GUELPH – The Christmas dinner is one of the most iconic on the calendar.
Typically a big spread, perhaps with family and friends gathered about, it is an indulgent capper to a celebration that is weeks – if not months – in the making. But falling where it does on the calendar – after the first day of winter and well into the cold days of the Canadian year, it may seem like a challenge to get local food into the feast. But that isn’t necessarily the case.
“There are always local food options available, even when the temperatures drop and snow flies,” says Peggy Brekveld, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. “The harvest may be over and the fields dormant, but there is more to Ontario food than market produce from a field.”
Ontario farmers grow or raise some 200 different commodities. The OFA encourages you to them during the holiday season by filling your plates with an array of Ontario’s home grown products.
Appetizer choices are abundant. Ontario cheese and cured meats are a good starter. A vegetable tray could feature fresh raw veggies like carrots and greenhouse peppers and cucumbers.
Stuffed mushrooms are also a great warm up snack before the big meal; stuff the mushroom cap with a mixture of cream cheese, cheddar and local artichoke hearts (bake at 400°F for about 25 minutes or until the mixture is warm and bubbly).
For side dishes, there are a wide range of vegetables grown in Ontario and pickled, canned or frozen at their peak of summer freshness, so that they are available to be served year round, including tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, sweet corn, carrots and more. There are also veggies from cold storage or greenhouses available in the produce aisle. Ontario potatoes, mashed or scalloped, are a staple on the Christmas plate.
For the main course Ontario-raised meat and poultry is never out of season. Traditional with a turkey, other poultry or, for those looking to looking to diversify, ham or beef as a secondary option, can all come from a local farm. Ontario turkeys are high in flavour, low in fat and packed with nutrients. And all Ontario turkeys are raised in free roam conditions without the use of added hormones or steroids. Learn more about Ontario turkey and how to ensure the bird you choose is local at ontarioturkey.ca.
No matter if it is beverages for the adults or quenchers for the kids, there are local options for drinks.
Every grape in a bottle of Ontario VQA wine comes from an Ontario vineyard. Ontario ciders are made with Ontario apples, Canadian whisky is made from Canadian grains and craft beers may contain locally grown hops. Look for apple juice or grape juice made with local fruits, and the milk in your local store most certainly originates from an Ontario dairy farm.
If in question about a local food — where to find it, how to cook it — check Foodland Ontario’s availability guide for a full list of Ontario produce.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture is the largest general farm organization in Ontario, representing 38,000 farm families.
As a farmer-led organization based in Guelph, the OFA works to represent and champion the interests of Ontario farmers through government relations, farm policy recommendations, research, lobby efforts, community representation, media relations and more.
For more information, visit ofa.on.ca.