Fall for These 5 Hudson Valley Craft Foods
What makes a food a “craft” food? It’s definitely about great taste, but it’s even more about the time-honored process by which it is made, the care with which ingredients are selected and grown, and the pride the craftsperson takes in the quality of the finished product.
From bean-to-bar chocolate and maple syrup to handmade cheeses and whiskey, New York’s Hudson Valley food community has gained serious momentum as the region has become home to more artists, craftsmen, and agricultural enthusiasts. Drawing on its own rich bounty and New York City’s thriving food scene, the Valley is fostering a local artisanal revolution.
While companies like Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Coach Farm goat cheese have helped put the region on the culinary map, there are hundreds of Hudson Valley producers and farms focused on creating artisanal food products. Here are just a few of them:
Sprout Creek Farm, Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, Nettle Meadow Farm, and Twin Maple Farm all create award-winning cheeses that local restaurants and grocery stores proudly feature. Not only do these producers have a commitment to the local community, but many also share an educational goal, regularly hosting farm tours and encouraging customers to become engaged, knowledgeable consumers. Some even offer hands-on cheese-making classes. This type of transparency—understanding how the products are made; what kind of cows, goats, or sheep the milk came from; and the producer’s farming practices—is one aspect of Hudson Valley artisanal products that make them so appealing.
#2—Hand-tapped Maple Syrup
Crown Maple at Madava Farms offers maple tours every weekend and opens up the farm to the public for tastings and tapping demonstrations during maple season. The 1,500-acre farm has more than 25,000 maple trees that are tapped individually, by hand. All of the sap is processed and boiled down into syrup within 18 hours of collection to ensure that the product is as fresh as possible. This attention to integrity and quality is common among the producers of artisan products.
Connecting to the region’s history and reintroducing old-world traditions is also popular among artisans. Before Prohibition, more than 1,000 farm distillers produced alcohol from New York grains and fruits. In 2005, Tuthilltown Spirits brought the tradition of small-batch spirit production back to the Hudson Valley. Not only are all of their spirits made by hand, one batch at a time, but their ingredients are sourced locally. The vodka is made from apples grown fewer than five miles away, their Half-Moon Gin uses New York State wheat, and the distillery’s Hudson Whiskey line uses grain harvested by farmers from less than 10 miles away. Other producers like Hillrock Estate Distillery, Denning’s Point Distillery, and Dutch’s Spirits have followed Tuthilltown’s lead. Many are located on historic properties that the owners have brought back to life with tributes to their histories.
Dutch’s Spirits is named for iconic bootlegger Dutch Schultz and is located at the mobster’s Prohibition–era complex of tunnels, bunkers, and hidden stills. Its line of signature bitters reflects the land and tells stories of particular time periods. The Colonial Cocktail Bitters incorporate flavors introduced to early settlers by Native Americans, including American spicebush and kinnikinnick, a smoking product made from a mixture of various leaves and bark. Its ProhiBitters include flavors inspired by bathtub gin (licorice, hibiscus, and ginger root) and its Boomtown Bitters have notes of sarsaparilla, wintergreen, coconut, and oak to reflect the flavors of the whiskies of nineteenth-century mining boomtowns.
#5—Wine, Confections, and So Much More
(OK, that makes more than five, but who’s counting?) Artisan products and producers are unique and interesting for so many reasons—the interaction with the community, the use of local ingredients, and the respect for the area’s history are just a few. Whether it’s wine from Millbrook Winery or Whitecliff Vineyard embodying the regional terroir or handcrafted caramels from Fruition Chocolate made with bourbon from Tuthilltown Spirits, the Hudson Valley artisans who make these products and so many others reconnect all of us to local ingredients and remind us to take pride in our crafts.
By Howie Velie, CEC, CHE and Marissa Sertich Velie ’10, CPC
Award-winning Certified Executive Chef Howie Velie is associate dean of culinary arts at the CIA.
CIA graduate Marissa Sertich Velie has a master’s degree in food studies from New York University. She is a food writer and Certified Pastry Culinarian.