Now that Thanksgiving is over, I feel I finally have the time to start thinking about the Christmas menu and gifts.

Thankfully, high tunnels and caterpillar tunnels, which are easier and cheaper to construct than traditional greenhouses, have made it possible for many local farmers to continue to produce cool- season crops throughout the winter. Salad mixes, kale, carrots, beets, Asian greens, radishes, microgreens, herbs and much more can be enjoyed, and farmers can benefit from the extra revenue.

Roast some acorn squash, grab some local goat cheese and candied pecans or walnuts and you have a killer salad. Try the sorghum-apple-butter-dressing recipe below to take advantage of two other local flavors, to really make the salad special. You’ll find these and much more at the Hickory Winter Market, Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Hickory Soup Kitchen, 110 Second St. Place SE in Hickory.

At the winter market, you’ll also find a variety of other products such as mushrooms (shiitakes, lion’s mane and oysters), persimmon pulp for making persimmon pudding, handcrafted teas, honey, breads, and baked goods to brighten up your holiday table. There are also many locally crafted gifts available, such as soaps, lotions, soy candles, knitted wool accessories and yarn, cutting boards, greeting cards, and more.

If you’re looking for a protein source for your meal, there is a variety of local products available. At the winter market you’ll find lamb, chicken, beef, veal and pork. Packages of different cuts are also available to help with all your holiday entertaining or to offer as gifts. Sausages, bratwursts, chorizo, andouille, milano salami and sweet sopressata make great gifts or easy entertaining. This is also a good time to check in with local protein producers for purchasing half or whole animals for a year’s worth of meals.

This has been a great year for new local food businesses. Several farm stores have opened in Catawba County and are offering gifts and local foods for the holidays.

Devine Farm Store, 2675 St. James Church Road in Newton, has many wonderful, unique, handmade gifts available as well as local meats, milk, baked goods, honey and more. Hours are Monday through Friday, 2-6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sunflower Market at Catawba Farms is at 400 Technibuilt Drive in Newton and is open Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The farm store features wines, ciders, cheese, honey and other artisan products. It also sources its produce from local farmers.

Burton Farms General Store located at 425 Conover Blvd., Conover, is open seven days a week: Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It features a variety of locally sourced produce, meats, jams, jellies, pickles and more as well as unique gifts.

Keep an eye out for the 2020 Catawba County Local Foods Guide coming out in February. It will be available at the Cooperative Extension Center at 1175 S. Brady Ave. Newton, as well as the Hickory Winter Market and other businesses featuring local foods and products.

You can access our mobile-friendly version at catawbacountyfood.weebly.com for up-to-date information on how to locate local meats, produce and other products. If you are interested in having your business listed in the guide, contact April Vigardt at Cooperative Extension at 828-465-8240.

Sorghum/ Apple Butter Vinaigrette

½ cup sorghum syrup

½ cup apple-cider vinegar

2 teaspoons grated onion, shallots or garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ cup olive oil

3-4 tablespoons apple butter

Whisk all ingredients together or put into a pint jelly jar and shake. If it’s too thin, add another spoonful of the apple butter. It’s great on salads but also good on roasted vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes.

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