Fresh from the Farmers’ Market: Pork Chops and Sweet Tater Tots

I love shopping at farmers’ markets and eating local. For those of you who have read the stories I share on these digital pages, or the words I write between the covers of Charlotte Living magazine; and for those of you who follow me on my social media feeds, you already know that each and every Saturday morning finds me at a local farmers’ markets stocking up for cooking classes, catering jobs and the food my husband Tom and I eat every day.

UPDATED - NCDASo when an opportunity popped up to work  for my friends at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture promoting locally raised North Carolina pork at local regional markets, I jumped at the chance to be involved.

While I am being compensated for this post, the words, recipes and opinions and the choice of the farmer featured here are my own; and am delighted to be representing Charlotte as one of five bloggers from across the state in this sponsored promotion featuring North Carolina farmers who raise pork and sell at Regional State Farmers’ Markets.

This promotion affords me an opportunity  to share the story  of North Carolina farmers Jamie and Sara Jane Davis of A Way of Life Farm in Bostic NC – a regular Saturday morning stop for me at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market.

As luck would have it Jamie and Sara Jane not only raise pork, but a slew of certified organic veggies as well, making their booth at the market a one-stop-shop and a quick answer to the question of whats for dinner tonight?

This time of year, the list of seasonal certified organic vegetables at A Way of Life Farm includes a half dozen or so varieties of sweet potatoes! One variety in particular, “Sunshine” is a species specific to their farm and I’ve used these certified organic sweet potatoes in a fun family favorite recipe for sweet potato tots to go with the chops or to enjoy as a snack all on their own!

IMG_3615My recipe for Molasses and Mustard Marinated pork chops has become one of my favorite local pork recipes – you’ll find it at the end of this post.

It’s a recipe I shared on television recently with Charlotte Today hosts Colleen Odegaard and Eugene Robinson in Charlotte on October 6, 2017.   It’s a crowd pleaser for sure and its been time tested and taste approved  with my cooking class students and catering clients as well!

It all starts with the delicious pork from A Way of Life Farm and my hope is that it will inspire your menu planning for this season and for the seasons to come, as local pork like all local meat are available all year round.

Before I share a bit about the farm, the details of the pork chop recipe and a fun side dish for sweet potato tots – I thought you’d like to see the video from the segment on Charlotte Today…

On the Farm at A Way of Life

For Jamie and Sara Jane, the way they raise the pigs is important, as is the way they raise all the certified organic crops they cultivate, feed their family and sell to consumers. It is their belief that pigs raised on pasture and woodland,  able to root, dig, and run, are healthier and happier animals; and the fact that these animals have access to sunlight, fresh air, exercise, and wild nutrients make the resulting meat more nutritious than many conventional products.

IMG_1262At any one time you’ll find a dozen or so pigs and piglets roaming the woods up behind the cultivated certified organic fields at A Way Of Life. The pigs wander the woods eating acorns and bark and their natural diet is supplemented with soy-free certified organic feed.

The result is pork with truly exceptional flavor and texture, so marinades such as the one I offer today are only needed to provide flavors to enhance the already spectacular  taste and the melt-in-your-mouth texture.

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Shop Regional and Local North Carolina Farmers’ Markets all year long…

With the change in seasons, many consumers forget that farmers don’t just produce in the spring and summer. Local farmers and ranchers farm and ranch all year long, through snow and rain and wind and hail.

At A Way of Life Farm, Sara Jane and Jamie live on the farm, and the “yard” that surrounds there home is all farm land yielding seasonal crops that range this time of year from all sorts of leafy greens, ginger, turmeric, broccoli, and more to a half dozen varieties of sweet potatoes.

Every week they work the land and take care of the pigs on the farm; then they regularly  harvest produce on Friday and load up the truck to ready themselves for the Saturday morning 5 am start time to head from Bostic to the Charlotte Regional Market. The market opens at 8 am and Jamie and Sara Jane and their crew are there until 1 or so in the afternoon, but the best selection of pork and veggies from A Way of Life are to be had before noontime.

IMG_3617-1The Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market is one of four regional Farmers Markets owned by the State of North Carolina and operated by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. These regional Farmers Markets are strategically located across the state to serve North Carolina farmers, both large and small and make shopping local easy for area consumers who support North Carolina agriculture, our state’s largest industry.

