The annual Best of Missouri Market is an expo of more than 100 homegrown and homemade products, with live music, cooking demonstrations and food samples galore, that may surprise you. The variety of gourmet foods and crafts your neighbors are creating is impressive.
You can buy packaged candies, cider, jellies, pies, chocolates, pickles, meats, marinades, honeys, salsas, breads, wines, sodas and juices to take home, along with concessions to eat there. Children will enjoy the Kids' Corner, where they can milk a cow, construct wooden birdhouses and visit the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile. The Historic Shaw Art Fair is going on right next door, too, so the cluster of humanity and vehicles along Shaw Boulevard, Flora Place and Tower Grove Avenue will be thick.
One of most interesting stories at the vendors' Market is that of Jennifer and Ken Muno. The couple met ten years ago while working together at a cheese shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan, after which they decided to quit and pursue their dream: making goat cheese. They now own the thriving Goatsbeard Farm dairy in Harrisburg, Missouri, fifteen miles northwest of Columbia, where they milk 35 goats twice a day.
The Munos process the cheese right next to the pasture, turning out plain, garlic, chipotle-pepper, herb and ground-black-pepper flavors. The crafty goats, who are "so smart that it's hard to keep 'em contained," says Jennifer, must be pregnant to give milk. So when Jennifer says that she and her husband "have over a hundred kids every year, and we sell those," she's talking about baby goats.
Courtney Gaunt realized that the homemade mustard her grandmother served annually with the Christmas ham was so good that it could be bottled and sold -- and that's what she did. The younger Gaunt and husband Matt make Isabel's Country Mustard every Sunday in their commercial kitchen in Columbia. You've probably seen the sweet-hot condiment -- it's sold at many area supermarkets. The Gaunts use just four ingredients -- mustard flour, vinegar, eggs and sugar -- and cook the mustard in a 40-gallon steamjacket kettle. The mustard is "sweet when you first taste it and then it has a little bite to it," says Courtney. Every bottle has a picture of Grandma Isabel on the label.
When Russell Landrum and nephew Donnie Landrum drain sap from 200 maple trees in the winter, they get as much as two gallons a day from some of the bigger trees. When they cook it down, though, it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
The Landrums stoke the wood fire in their saunalike "sugar shack" from 7 a.m.-midnight daily, heating five-by-thirty-foot stainless-steel pans at least five inches deep with sap. Three days' worth of sap cooks down into twenty quarts of pure dark-amber maple syrup with no added ingredients.
The Landrums live on a street in Fulton, Missouri, named Landrum Drive. How can the rest of us get a thoroughfare named in our honor? "Be somebody," says Donnie. "Make syrup."
"We wanted Maple Drive," adds Russell, "but that was too common."