and Bonnie to raise the hogs, process them, and then market the pork products direct to the consumer. The meat shop prepares their free range pork for both the farmer’s market retail locations in Calgary, Brooks and Millarville, as well as restaurant and wholesale customers. In peak season, they process approximately 50-70 hogs each week; with hogs being butchered twice weekly, the pork you buy Thursday-Sunday at the Calgary Farmers’ Market is as fresh as it gets.
And since they were cutting hams, they gave one to me! When someone gives you such a beautiful ham, you don’t refuse. So, here’s and Easy Easter Ham recipe for you.
A few things hop to mind when you think of Easter: chocolate bunnies, egg decorating, and ham. Sure, there are other things that make up Easter, but in terms of food, these three things are pretty prominent. We wondered how best to offer useful (and delicious) information and landed on: How to Roast a Ham. It’s dead simple and is a sure-fire way to make every tummy at the table happy.
Plus, we just visited Greg and Bonnie Spragg’s pig farm. When they offer you a ham, you don’t refuse. In fact, you thank them gleefully because it’s the most beautiful ham you ever did see.
1/4 cup Amber Alpine Wildflower Honey from Beeland
1/4 cup Wild Blueberry Dark Balsamic Vinegar from Soffritto’s
Remember when we said it was simple? You can’t get a whole lot simpler than three ingredients. Yes, we know those ingredients don’t include brown sugar and mustard. There are a few pretty traditional (and still yummy) ham glazes kickin’ around, but we wanted to give you something a little more off-the-beaten-path than the Cola or Pineapple Ginger recipes. Plus, the only fruit that’s really “in-season” right now are apples and that’s just a little too close to the old-fashioned ham and apple sauce dinner we used to get at Grandma’s. Why not try something a little different?
Preheat oven to 325F. Using a very sharp knife, score fat in a diamond pattern.
Meanwhile, stir amber honey with blueberry balsamic.
Place ham in a shallow roasting pan just big enough to hold it. Roast in centre of preheated 325F oven, uncovered, allowing 18 to 20 minutes per pound for a bone-in ham.
Roast ham for 45 minutes before beginning to baste generously with the mixture. To form a rich glaze, continue brushing with mixture every 15 minutes. Save any remaining glaze. Remove ham to a platter and tent with foil for at least 15 minutes.
If you want to make a bit of a sauce for your ham: add 1 cup of vegetable broth and any remaining glaze to the pot you roasted the ham in. Stir pan bottom vigorously to scrape up all of the flavor-packed browned bits. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat burner on the stove (you can transfer from roasting pan to smaller pot at the point to make it less cumbersome). Then reduce heat to medium and boil gently, uncovered and stirring often, until slightly reduced, from 5 to 10 more minutes. Pour over sliced ham. Meat will keep well, covered and refrigerated, for a week or more.
Now, we know that ham is often served with traditional sides, like scalloped potatoes. And if you’re an accomplished or ambitious cook, homemade scalloped potatoes are the bomb. But as we can guess, you’re all very busy and since we’re selling this as an Easy Easter Feast, we suggest checking out the vast and tasty selection of ready-made agrio boxes at the Cherry Pit.
They offer everything from roasted or quick saute vegetables to easy dress and shake salads, all made in-house by their very talented vegetable butcher. Easter dinner could not be easier.
It was only two and a half years ago that Eahly and Nan arrived in Calgary, eager to put roots down and make this city “home”. Coming from Vancouver, they were surrounded by a plethora of dietary options, including amazing variety in vegetarian and vegan fare; but found fewer options in our beef-centric city. Then, one day in October 2011, while shopping at the Calgary Farmers’ Market, they noticed a vacant booth and a seed was planted. What if? Beginning on a hope and whim, Eahly and Nan set out to bring more options to vegans (and non-vegans too) and share their passion for healthy, delicious food. If you’ve ever been by Hearts’ Choices, you will instantly see (and feel) the love that goes into creating and sharing their vegan Thai food. Driven by Nan’s philosophy: “no good food = no happiness”, every dish they make, whether it be Thai Vegan Curries, Peanut Satay Sauce, or Bamboo Shoot Stir Fry, is handmade with care and intention. And their high quality, non-GMO soybean vegan products are mindfully sourced from a renowned Buddhist vegan company in Taiwan.
