Forage for Thanksgiving in Central New Jersey

Forage for Thanksgiving in Central New Jersey

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Holiday trips in the family car while growing up in the 1970s often featured my mother leading the family in singing “Over the River and through the Woods,” a holiday poem and song written by a prominent abolitionist in 1844. It goes this way:

“Over the river, and through the woods, To Grandmother’s house we go; the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow.”

Early snowfalls are rarer today, but otherwise the spirit of an old-fashioned holiday journey is very much alive in Central Jersey, home to dozens of farms, farm markets, and beverage makers, just an hour’s journey by car, bus, or rail from New York and Philadelphia. Make Discover Central NJ your guide to the Garden State’s holiday bounty.

Crossing the D&R Canal will get you to many Central Jersey Farms

Whether you are crossing the mighty Hudson or Delaware rivers from a major city, or just crossing the Millstone or Raritan rivers from a nearby town, Central Jersey’s Canal Region is the perfect holiday season destination.   Stock up on a bounty of traditional holiday foods and beverages, including a heritage breed turkey for Thanksgiving, an old fashioned Christmas goose, a holiday ham, or a wide assortment of prepared side dishes, fruit pies, local wines and spirits, and gift baskets.

You can make a full day or a weekend of your holiday foraging in Central Jersey by rounding out your itinerary with stops at farm-to-table restaurants, breweries, historic sites, recreation areas, cultural destinations, and hotels.

Double Book Farm in Hopewell and Griggstown Farm in Franklin Township pasture-raise heritage breeds of turkeys, the most similar to what was available to the Pilgrims, making them the perfect center piece to your holiday table.

Double Brook Farm and its retail outlet Brick Farm Market are focused on raising turkeys and other livestock ethically.  Turkeys are bred, incubated, hatched, and nurtured until late spring, when they are let out to forage. They eat grubs, bugs and grasses and their foraged diet is supplemented by a non-GMO, feed grown locally by Zeng Family Farm in Ringoes. Turkeys are harvested the weekend before Thanksgiving and sold fresh, never frozen. Advance orders are strongly recommended. To order a turkey or other holiday fixings, visit the Brick Farm Market website.  The farm and market also offer locally pastured beef roasts and holiday hams.

Griggstown Farm is well known throughout the tristate region for its “Griggstown chicken” offered by high-end restaurants. They raise a very wide variety of poultry in a historic canal village, including turkeys, goose, ducks, pheasants, and quail.  Griggstown Farm has been praised by the USDA National Resources Conversation Service for sustainable farming practices, including composting of manure waste to reduce runoff and provide nutrients to vegetable crops. The farm’s mandatory holiday pre-order system offers multiple pick up locations, including the train station at Bernardsville and HeadHouse Market in Philadelphia. Bourbon breed turkeys at Griggstown Farm are similar to what the Pilgrims ate.

Farms offering a variety of holiday season goods

Central Jersey’s holiday bounty is also available at these on-farm markets:

  • Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse is best known for its unique approach to regenerative agriculture and cheese making practices, based near the Delaware River in Milford. They also make a wide variety of brick oven breads.
  • Cherry Grove Farm is best known for its cheeses made from locally raised cows on a large dairy farm in Lawrenceville. Its market also sells a variety of local foods and beverages from other farms and wineries.
  • Hidden Spring Lavender Farm in Skillman is open weekends and offers a wide variety of holiday gift options made with lavender, including plush animals, lotions, fragrances, and products made from the wool of its adorable alpacas.
  • Hillsboro Farm Market is open daily and offers a wide variety of fruit pies, jarred goods, bakery items, Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables, and Christmas trees.
  • Now managed by the 12th generation of the family, Suydam Farms in Franklin is open weekends only, offering locally raised meat and vegetables, and Christmas trees and wreathes starting the day after Thanksgiving.
  • Even this late in the year, Terhune Orchards in Lawrenceville is open daily, offering a wide variety of its own apples, vegetables, herbs, many of which are certified organic. Terhune also makes apple cider, wine, fruit pies, other baked goods, and gift baskets.

New Jersey’s nickname, the Garden State, remains as meaningful as ever, particularly in the central part of the state that was settled three centuries ago by Dutch and English farmers. Many of those farms are still in the hands of the descendants of original farming families—to the good fortune of the rest of us.

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