Stacy gets ready to dig into fresh apple fritters.

Oh, to be in Toronto right now, where the temperatures are in the 80s (okay, the 30s, if you’re a stickler for Celsius and clueless about Fahrenheit). Here, we’ve been caught in the grip of devil rain for a week, with no end in sight. It’s downright depressing and I worry about all the veggie seedlings – rainbow chard, sugar snap peas, bush beans, beets, carrots, squashes, mizuna and other greens – that may drown if this doesn’t stop. And the heritage tomato plants are still in their cold frame, looking healthy and sturdy but quickly outgrowing their pots and sure to turn blue if taken out of their comfy little shelter in this weather.

I’m ready for happier thoughts though, which is why when I heard about Toronto’s current heat wave, I was reminded of our visit there in late April (no heat waves then, but nice weather nonetheless). Our favourite eastern rellies, Stacy and Dean, took me on a road trip to St. Jacob’s Farmers Market in the heart of Mennonite country. It’s in the Waterloo-Kitchener area about an hour’s drive from the big city.

Outside the main market buildings, numerous vendors were selling fresh fruits and vegetables, most of them imports as the growing season was just starting. I did see fresh wild garlic – or ramps, as they are called locally – and lots of  local maple syrup. In summer, I’m told, there’s a huge selection of local fruits and vegetables available there, but truth be told, we had come for a more wicked treat: the market’s famous fresh apple fritters.

Oh my, they were good. There’s always a lineup for them, but it goes quickly enough and the anticipation just makes the prize that much more delectable: fresh apple slices dipped in batter, deep fried, and dusted with cinnamon sugar. You can, if you want, go crazy and have them topped with ice cream, something I might have done in a heat wave. But I wanted the pure experience and it was heavenly; the crust crispy and sweet, the apple cooked just enough to be softly toothsome but not mushy.

When I’m traveling, I also like to see what local growers and producers are offering and found one booth inside the main market loaded to the gunnels with smoked summer sausages made by A.F. Weber Summer Sausage of Wallenstein, Ont. It’s a fabulous product, meaty and savoury, with just the right amount of smoke and salt. I couldn’t resist buying a whole sausage — about a kilo — which I shared with Dean and Stacy before shrink-wrapping my portion so it wouldn’t perfume my entire suitcase with the smell of smoke. I didn’t see much in the way of local cheeses, but found one booth which carried a  selection of sheep and goat cheeses from Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. I’m partial to sheep cheeses, so we tasted several samples and were also offered a slice of similar French cheese for comparison. The FT cheeses compared quite favourably. I took home a chunk of Bonnie & Floyd, described as a “Saint Paulin style washed rind cheese” and a chunk of Wishing Tree, a “First Place Winner at The COCA British Empire Cheese Competition. Hard cheese. Dense, slightly nutty, and complex with mineral accents.” Needless to say, both disappeared quickly once we got them home.

There are also several antique malls near the farm market complex and though traveling by air meant I couldn’t go overboard with purchases, I always enjoy browsing through old kitchen items and found some beautiful blue Crown canning jars for a couple of bucks each.

All in all, it was a fine way to spend a day away from the city and see what rural Ontario has to offer.

The market is open Thursdays and Saturdays all year and on Tuesdays as well from June 15 to Aug. 31. And if you’re planning to head out there for a visit, save room for those fritters!