There is a spreading trend at our local farmers markets, and I welcome it with great enthusiasm.
Foods prepared to enjoy on the spot have been an important element of our markets for more than a decade, but now several vendors are offering prepared foods to take home and use in cooking.
I'm speaking specifically of meat and vegetable stocks, which are now available at nearly all our year-round markets.
Although I am a passionate advocate of cooking from scratch, there are times when even the most dedicated cook needs a bit of help in the stock department.
Maybe you need bone broth to help you get back to normal after a cold or flu, or perhaps you've decided at the last minute that you really want risotto for dinner and don't have the time to make the stock yourself.
Commercial options are disappointing, but market vendors are filling a longtime need, with the added benefit that you can know the source of all the ingredients.
Newest on the scene is Cesar Vernier's Bone Broth Co., which has been attending the Sebastopol Farmers Market since early January. When you approach his booth, it seems paella, simmering in a big paellera, to enjoy on the spot is his main product. But it's not. Towards the back of the booth is a large stock pot over a free-standing burner, simmering with bones and vegetables. When someone orders it, he ladles it into either a one-quart ($11) or two-quart ($22) Mason jar. Vernier alternates weekly between chicken and beef.
Several months ago, Pepper Ranch Poultry added golden chicken stock to their selection of pastured chickens and eggs. The stock contains chicken, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, salt and pepper and sells for $8 a quart and $16 a liter.
You'll find them on Saturday at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market and on Sunday at the Sebastopol Farmers Market.
Jason Taylor of Physis Foods offers eight different stocks at the markets he attends, though not all at one time. Roasted vegetable, roasted chicken and beef are his most frequently offered stocks but he also occasionally has lamb, goat, pork and fish. This week, he'll be making mushroom stock.
Taylor prepares everything on the spot in his mobile kitchen at each market he attends, with ingredients almost exclusively from the specific market; spices, salt and vinegar are the only items not from the market.
Physis Foods attends four farmers markets each week: the Petaluma Eastside Farmers Market on Tuesday, the Santa Rosa Community Market on Wednesday and Saturday, and the Sonoma Valley Farmers Market on Friday. Stocks range in price from $3.25 to $4 for 16 ounces and $8 to $9.50 for 48 ounces. The stocks are packed in heat-sealed zip-close bags.
If you know you want to pick up stock at your farmers market, it's a good idea to bring something to put it in. The Bone Broth Co.'s stocks are hot, so you don't want to carry them or put them in the same bag as produce or foods that need to be kept cold. I recommend a sturdy thermal bag.
Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. Email Jordan at email@example.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.