This fall, the Wicker Park Farmer’s Market in Chicago is overflowing with an abundance of joy and delicious seasonal produce. Carts piled high with heirloom apples of all varieties, tables brimming over with freshly baked pastries and the scent of a smoky grill cooking up breakfast sandwiches all combine to create one of Chicago’s most beloved gems. But how much do you know about the people who work and shop there every season? I spent my weekend at Wicker Park Farmer’s Market getting to know the makings of three favorite fall recipes from three of Chicago’s finest locals. Check out what they had to say about their Chi-Town farmer’s market and the dishes that start then and there!
Pumpkin Molasses Cinnamon Scone
Jessica Canning, the young owner of Scone City, comes to the market this season with large plates of every flavor of scone in tow. Today was her first day at the farmer’s market after having opened Scone City only seven months ago. Though there are tons of farmer’s markets in and around Chicago, Jessica prefers a small, local market like this one in Wicker Park where the vendors and customers form a relationship of mutual trust and understanding. With plates adorned with so many delicious fall flavors, Jessica was surprisingly quick to pick her favorite scone from Scone City this year: The Pumpkin Molasses Cinnamon Scone.
“It’s not the biggest market in Chicago, but there’s amazing product, wonderful vendors and everyone is very heartfelt. Everyone is very proud of what they bring to the market. It feels like a family.”
A flaky and delicious homage to the fall season in Chicago, Scone City’s Pumpkin Molasses Cinnamon Scone is experienced here or nowhere. Instead of revealing the secret recipe, Jessica was nice enough to teach us a few tricks to remember when following another scone recipe such as this one for Pumpkin Pecan Scones. In making this delicious butter-based scone or any heavy cream based scone, Canning has a few tricks to ensure that they’re flaky and moist every time.
The secret for a butter-based scone, she reveals, is freezing and then grating the butter into the mix for better texture and even baking. For a heavy cream-based scone, Canning suggest always whipping the cream until stiff peaks appear. This way, when folded into the mixture, the scones will rise and become moist.
With one of the biggest stands at the Wicker Park Farmer’s Market, Ian McCartney wouldn’t miss a weekend or the market’s fresh potatoes for the world. This is his 14th season working on Nichols Farm and Orchard, and he has known the Nichols family for more than 20 years. Though he was born and raised in Marengo, Illinois, a farming community located about an hour and a half northwest of Chicago, Ian and his idea of home extends to Wicker Park every Sunday when he works at the market there. With about 300 acres of heirloom apples, root vegetables, pumpkins and all varieties of kale, the vibe is always one of love and abundance.
“This neighborhood is awesome, the people are awesome. We have a good environment here; it’s a beautiful park, the clientele is always happy and laid back.”
With so many root vegetables growing on the Nichols Farm, potatoes are a classic seasonal choice for McCartney. “My mom makes a hell of a scalloped potato dish, which we have used the potatoes from here for.” Even the dish his grandmother would use for the potatoes is a fond memory, a faded white ceramic dish with gold and green sunflowers painted all over. “Every time I see it, it makes me think of my childhood,” he said.
What Ian did not say is how his mother makes her famous scalloped potato dish, and we couldn’t blame him there. Instead, we decided upon this recipe for Scalloped Potatoes because we’re craving garlicky potatoes now, and the photographs remind us of that mouth-watering Thanksgiving meal that Ian described so well.
Free-Range, Brined Turkey
Raya Carr, 25, grew up on a family-owned prairie pasture farm that prides itself on providing certified organic meat, rotational grazing for their animals and a passion for the health of the animals they raise. Harry and Gwen Carr started the Mint Creek farm 23 years ago, and the farm has grown rapidly in size and popularity over the years. Mint Farm receives quite the demand for turkeys during the holiday season, and now, when it comes to holiday cooking, Raya can’t think of anything better than creating the perfect turkey for the perfect community of Chicago.
“I care so much about the animals being treated with respect. Not just in how they’re raised but in how the meat is prepared, how it’s butchered and whether or not there’s waste.”
There are two key ingredients to Raya’s perfect turkey meal. As one would expect, the health and happiness of the bird is the most important ingredient in this favorite recipe. Mint Creek’s turkeys are like no others; The birds are truly free range, moving around to different pastures every few days to eat a mixture of pasture plants, grasses and bugs.
If you’re shopping at your local grocery store, make sure to find a turkey packaged with no GMOs. Then, turn to the spice aisle, and find the second most important ingredient: the brine. “Brining is really important,” says Raya. “In a brine I would make sure there is a lot of salt in there, and then I would put in my favorite herbs and spices.” She likes also to experiment with different herbs and spices like sage, thyme, oregano, basil and coriander, so I found this Recipe for a Dry-Brined Turkey that spells out the process while also giving you your creative liberties in the kitchen.
The Wicker Park Farmer’s Market is just the place to share your passion for good food and great people. If being a neighbor is more than just what you do, and it’s a feeling, let us know! Share the fall recipe that reminds you of good times below.