As the weather turns from balmier temps to the more frigid, you might be tempted to dig out that boxed macaroni or cans of soups. After all, local food is done for the season, right? Pssht. If you thought that was the case, you wouldn’t be here. Kudos! This winter, embrace all things local in Oxford County with these seven easy-peasy ideas.
1. Pickled and Preserved
Throw on that bathing suit and sunscreen as you dive headfirst into a jar of local preserves or pickled items. It’s a sure fire way to enjoy summer’s boldest flavours all winter long. In Oxford, you’ll find everything thing from garlic scape mustards and corn salsa to elderberry apple jelly, pickled beets and the best darn pickles around (if we do say so ourselves). Want the inside scoop, check out Tourism Oxford’s blog listing some of their favs.
2. Get Carnivorous
Local meat options abound in Oxford! Get bibbed up as you savour local beef from spots like Eschol Farms, Alstein Farms, Heleniak Meats or even Texas Longhorn beef rom Y U Ranch. If chicken is more your thing, artisanal chicken awaits you from Orange Door Acres in Mount Elgin or The Seaton Ranch. Want to try something a little quirky but completely delicious? Check out Buffalo Ben Bisons for tasty bison meet. If you call ahead and book a time, Ben himself will give you a tour of the farm and show you the bison. Those who are always up for that second helping of bacon will drool over Taylor Heritage Hogs. Finally, if you just can’t decide what kind of meat to have for dinner, we recommend checking out one of the Oxford farms that specializes in a few different meat options like Perry’s Corners Farm, Greener Pastures Eco Farm or JTK Farms.
3. Get Your Veggie On (and the occasional fruit)!
The nice thing about being in Southwestern Ontario is that there is still produce being grown this time of year, albeit a bit less than in the summer. Beets, Brussel sprouts, cabbage and carrots can all be found in local markets across Oxford. The occasional winter apple makes an appearance too! Onions, peas and potatoes are all stars in stews on cold nights. You just have to get a little bit creative and visit the markets to see what you can dream up next.
4. Support a Tree Farm
Going local for the holidays? Let that include your Christmas tree if you get one! Vandeklooster Farms and Snyders Family Farm both grow their own for you to choose from each year and markets like Bickles Orchard Park Farm, McCullys Hill Farm, Son-in-Law Produce and Turners Farm Market bring in pre-cut Ontario trees so you can find the perfect one for your home this holiday season.
5. Donut Forget to Treat Yourself!
See what we did there? Grab yourself a delicious treat at one of Oxford’s many bakeries or visit producers serving, roasting and crafting the good stuff in house. In Woodstock, Habitual Chocolate makes bars straight from the bean and if you’re a fan of dark chocolate, you shouldn’t miss out. Across town, Early Bird Coffee roasts small batch dream beans to be sipped and savoured all winter long. Be sure to grab a hot bevvie to go and on Wednesdays and Fridays, don’t miss out on fresh donuts from Sweet B’s Cakes served up in house. In Ingersoll, check out Oxford’s other awesome chocolatier, Cindy Walker of Chocolatea. She blends a lovely Belgian chocolate base with all kinds of local ingredients: maple syrup, coffee, even beer! Want to do some of your own holiday baking? Stops at Oxford Honey and Jakeman’s Maple Farm are a must for some of that sweet nectar to dial up your treat. Top it all off with a base of organic flour from Oak Manor Farms.
6. Always, Always, ALWAYS try the Cheese
Look, there’s a reason why Oxford is deemed The Dairy Capital of Canada. They know their stuff when it comes to…well, all things dairy but in particular, cheese. Home of the Oxford County Cheese Trail, Oxford is home to five cheese makers plus restaurants across the county where you can find the cheese on their menus. Deep fried, beer-bathed cheese curds? Yeah that’s a thing. Arancini balls made with the best local Swiss? You know it. Check out OxfordCountyCheeseTrail.ca for the un-brie-lievable inside scoop.
7. Experience Your Food
One of the best ways to get to know your food is to experience how it’s made in a hands-on way. Luckily, some of Oxford’s coolest food producers are fully embracing that. Roast your own beans at Early Bird Coffee, get chocolatey at Truffle Camp with Chocolatea, craft your own artisan charcuterie board and then enjoy a feast of local cheese, meats and more with Ottercreek Woodworks. Churn your own butter at a local heritage site. There are so many possibilities! Now you just have to decide which one to do.