Charlotte’s Winter weather is at best unpredictable – could be cold, could be windy, could be rain, could be torrential rain, could be snow and it could be sunny and in the 70s.
Pretty much since the beginning of this year, Saturday mornings have been cold – or snowy – or raining. Not the kind of weather that makes you want to pop up out of that cozy bed and say I’ll think I’ll go stroll around the farmers’ market… but you should…
It is so easy in the Charlotte area to Shop Local from local vendors and local farmers – even in the winter months there are a plethora of food finds at local farmers’ markets – most of them meaty local proteins from pork and beef to rabbit, goat, elk, lamb and more.
Of course there is chicken and sustainable seafood as well, but we will leave those topics for another day.
It is my pleasure to join 2018 in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture to promote local proteins. As seasonal shopping is what its all about, this post kicks off a monthly series so you will know what’s available year round at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market on Yorkmont Road.
Look for the hashtag #MeatMeAtTheMarket on all of my social media feeds through the several months as I continue to share recipes, links to local farms who sell at the Charlotte market and more.
The Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market’s winter hours are Tuesday – Saturday 8-5pm. In the winter months ( that’s through the end of March) three main buildings are open with local and regional farmers as well as commodity vendors who sell product from neighboring farms and producers as well as regular grocery produce and product. Midweek you will find nearly all of the activity this time of year in the center enclosed building – Building B where the stalls of nearly all of the commodity vendors with produce, product and proteins are located.
Most of the action and certainly the vast majority of the local farmers come for the Saturday morning shopping crowd, and they are there setting up to open at 8 am despite the weather – rain, shine, ice or snow. Saturday mornings are also when most Charlotte area foodies take their lead from local chefs and go to shop for all they will need in the week ahead..
Any consumer or chef looking to “shop local” can easily consider the Charlotte Regional Market a one-stop shopping spot for just about every thing from grains to greens, flowers and soaps to coffee, tea, honey and sauces of all sorts. In addition, there is a plethora of local protein – the focus of this first of a series of blog post and the reason you will want to #MeatMeAtTheMarket this winter season and then on into the spring, summer and fall months, too!
At the market, each farmers has his or her own stall or booth to set up and display and he or she would like. For many of the local farmers in the open air Building A, the set up is minimal and is sometimes quite literally right off the back of their farm trucks.
For those who raise and sell local meat such as pork, beef, lamb, rabbit, and goat the set up is most often an array of large coolers – not nearly as eye catching or as sexy as tables of colorful seasonal produce which will start to arrive in the coming months, so you need to remember, its what’s inside those coolers that count.
Nearly all of the local meat products you’ll find at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market are frozen and vacuum-sealed to keep the meat at its freshest. There are always lots of cuts and an array of sizes and weights available and its easy to find what you are looking for.
#MeatMeAtTheMarket – Cooking with Local Rabbit
We’ll talk more about pork, beef and lamb in blog posts to come, but for this month, our topic is cooking with locally raised and harvested Got To Be NC Rabbit – a wonderful meat to cook, particularly in winter months and it is perfect for braising and boiling or a low and slow cooking technique which insures moist and tender results. it works beautifully in a crock pot or Instapot and the results can be served in a myriad of ways.
You may substitute rabbit in just about any recipe you have for chicken. My recipe for Paella, recently posted on these blog pages is a wonderful way to feature this delicious local dark meat – give it a try and see what you think. For the paella, you’ll need to braise or boil the rabbit first as is explained in the directions in several of the recipes below. Aside from the Paella use local rabbit as directed in the recipes below in a cream sauce over grits, stuffed into Ravioli and in a longstanding tomato and olive sauce with ancient Estruscan roots.
In the Farmer Spotlight this week, the three farms who sell local North Carolina raised rabbit at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market.
Clearview Farms in Lincolnton, NC
You’ll find farmers Duane and Cindy Digh and her team at Clearview Farms at the regional in Building A. In addition to their own pasture raised rabbit, Clearview also sells their own pasture raised pork, lamb and chicken as well as grass fed beef and free range eggs.
