Meet the Producer: Zehr's Country Market
Huron County, my home, my birthplace, and the hub of agricultural productivity and innovation in Ontario. You may think me biased, living here and growing up here, maybe I am, but I'm also being completely honest when I say that Huron County is one of the most amazing places to find local food from local producers. Our county is brimming with innovative, creative, and award winning growers, producers, operators, and owners who impact our food culture daily. I have been aware of the absolute bounty of Huron County since I was a very young farmer's daughter, and have only grown to appreciate more and more what we have (literally) laying at our feet here. I remember the first day I found out we had an outdoor farmer's market here in Goderich, and I remember the day, about ten year's later, that I brought my young son for our first market crawl. I think Boy #1 was about two years old. I had had no idea that we had so many local growers and artisan's. One of my favourite memories is still that day we walked up to a bright yellow trailer and bought our first real pretzel. Every week after that my then two year old would beg me to go see "The Bread Lady". Today the Red Cat Farm trailer is still a must visit stop on every market day.
Recently I had the amazing opportunity of joining with my wonderful Theatre Girls and going on a Taste of Huron: Your Own Adventure tour. These tours are a new addition this year to the Taste of Huron events and programs that have been held in the past throughout Huron County. Taste of Huron works to promote, and develop our county as a premier culinary destination, showcasing the robust offering of local foods and experiences Huron has to offer to locals and visitors. This year the tours look to be an amazing experience, what an opportunity to discover the bounty here in Huron County. I will place a link to the Taste of Huron page at the bottom of this post so everyone can check out this absolutely groundbreaking opportunity to explore.
To begin our tour we headed out of Goderich, south to Bayfield to visit Zehr's Country Market. Not to be confused with Zehrs Markets, the huge superstore chain, this quaint family run market sits just outside, to the south, of Bayfield. I had heard of this market many times and it's to die for pastries, I had driven passed it often, but had never made it inside to see what it was all about. Man, was I missing out! We pulled up to a rustic, yet well maintained red barn shaped building and excitedly piled out of the vehicles. Seeing the lush green farmland surrounding the market it was not difficult to understand where many of the market's wares originate. As per our group rituals we took the customary selfie outside before heading into the barn.
My tour group for the day, and most of my life: My Theatre Girls! After the obligatory ritual was completed we were ready to begin the tasting! Stepping into this "barn" through very non-barn-like doors, we entered the best smelling room I think I have ever been in. It smelled like Christmas, vacation, birthday parties, and Grandma's house, all rolled into one. I want to bottle that scent and sniff it whenever I feel sad. I soon discovered where this delightful scent originated, the large professional stainless steel kitchen near the rear right of the building. In the kitchen were several industrious looking women baking and working hard on beautiful goods. Instead of turning right, towards the heavenly baked goods, we turned left towards the bounteous meat counter and deli. There we were met by the owner and operator of this market himself, Paul Zehr.
He shared with us how the market began with just their own family sourced produce, meat, and baked goods, then gradually expanded to include other locally sourced products including: Westlake's Maple Syrup, Ferguson's Honey, local cheeses, preserved goods, and many more. He spoke of how their meats are all locally raised: beef from their own farm, and pork from a local producer. They grind and blend their own sausage, and smoke their own meat. The bakery, a favourite for obvious reasons, uses apples grown in the Zehr's family orchards, and locally grown fruits. A seasonal favourite right now being the rhubarb, or strawberry rhubarb pie. Upon being asked how many tarts he consumed in a day, Paul looked a bit put on the spot before responding that he kept it to about one a month as the pies are his personal indulgence. Personally I think I would just live off of tarts and pastry if I worked there! Paul spoke of the local seasonal produce they offer, right now the shelves of refrigerator were full of asparagus and green onions, outside were pints of early strawberries, and he spoke of the rhubarb that is being set aside for pies.
After Paul's special welcome and introduction, he excused us to look about the store, and himself to attend the busy shop that was indeed filled with excited weekend visitors, some for the Memorial Day long weekend, some enjoying a country drive on a beautiful May day. We strolled through the market "ooing" and "ahhhing" at the pastries, cheeses, meats, and preserves. I was very excited to find fresh squeaky cheese curds, corn flour tortillas, and to obtain one of the few pints of strawberries remaining at the stand.
After making our purchases and falling in love with this quaint market, we bid it farewell. As part of the tour each stop offers you a "Taste" of Huron. Each producer has a special taste valued at approximately $5, to offer the tour guests who have purchased the Taste of Huron Tickets, whether to enjoy on premises or take home. Paul gave us the beautiful pork chops seen below. You can learn a bit more about Zehr's Country Market here: Taste of Huron Zehr's Country Market
Our fearless leader and tour administrator for the day: Jenna Uijye. She is holding our "Taste" samples from The Market: smoked pork chops! I cannot wait to BBQ these babies this week! My kids were pretty excited to see me bring two of these home! Our Zehr's adventure had come to a delicious conclusion (after consuming some tarts in the parking lot) and we were on to the next. (Edit: I cooked up these babies on Monday and they were the most juicy, succulent, smoked chops I'd ever had! So so delicious! Definitely heading out to purchase more of these soon.)
We had such a fabulous day enjoying the bounty our county has to offer. All of the growers, producers, brewers, and owner operators really gave us so much on this beautiful tour. We ended our day with full bellies, happy hearts, and brighter minds.
In closing, I'm sure you now know why you need to set up your own Taste of Huron tour. To do so check them out on the website: https://www.tasteofhuron.com/ This is an experience you do not want to miss!