Can I make award-winning chili at the winter farmer’s market?

Written by: Carly Ubersox

One of my family’s favorite things to do in the summer is visit the farmer’s markets.  Live music, locally crafted foods, a vendor who has become our friend, and I love to expose my kids to it all.  We love Chicago’s Green City Market – it’s one of the city’s biggest and it promotes local, sustainably grown foods.  They also have great kids programs, Sprouts Club and Edible Gardens, where my toddlers have had a chance to touch and taste seasonal produce they may otherwise shy away from.  My 4-year-old is a know-it-all when it comes to what is in season at any given time of year…the same kid also knows she can have locally made artisan ice cream for breakfast when it’s a particularly hot day at the market (thanks Snookelfritz!)

You may wonder, however, is there really anything worth buying at a farmer’s market in the middle of winter?  Recently I took time to really explore the winter offerings while researching ingredients for my tried and true turkey chili recipe.  You see, Green City Market, based temporarily at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, is holding a superbowl chili contest this weekend and I’ve been chosen to compete against four others. The task at hand: use ingredients from the market itself, with some minor off-season exceptions. 

Excited for the chance to secure “official” bragging rights for my chili, I let my husband keep our kids busy with Zullo’s doughnuts, cheese samples and apples, and I actually paid attention to each vendor.  Without spending a fortune (I think my total spending was less than $40), I bought organic beans, onions, garlic, dried herbs and dried hot peppers, jarred tomatoes, and fresh ground turkey for my chili.  And, there was much more that caught my undistracted eye, including my favorite year-round vendor Crumb (egg-free artisan breads that are so incredible).  If it wasn’t for this chili contest, I may not have taken the time to really discover all that the winter market offers!

A few tips for visiting the indoor farmer’s market:

  • Bring cash. Many vendors can only accept cash, although there are a few that can accept credit, so plan accordingly. 
  • Go early.  It’s less crowded, less picked over and the parking is easier. 
  • Ask questions.  Which apple is best for baking?  What’s the best way to cook a rutabaga?  What do you use micro-greens for?
  • Get caffeinated.  Some markets offer coffee for a dollar or two, so skip Starbucks and support local brewers. 
  • Come hungry.  You can buy all sorts of things to eat on the spot, plus sample almost everything from honey and cheese to apples and pears, so bring napkins and sippy cups just in case. 

The Green City Market Superbowl Chili Contest is this Saturday, Feb. 4 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Green City Market at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.  Admission is FREE. Stop by and explore the market – treat the kids to something organic, local and sustainable.  Oh, and don’t forget to vote for your favorite chili (will it be mine?)!  Stay tuned for what will hopefully be my winning recipe...

Here's my recipe - Happy cooking!

Posted on February 01, 2012 at 8:57 PM