The first thing I find myself doing prior to setting foot in a new city or town is finding out where the local farmer’s market may be. Many times it was in our favour thanks to the market being a permanent fixture, or that we happened to be in town on the day it was operating. With Lancaster’s Central Market being open on Tuesday, Friday & Saturday, we had a chance to get a taste of America’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market.
Whilst there may have been a market on the same site since the 1730’s, the current Victorian brick and terracotta structure went up in the late 1800’s. It’s a meeting place for locals, it’s a place to grab food-stuffs for home, and it’s a window into the kitchens of the Amish.
It was perfect timing when we found these guys. Mean Cup. They’re open to having a discussion about espresso, they tell it like it is and they do a pretty mean espresso and macchiato. I love their “no shit” attitude; something that reminds me of the folk in Philadelphia.
Central Market may be predominantly food-centric, but there is the occasional Amish stand that peddles quilts, cushions and any local stitched crafts.
And then there’s the food. Fresh produce, meats, spices, baked goods, Middle Eastern and Mexican foods. It’s here that you can grab your Amish preserves and pickles, as well. Including the well-known chow chow, those pickled vegetables that they do oh-so well. Pennsylvania Dutch sausages, scrapple (a “meatloaf” consisting of meat scraps and cornmeal) and headcheese.
Another thing the Amish excel in is sweet pastry. Fruity, sticky baked goods that attract any sweet tooth to their wares. Case in point – The maple & bacon longjohns from the Shady Maple stand. How could I not? It’s very much an éclair topped with icing and crispy bacon. All your breakfast needs in a few sugary bites.
It was here that I sampled my very first genuine wet-bottomed shoofly pie, from Zig’s Bakery. For those uninitiated, it’s a molasses pie that’s still a bit sticky on the bottom. I made my own version here, something that was quite sweet, but I was surprised to find the Zig’s shoofly wasn’t as loaded with sugar as I’d expected.