The Charlotte Regional Farmers Market is located at 1801 Yorkmont Road and is easily accessible from South Tryon Street, Tyvola Road, I-77, and I-85. Farmers and vendors at the market are spread out in four different buildings and you’ll find A Way of Life Farm in Building A, on the right hand side just as you enter from the parking lot. You’ll see all the seasonal veggies, but go to the table set up in front of their truck for the pork.

Meat is much harder to display than all the colorful produce – Its all frozen in coolers behind the counter and at A Way of Life Farm it is portion packaged, so you have your choice of cuts, sizes and quantities.  Don’t leave the market without purchasing enough pork for at least one meal, believe me, after you taste, you will thank me for the sound advice.

The selection of  available pork cuts at A Way of Life Farm, varies each week as do the seasonal vegetables. When you are at their booth, sign up for their weekly newsletter to help keep you in the know and up-to-date with what you will find at the market each week.

And now, thanks to a grant from Farmers Market Coalition, A Way of Life Farm is set up to accept SNAP benefits at the Charlotte Farmers’ Market and for on-farm sales. This makes it possible for even more people to enjoy the benefits of eating local. Jamie and Sara Jane asked me to help spread the word and I hope you will as well.

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In the recipe below I’ve featured the chops; but this recipe will also works well with a loin roast, boneless loin chops, pork shanks and a pork shoulder roast – those cuts will just take a bit more time to cook.

I hope you enjoy my recipe for what I think are some of the most delicious pork chops you’ll ever eat, and the accompanying recipe for my homemade sweet potato tots to go with…

But wait, that’s not all…

If my recipes whet your palate for more ways to eat local pork, then visit these other blog posts featuring recipes using more North Carolina Pork from farms around the state…

Got To Be NC Pork at Your Local NC Farmers Market

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Heidi Billotto’s Mustard & Molasses Marinated NC Pork Chops from A Way Of Life Farm

4-6 local bone-in pork chops from A Way of Life Farm in Bostic NC available at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market on Yorkmont Road on Saturday mornings

For the marinade:
1 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp. Olive Crate Kores Estate extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2  bay leaves
1 cup of your favorite whole grain mustard

1 cup local molasses
6 juniper berries, lightly bruised or 1/4 cup gin

Marinate the chops for up to an hour at room temp or longer in the refrigerator, turning it occasionally. Remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature before cooking.

Transfer the chops to a roasting pan or Dutch Oven; cover and bake,  in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or so.

Uncover and broil  just to crisp the outside of the chops, taking care not to burn the marinade.

And because man and woman cannot live on pork chops alone (although it is tempting to try)…. I offer a fun sweet potato side to the chops…

chops and tots

A Way of Life Farm “Sunshine” Sweet Tater Tots

2 lbs. A Way of Life Farm “Sunshine” Sweet potatoes or any other dry flesh variety, peeled

1/4 cup self rising flour

1 Tbsp. sweet paprika

1 tsp. granulated garlic

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. sugar

Heidi’s Hot Pepper Blend ( a mix of pink and black peppercorns) to taste

1 cup organic Canola oil

Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and cook until parboiled, about 6-7 minutes; drain well and let cool.

IMG_7722Using a hand grater, finely shred potatoes. Using a clean dish towel, gently pat the potatoes dry, removing as much water as possible. Gently spread the grated potatoes on the dish towel and sprinkle with the flour; then season with the granulated garlic, paprika, onion powder, seasoning salt and pepper, to taste. The mixture should be soft but dry. Gently scoop up the seasoned potatoes, place the mix into a bowl and then gently shape into  “tots” , taking care not to squeeze them too put as you mold them into shape.

Heat vegetable oil in a large Cast Iron Skillet over medium heat. I find the cast iron skillet holds the heat better and eliminates the need for more than about an inch of oil.

Add tots to the oil, 5 or 6 at a time, and cook until evenly golden and crispy, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a Wire Cake Rack to drain, re-season if you would like and enjoy!.

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For more great all local recipes come and join in the fun at one of Heidi’s Hands-on cooking classes; then call your friends and make your reservations today! #TellThemHeidiSentYou

7 comments

  1. Grateful to have such wonderful farmers in NC. And these recipes are exactly what I need to celebrate the arrival of fall. Can’t wait to give them a try!

  2. Heidi, what a wonderful post! And it is so wonderful that A Way of Life can now accept SNAP. We have to make fresh, local food available to everyone, regardless of income. So great!

    And this pork. Dang–I can imagine these big flavors! Thanks so much for being a part of this and for your awesome spot on WCNC!

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