Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What's Local in NW Indiana

A Lot

The pies may be made with shortening and whipped topping, but good ingredients abound in NW Indiana.

That's Ms. Pavolka. She sells fruit near Michigan City. She is famous for her banana apples, a particular heirloom native to her yard. These, however, need at least another month of ripening. She did sell us tartly-delicious yellow transparents as well as some very ripe peaches. Right now she also has blueberries. She'll have her apples through March.

I appreciate that the South Bend Farmer's Market is open more than one day even if 4/5th of the stands were closed on Friday. Lotsa cukes and summer squash, some home made candy and two meat vendors--the woman at Hiatt's Meat told me that her chickens and rabbits had been processed the day before. Not that I'm strange or anything, but the raw rabbits were gorgeous; if I was not still traveling.

Another meat option could have been Old Hoosier Meats in Middlebury where they put a lot of garlic (a lot) in their ring bologna. They also dry their own beef and smoke their own hams. We were driving to a cheese factory in Middlebury, but changed course when we saw a parking lot full of buggies. Forks County Line Store (508 E. Warren Street Middlebury) is the closest thing to an Amish Costco that I know, the real thing. A dim warehouse, not nearly as huge as Costco, actually organized a bit like a normal supermarket with shelves not pallets, but most of the products came in large, large quantities. The better to feed a family of 10, no?

A mix of surplus foods from who knows (I saw material with the Texas H E B chain logo) as well as products of the area. Forks does reveal many Amish secrets: raspberry pie filling and gravy mix and a lot more food science than I would not expect. We still found much to buy, at bargain prices: hand made noodles, locally ground flour, jellies and pickles, candies, popcorn (pick from 3 colors), honey, more if I'd go down stairs to check. There are other Amish stores. We found more honey, more noodles, more jam at Dutch Country Market (11401 CR 16 between Middlebury and Shipshewana), but Forks is more worthwhile.

We found local flour at Forks but we saw local flour milled at Bonneyville Mill, slightly NW of Middlebury. I save the best for last. An existing water driven stone mill, now being run by the Elkhart County Park District. Is the grain local I asked. No, the mill master replied. My heart dropped a bit. "It comes from near Rochester". Rochester being a town about an hour South Bend. Well, that seemed pretty damn local to me. They find several types of local grain to grind: wheats, corn (in two grinds), buckwheat, rye, and they sell it all at absurdly low prices. I cannot to return. Of course, I'll have plenty of other places to try nearby.

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