Locally made goods come in all shapes and sizes these days, as this lineup of artisanal NJ & PA food products clearly shows! I have a tiny kitchen, but I always make space for local essentials like these. Foods that are made in small batches, often miles from my home… those are the foods that taste best to me.
So I tend to collect any local products I see at my favorite markets because I know I’ll always end up using them eventually. That’s the great thing about these kinds of foodstuffs – you don’t have to plan on using them immediately, and oftentimes they’ll keep for weeks or months. But good luck resisting temptation! If you’re anything like me, they’ll be gone before you know it.
Brick Farm /Zeng Family Farm Whole Grains (Hopewell, NJ)
Stone Ground whole wheat flour, including the germ for maximum nutrition and flavor, tastes nothing like the flour you get at the grocery store. I have used it in pancakes and pizza dough and didn’t feel like I was eating cardboard. Impressive, right? This flour is made from organic wheat grown by Zeng Family Farm in Ringoes, NJ and is milled by Castle Valley Mill in Bucks County. It’s sold at Brick Farm Market, along with their polenta, rye berries and regular wheat flour.
Sweet Sourland Farms Maple Syrup (Hopewell, NJ)
This farm produces 50 to 100 gallons of 100% pure NJ maple syrup a year. Growing up, I would eat my pancakes with just butter. I hated maple syrup from the grocery store. Little did I know, I was not getting the good stuff! THIS is the good stuff. It tastes like candy, and now I smother it on every breakfast food I can…
Blazing Star Foods Salad Dressings (Phillipsburg, NJ)
When it comes to salad, it has to be out-of-this-world good for me to get excited about it. And that’s where the dressing comes into play. Lettuce and raw veg with a boring dressing has the potential to be a very boring salad. And then when you consider that most salad dressings are loaded with additives of all sorts, PLUS cheap highly processed and artificial ingredients… its like, what’s the point of that salad then? Blazing Star Foods hopes to change that problem one bottle at a time by supplying its customers with affordable alternative flavors such as “Dill Pickle, BLT, Holy Mole’, all of which are vinaigrettes with no processed or artificial ingredients, gums or water.
Blue Moon Acres Rice (Pennington, NJ)
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s pretty amazing to have a local farm producing rice. Rice has never been grown in New Jersey before, and farmer Jim Lyons is really challenging conventional methods of growing. Rice is a pantry essential, but unfortunately most people don’t realize that the rice they get at the grocery store can go rancid very quickly. That’s why I LOVE fresh New Jersey grown rice… you really can smell and taste the difference. It has become a staple in our house every week, from risotto to stir fry, and a nice alternative to pasta (because as much as I am a true Italian, even I can get tired of eating pasta every night).
Zach & Zoe Honey (Pittstown, NJ)
I hate picking favorites, but Zach & Zoe honey is the clear winner in my book. Their honey is so unique tasting, and it’s made close to my home (allergy win)! What I like most about these makers is their attempt to innovate with superfood integration: matcha, beetroot, lavender, ginger root… if I had more space in my cabinets, I would have them all. Right now my favorite way to enjoy honey is with my toast in the morning. But last night I made papardelle with honey roasted carrots and homemade ricotta, and that became my new favorite (for the time being at least).
Jacob’s Raw Kraut (Elverson, PA)
Just like I hated maple syrup as a kid, I also wouldn’t have touched sauerkraut with a ten-foot pole. And I was not a picky kid, I swear! Even on my hot dog, the food was just not appealing to me. Fast-forward to 2017 and I am eating sauerkraut every day and LOVING it. What the heck? Thanks to Jacob’s Raw Kraut, I am a kraut convert. At least for their spicy kraut, which has cabbage, turmeric and jalapeno peppers. I wish I could eat a whole jar of it, but I think that would be probioitic overdosing. So for now, a spoonful or two a day will do. And when it’s natural fermented, and made with organic ingredients over the river in PA, I feel pretty good about it too.
Le Bon Magot Chutneys (Princeton, NJ)
Loaded with ginger & garam masala, this tomato chutney is VERY flavorful. Le Bon Magot is continuously getting industry recognition for their inventive international spreads. Try them in a sandwich, alongside cheese, topped on a rice bowl, or with your roast chicken! The flavors will absolutely transport you… as they say; these are hidden treasures off the eaten path!
Gregory Benjamin Preserves (New Hope, PA)
Orange almond apricot preserves are my JAM. Made in Bucks County by (you guessed it) Gregory Benjamin, these marmalades and preserves are just the right amount of sweet. Gregory started making preserves with neighbors when he was eight years old – how sweet is that? I recommend ordering a few jars of his Sugarplum Conserve for the holidays; it will make a really nice holiday gift for your favorite host.
Pure Indian Foods Ghee (Princeton, NJ)
Pure Indian Foods’ grass-fed ghee is made fresh in small batches with pride in New Jersey. It’s also Certified Organic and made from non-homogenized milk. I got this little jar of Garlic Ghee at Cherry Grove Farm for my Indian cooking. But do not be fooled – you can use ghee (clarified butter) in many cuisines! They have an Herbs de Provence ghee that you can use in classic French dishes, and an Italian ghee that goes great in pasta.
So there you have it. A peek inside my pantry this month. Do me a favor, and go to each and every maker’s website to read their stories. The more you get to know the makers behind the food, the more you’ll appreciate everything they do. And I bet it will taste better, too (if that’s even possible).