Crewkerne’s (Somerset) Farmers Market

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It happened to be the odd bright & sunny morning so an errand to drop off Hound #2’s recent purchase of a 1975 Series III Land Rover for a wee bit of maintenance was combined with a continuing journey to the market town of Crewkerne. And since that Saturday was the Saturday for the monthly Crewkerne Farmers Market and as it was just a few more minutes up the road, we stopped in.

We understand that this is not the prime time of year to be visiting, writing about & judging farmers markets as they are at the nadir of their season with regards to vegetable & fruit growers, but we still obtain some valuable insights in meeting & chatting with the folks who do show up.

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The first stall we stopped at was a very familiar face – Beech Ridge Farm – as we had just seen them the day before at Seaton’s monthly farmers market & purchased one of these great free range chooks. Besides the fresh chicken, Beech Ridge Farm also have free range ducks available too. And in addition to the poultry side of things, they also farm veggies and at Seaton’s market they had great specimens of the usual winter suspects – root veggies, kale and brussels sprouts.

And this was a new stall to us – water buffalo here in the West Country. They had a good variety of cuts on hand as well as sausages and were rightly proud of their operation as family owned, with a perfect meat provenance – no horse meat to be found here! The buffalo are hung, matured, cut & processed on the farm by their own traditional butcher Barry.

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And besides all of the fresh meat to choose from, the Crewkerne Farmers’ Market also has a pretty decent fishmonger on site.

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And we always like to try & buy fresh, local fruit juices, jams & preserves when they are available at the markets – puts to shame the stuff the supermarkets sell.

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River Cottage: Pig In A Day

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WARNING: If you are vegetarian or vegan or just generally against the eating of meat, the following post and pictures may not be to your liking…may be a good time to leave. 

A very generous Hound #3 procured a full day course at the River Cottage Cookery School aptly titled a Pig in a Day for Hound #2’s birthday. This is a porker of a day for anyone who wants to demystify the art of butchery and gain hands on experience, or build up their confidence to tackle the world of charcuterie.

The day began at 9:30AM with a tractor ride down a steep & winding lane, past River Cottage HQ and the Cookery School’s old barn home (destroyed by fire but being rebuilt) to the ‘temporary’ tent headquarters. Though it is a tent, it is a damn fancy tent with a full on commercial kitchen, dining room & bar & cookery school instructional classroom.

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We were greeted with piping hot coffee & tea, juices & amazing duck rillettes on house-made English muffins – awesome savoury start to the day. Laid out on a sizeable solid wood butcher’s block was the English Large White Pig. Our instructor, Steven Lamb (Head of Events), told us that River Cottage had been struggling to find a source of organic, free range pork ever since their original primary supplier outside of Dorchester, Dorset had stopped rearing them as it was not economically feasible.

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This course is mos def hands on. Steven Lamb solicited (and sometimes made) folks to jump right in during the butchering sessions & grab a knife or saw and work through the various pig sections to extract the tenderloin, the loin (our lunch), the chump, etc…until all bits & bobs (including the head) were accounted for.

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Besides the butchery session, we were also treated to a variety of methods on what to do with the various cuts of meat. We have always been fascinated with the world of charcuterie (preserved meats) but a wee bit timid in attempting it solo, with no instruction. A bit like mushroom foraging – we would not want to make a simple mistake using a book & end up in the A&E.

So it was immense fun to jump right into the making of everything from bacon to prosciutto to sausages & chorizo. It is a small wonder that fresh meat, packed in a seasoned salt cure for a few weeks & then hung to air dry for months & months could end up as such a scrumptious taste treat. The only other natural thing we can think of that gets better with age is wine – not a bad complement to some damn good, home made charcuterie.

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Included in this awesome day is a delicious lunch – we had the roasted pork loin with great au jus & savoury potato cake & fresh garden kale. And dessert (see below) was a stunner too – all washed down with a couple of decent biodynamic / organic tempranillos.

If you are tempted to attend this course – HURRY! They are tres popular and get booked out in a nanosecond…check the course calendar & get yourself to a Pig in a Day! You will come away with your brain hurting with so much new information.

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Bridport’s (Dorset) Farmers Market

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On a wet & rainy Saturday (tell us something new?) we angled our way over to the town of Bridport, Dorset for a wee bit of a squizzy. Like many small towns, Bridport plays host to a pretty decent little farmers’ market (dates can be found here – essentially 2nd Saturday of each month).

The first stall we happened upon was the Capreolus Find Food folks. Now this was food right up our alley – smoked & cured meats. This is an art form that is not as prevalent in Britain as it is in other countries such as Italy and Spain to name just two. And we are not sure why – it cannot be for lack of the most critical ingredient, good quality meat, as our short experience of Dorset & Devon makes that question moot. We were most impressed with the extensive selection and as Dave was offering a “3 for 2” deal we snatched up some smoked duck, venison and the air dried pork loin (pictured below). As of this writing, we have consumed them all & let out a resounding YUM.

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A quick wander inside the Arts Centre hall and our eyes were quickly attracted to the cheeseman on the centre’s stage. Dramatically set against a deep, black curtain he and his cheeses looked amazingly good. Say hello folks to Wootton Organic Dairy – owned & run by brothers David & James Bartlett in the small village of North Wootton, just outside of Shepton Mallet (if that makes sense to you, good). Had a good chat with him & we discovered how small the world is – he had met & knew our local New Zealand cheesemonger who had trained at Neal’s Yard Dairy – wow. Picked two beauties – the Old Burford, a rich & creamy mold ripened cheese; and the Millstone, another organic cow’s milk cheese that is quite crumbly in texture.

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On our way back out of the Arts Centre hall, we paid a final stop to Wyld Meadow Farm. Wyld Meadow has been naturally farming sheep in West Dorset for generations and they use the Poll Dorset lambs which can breed at anytime of year which means a fairly constant supply of fresh Dorset lamb. We chose a spectacular rolled lamb shoulder (we think the sweetest cut of meat) and had the perfect Sunday roast.

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Axminster’s Weekly Market…

Axminster has a weekly market (Thursdays) which cannot rightfully be called a farmers’ market as most the of vendor folks do not grow or raise their own products (can’t lay that charge at the fishmonger though). And it is also a mixed market – some food and some tat (e.g., greeting cards, pet supplies, wood carved statues) that takes a bit away from the ideal of what a good food market should be. With that minor complaint, it is still worth the occasional visit if you happen to be in town as it does meet one of the cardinal market rules – you should be able to assemble a decent meal from it.

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There is a decent vegetable stand but most if not all of the produce has clearly been purchased from a wholesaler and just brought here to sell. We still would opt to buy our veggies from someone like this than from Tesco’s.

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The Axminster local fishmonger Macsorsons (Silver Street, Axminster, Devon, EX12 5AH, 01297 32253) has a stall with a good selection of Lyme Bay fishes, looking fresh & clean & doing a brisk trade.

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And the Colyton Butcher (3 Market Place, Colyton, EX24 6JS, 01297 552334) is present too – with free range chooks and a nice assortment of meats & sausages.

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And for your bread & pastry needs the Bridport baker Leakers is there to satisfy any sweet cravings you might have or pick up a good loaf to take home.

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And last but most certainly not least, a mini-cheesemonger to sell you some cheese to go with your loaf…and butter if you are in need.

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