We know it’s easy to turn your nose up at vegan food if you’re a born and bred meat-lover. Tofu? Tempeh?! VeganScallops?!?! Get outta Cowtown. But in all seriousness, Eahly and Nan help many families bridge the gap when there is a division in the kitchen. For example: wife is a vegetarian, husband wants his steak; now they can make one meal for everyone because the vegan fare at Hearts’ Choices can fool even the most discerning palates and satisfies everyone’s needs. Eahly and Nan believe that their food “helps make their life a little more harmonious and happy”. That’s what makes them love coming to work every day. It comes as no surprise then that they love when you drop by their booth or send them a photo of your own creation, sharing a part of your heart with them.
And now they’re sharing that love with you! Join them for an evening of food creation and fun as Nan (originally from Thailand) teaches the basics of Thai vegan cooking in a hands-on interactive cooking class. We recently crashed one of their classes to get our own hands dirty (and our bellies happy!) and were pleasantly surprised to find people of all ages, all levels of cooking experience, even non-vegans soaking up Nan’s knowledge and cooking up a storm. We couldn’t help but join in too. The Thai Vegan Larb Salad, Tom Kha Pak (a sweet and sour coconut vegetable soup), and Pad Se-ew (Thai Street Noodles) that we all whipped up were delicious, healthy, and didn’t last long.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about vegan cooking or you’re just interested in exploring Thai ingredients and dishes, you can join Eahly and Nan in their upcoming class (hosted April 7th). Classes run approximately 3 hours, and include all the equipment, ingredients, and teaching required for you to create 3-4 delicious dishes while learning the basics of Thai cuisine with lots of cooking and eating along the way. Do you have to be a Vegan to enjoy this opportunity? Absolutely not! In fact, it is perhaps the most reasonably priced Thai cooking classes in the city. So… can you throw chicken in the Tom Kha Pak? Yes! Will Nan and Eahly frown upon it? Never.
In the upcoming April class, you can look forward to making:
Vegan Pad Thai
Vegan Pumpkin Stir Fry (Eahly’s favorite!)
Vegan Pad Phet No Mai (Spicy Bamboo Shoots)
Thai Cucumber Salad
Sounds yummy doesn’t it? Get your tickets before they’re sold out! And don’t forget to swing by Hearts’ Choices the next time you’re at the Calgary Farmers’ Market; say hi to Nan and Eahly, try one of their many samples, and show them some love.
There are lots of ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day that doesn’t involve artificially-dyed green beer, pasta, pancakes, jello, truffles… the list goes on and on. A plethora of traditional Irish recipes await you like Irish Soda Bread (available at Yum Bakery this year!), Beer Battered Cod, Champ, Dublin Coddle, Irish Beef Stew with Guinness…. delicious, traditional, and easy to whip up to share with your family. We are very lucky here at the market to have Brian Plunkett, owner of Blu Seafood; a born-and-bread Irishman and a chef to boot. He jumped at the chance to share an Irish recipe with us in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day; a little traditional with a bit of a modern twist.
Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish mainly consisting of mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage. Brian decided, rather than stir up a typical chowder with clams (boring!), he would take some inspiration from the traditional Colcannon dish and adapt it into a soup. Perfect for this darn cold weather we’ve been tolerating! And he took it one step further by frying the freshly-shucked oysters and crisping up some double-smoked bacon as a garnish… why? Well, it adds a texture element that is lost in the mish-mash soup so often becomes, and highlights the seafood ingredient too by making it the star, rather than letting it slip away into the soupy abyss.
Start by heating up the olive in a large pot over medium heat. Add the double smoked bacon and cook until almost crisp. In the same pan (with all of that excellent bacon fat), add all of the chopped vegetables and season with salt pepper, thyme. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Drop in the cut potatoes and return to a boil; simmer for 45 minutes. Once all elements are soft, remove from the stove and puree with a hand blender. When velvety in texture, return to a boil on the stove and slowly whisk in the cream. Taste, correct the seasoning, and simmer 15 minutes more.
Drain excess juice from the oysters Marinate the oysters in Worcestershire and Tabasco and leave to 2 minutes. Dip the oysters in flour and pan fry in olive oil until golden brown. Remove from the pan to a paper towel to sop up any excess oil and season with salt and pepper. Serve 4 oysters on top off each bowl of soup with a couple of strips of crispy bacon.
Of course, we recommend you surround yourself with friends and family, fill up ‘yer bowls and enjoy your feast with the ones you love. And from everyone here at the Market, we wish you a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light, may good luck pursue you each morning and night.
Looking for something to do with the little ones on St. Patrick’s Day? Bring them to the market to hunt for leprechauns, snag a pot of gold treat, and watch some traditional Irish dancing. Check out our Events Page.
