We tend to think of farmers markets as a source for locally grown tomatoes and corn, sweet and pristine berries picked that morning, and root vegetables still caked with moist soil. So a farmers market in Pennsylvania steel and coal country, in December, would turn up little of interest, right? Not so!
The Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market is a meat-eater’s mecca, a carnival for carnivores, a festival of flesh, a … well, you get the idea, there’s some good meat to be found here. Particularly interesting is the selection of various locally processed and smoked meats. We picked up some of the meatiest slab bacon we’ve ever seen (cooked, it was extraordinary), along with an assortment of the local ring bologna.
There are regional specialties like souse and scrapple, all homemade. Even for area residents familiar with the blocks of Habbersett scrapple sold in supermarkets, it is fascinating to see all the different varieties of scrapple available here, along with arcana like liver pudding and sliced tripe and homemade headcheese.
There’s plenty to eat on the spot, too. We had some warm, homemade pierogi with sautéed onions from a stand that also sold some of the most tempting chicken pies imaginable. Savory pies, not just chicken but corn and cheese also, are to be found all over the market, as is that sweet local specialty, shoofly pie.
We saw some incredible-looking giant stuffed pork chops, two bones thick and softball-shaped, cooked and ready for devouring then and there, or to cook at home. Generous samples of the butchers’ wares are available too, and it’s fun tasting and learning about the differences between the various smoked sausages and ring bolognas.
There’s much, much more available: homemade jams and jellies (we picked up some locally prepared horseradish), bakeries, produce stands, doughnuts, a fish market, a poultry market, Italian food, flea-market-type stands, and the list just goes on and on. There’s even a full supermarket at one end of the large brick exhibition building which houses the market. The merchants are country-store helpful, and prices are amazingly low.
The market is open from Thursday through Saturday. We wouldn’t dream of passing through Allentown when the market’s open without stopping at this Pennsylvania treasure.1825 West Chew Street Allentown PA 18104 610-432-8425 Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market’s Website Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market on Facebook