Take a gastronomic day trip to Franklin County, Pennsylvania

Reed Hellman

via Trickling Springs Creamery on Facebook

Pennsylvania’s Franklin County offers an ideal gastronomic destination. Fewer than two hours from Baltimore and Washington, its distinctive culinary culture combines Pennsylvania German, Scots-Irish, and burgeoning Hispanic flavors. Straddling the Cumberland Valley, the county has also chosen to retain its traditional agricultural focus, resulting in a broad palate of fresh produce, dairy, and other farm products supporting a host of specialty vendors.

Trickling Springs Creamery, east of Chambersburg on Route 30, has the look of an old-fashioned country creamery and ice cream parlor, but manager Joe Miller explained their market stretches from Florida to Connecticut and west to Ohio, consuming 575,000 pounds of milk every week.

“We buy quality milk from local farmers,” he said. “We offer a certified organic line of products and non-GMO. We have 29 organic farms within a two-hour radius. We even offer our milk in returnable glass bottles.”

Along with milk, cream, and cheese, Trickling Springs has a local reputation for award-winning ice cream, with flavors such as buttered sweet corn and sweet potato pie pushing ice cream’s frontiers.

Whispering Brook Cheese Haus, in Hampton Township’s pastoral countryside, offers another kind of dairy operation. Cheesemaker Ed Brechvill makes a dozen kinds of all-natural cheddar cheeses. He uses whole milk from local dairies and ages all of his cheeses at least 60 days. He specializes in cheddars and his “… animals are naturally pastured and don’t use any growth hormones.”

In the city

Franklin County’s largest city, Chambersburg, boasts an active downtown encompassing a mix of new and third-generation family businesses, and a taste for public artworks.

Olympia Candies, on Main Street, is a classic, family-owned candy shop, specializing in such delicacies as handmade truffles, hand-dipped chocolate strawberries, kettle-cooked caramel, and even chocolate-covered bacon. The pastries at C&C Coffee can abet any sweet tooth, and the coffee is freshly roasted and carefully brewed.

The folks at Roy Pitz Brewing Company craft a different potation. “There is a tradition of beer making in this area,” said brewmaster Ryan Richards. “We have the best clean, limestone water.”

Jim’s Farmers Market, on Grant Street, serves as an interface between the town and surrounding farms. Market manager Paul Clemmer calls it “… an old world market. Much is directly from the producers, and many things are made and baked right at the market.”

Jim’s is very country and homey, not at all hyped or flashy. More than 25 vendors crowd this one-time railroad roundhouse, offering fresh produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods, confections, health and beauty products, and a host of snacks, munchies, and other goodies. Market specialties include country ham sandwiches, fresh baked garlic pretzels (a Paul Clemmer favorite), seasonal pies and pastries, and roast beef served on a hoagie roll that will melt in your mouth.

Martin’s Famous Pastry Shoppe Inc. stands as Franklin County’s culinary giant. Known for its signature potato rolls, Martin’s makes the country’s No. 1 branded roll in the U.S. The Franklin County plant employs 650 people and turns out 350 rolls each minute.

Julie Martin, part of the family’s third generation in the business, enjoys telling visitors how her grandparents started the bakery in a converted garage. They then drove their products to farmers markets by removing the back seat from their family car.

Insider tip: Franklin County’s Annual IceFest, Jan. 26–29, offers an excellent opportunity to explore the region. Held in downtown Chambersburg, the festival has a reputation for exciting culinary events, along with food and art vendors on the town square throughout the weekend.


Franklin Fresh Recipe:

Seedy Bread

Courtesy of Janet Pollard, Franklin County Convention and Visitors Bureau

  • 2 1/2 cups warm water (105 F to 115 F)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 envelope dry yeast
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 3/4 cup toasted mix of sunflower seeds,
  • flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 1/2 cups (about) bread flour

Mix warm water and honey in large bowl. Sprinkle yeast over, let stand until foamy.

Add whole wheat flour, seeds (reserving 1/4 cup), wheat germ, oil, and salt. Mix well and form dough. Add bread flour as necessary to create a smooth elastic dough. Knead 5 to 7 minutes. Cover dough and let rest 15 minutes. Knead additional 5 minutes and put into an oiled bowl and top with a capful of olive oil. Let rise about 1 hour.

Turn out and divide into two loaves and place in loaf pans. Let rise 45 minutes.

Drizzle olive oil on top of loaves and divide remaining 1/4 cup of seeds between loaves.

Bake at 375 F for 30 to 40 minutes. Loaf will be golden and sound hollow when tapped.

Reed Hellman is a professional writer living in Alberton, Md. Visit reedhellmanwordsmith.com or email rhway2go@yahoo.com.

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