Our friends over at Avenue Magazine are full of incredible articles that highlight what’s hot in Calgary from food, restaurants, and chefs to homes, entertainment, and lifestyle. And once a year, they release a super neat article of the 25 Best Things to Eat in Calgary. We wait with bated breath for this list because we’re eager to see how many yummy things you can find right here at the Calgary Farmers’ Market. And this year, we hit it big! We’re so very proud of our vendors that we couldn’t help but share their delicious victories.
Made by Marcus Ice Cream hit the freezer at Blush Lane Organic Market earlier this year and it takes every ounce of will power to not pick up a pint weekly… especially when Marcus Purtzki brings in new and unique flavors on a regular basis. Organic cream from Vital Green Farms forms the foundation for his delicious concoctions, like Lemon Curd + Wild Blueberry or Chai Hot Chocolate (which just hit the shelves this week) to name just two of his incredible flavors. Watch out Ben & Jerry.
While we’re on the topic of Blush Lane Organics, they carry a wide variety of organic produce, meat, dairy, and grains, including the locally produced cereals and granola from Highwood Crossing. “A 100% natural, preservative-free cereal made fresh each week with certified organic old fashion rolled oat flakes, whole flax and sunflower seeds, cold-pressed canola oil and amber maple syrup”, it is delicious whatever way you choose to enjoy it.
Lemon Tart at Eclaire de Lune
When mid-afternoon approaches and you get that hankering for something sweet to go with your coffee break, it’s hard to choose from the incredible selection we have here at the market. But Avenue Magazine hit the jackpot with Eclaire de Lune’s Lemon Tart. The crunchy shortbread base seems standard for this traditional dessert, but the not-too-tart lemon curd centre and pillowy cloud of marshmallow-like meringue on top is nothing short of perfection. If lemony desserts aren’t your thing, don’t fret, Eclair de Lune has a full offering of traditional (and delicious) French pastries to please even the pickiest of palates.
With over 80 vendors supplying you with fresh local produce, art, meat, poultry, international food, organic goods , jewelry and more, we’re proud people are starting to spread their culinary wings to include things like elk in their diet. Wapiti Ways naturally raises their Elk on pasture grass, hay, and alfalfa without antibiotics, preservatives, or additives. Their complete line of elk products are healthy and tasty, including their Hunter’s Pie; with chunks of lean, tender Alberta-ranched elk, simmered in a dark ale gravy, with mushrooms, sweet carrots and pearl onions all in a flaky pie crust. It’s maybe one of the easiest, most delicious take-and-bake items from the market.
Artisanal oils have become wildly popular with shops dedicated entirely to perfectly pairing oil and vinegar; we are delighted to see our friends from Soffritto being selected as a Top 25. With 38 olive oils and balsamic vinegars to choose from at their Calgary Farmers’ Market location, you could end up visiting them for a long while as you taste your way through their selections in search of your favorite pairing. The espresso balsamic is popping up as a favorite among many with layers of authentic espresso and dark roasted coffee. It makes a fantastic glaze or barbeque base or can be used sweetly drizzled over ice cream. It’s no surprise that it is part of Avenue Magazine’s Top 25.
Olson’s High Country Free-Range Bison is another market-favorite with their wide array of grass-fed bison products. They offer all of your typical cuts of meat, but also an impressive frozen selection, including bison pasta, and cured meats to garner your charcuterie board too – we’re partial to the bison bresaola. The Montreal smoked bison proudly graces Avenue Magazine’s Top 25, which we are sure could rival even the best traditional Montreal smoked meat sandwich.
We see Nicole Fewell around here a lot as she shops for locally produced items that set the fare of her Cheezy Bizness food truck apart from the rest. And when she’s not on the roads, spreading Cheezy goodness, “she spends her time making real tonic by steeping distilled water with lemon, lime, lemongrass, cinchona bark and agave nectar to create a tonic concentrate. Mix it 1:1 with your favourite gin, then top with soda water and ice for a sublime G&T.” And you can pick it up while you’re perusing the impressive spice selection at the Silk Road Spice Merchant.
We’re very lucky to be featured on CTV Morning Live every month, dishing up some great things from healthy meals to events at the market. Today, we learned ways to woo your loved one this Valentine’s Day from Chef Brain Plunkett from Blu Seafood. He shared a dead simple, delicious recipe to impress your sweetheart that can be whipped together in less than 10 minutes.
Start by splitting the scampi tails to de-vein (here’s an easy how-to video) and season with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to a sauté pan and heat until almost smoking. Add the butter and the scampi and quickly turning so to prevent overcooking. Add the shallots, garlic and tomato; cook fro 2 minutes, add the basil and white wine, cook 1 minute more. Remove the scampi then simmer the sauce for 1 minute and pour over the scampi. Serve and enjoy!