You can buy whole or half or quartered rabbits from Clearview and its easy to preorder via email so you’ll know it will be waiting for you when you come for your Saturday morning pick up. You can reach out to Cindy to place your advance order at ClearviewFarms@bellsouth.net or visit the farms website at myclearviewfarms.com to see what she will have in stock and learn about all that is happening at Clearview Farms in Lincolnton, NC.
All Natural Farms, LLC, Rutherfordton, NC
One of the unique features of the Regional market in Charlotte is the variety you will find. Inside Building B, farmers Lee and Kristi VanTine of All Natural Farms from has transformed their double booth space into a small market store of sorts and in addition to a lot of proteins also sells a tremendous amount of local product . In addition to their own farm raised grass fed Highland Beef, Lee and Kristi also sell Halal beef and chicken, pasture raised chicken, NC goat, beef and pork from Hickory Nut Gap farms near Asheville, and local and sustainable seafood.
The rabbit available at All Natural Farms is from Imladris Farms in Fairview NC near Asheville.
Imladris is probably best known for its jams, jellies and fruit butters – all also available at the All Natural farms booth at the regional market. As is the case on most local farms, its a symbiotic relationship here as the pasture raised rabbits help to fertilize the Imladris Farm fruit trees. Do try the recipe for creamed rabbit below ( my take on a recipe I first came across on the Clearview Farms website) finished with a dollop Imladris apple butter sauce – delicious!
While you are shopping for local proteins and product at the All Natural Farms farm store – be sure to pick up an insulated shopping bag and then bring in back with you as you shop in the weeks to come -you’ll get a 5 % discount off your entire purchase at All Natural Farms each time you bring your bag. For the entire list of all the products available each week at the All Natural Farms farm store – open Thursday – Sunday at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market, visit the website at allnaturalfarms.org.
Peaceful Valley Farms, Sparta, NC
Farmer Jim Bowman is at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market each and every Saturday morning at the far end of Building A with his truck and a table, some of the most delicious fresh and tea smoked trout you’ll ever have, fresh eggs and fresh rabbit. Later this season, Jim also hopes to have fresh elk meat, so stay tuned and we will update in one of these posts as soon as the elk is available.
Meanwhile Jim harvests his rabbit to order and so product at the market is always fresh not frozen. Peaceful Valley Farms doesn’t have a website, but if you’d like to place an order for an Saturday morning pick up of fresh rabbit from Jim, call him at 336-426-4440.
Chef Clark Barlowe of Heirloom Restaurant is one of the chefs you’ll find on those early Saturday mornings and among his other local purchases, Clark buys rabbit from Jim Bowman of Peaceful Valley Farms nearly every Saturday.
“The Charlotte Regional Farmer’s Market is something I wake up every Saturday morning excited to attend. Be it January or July, it’s a time to see friends and find inspiration for the upcoming week, from rabbit to rice, there is always something inspiring every time I wander the sheds.”
On the Heirloom menu this season, Clark features Jim Bowman’s rabbit in many ways, today he shares with us his recipe for rabbit ravioli. At the restaurant, Clark serves this rich and tender ravioli with his own sand cured local carrots – we’ll circle back with Clark one day for a tutorial on that recipe, but for now, you can purchase carrots at the regional market along with the rabbit and simply oven roast or saute them to serve alongside the ravioli.
To make Clark’s restaurant recipe I bit easier for homecooks, I’ve adapted it a bit starting with the flavorful shortcut of starting with sheets of beautiful pasta dough available from either location of Pasta & Provisions so you can easily get a head start on the prep of your make-your-own rabbit ravioli adventure.
Chef Clark Barlowe’s Rabbit and Black Walnut Ravioli, recipe adapted for home cooks by Heidi Billotto
1 local pasture raised rabbit
3/4 cup, chopped Black Walnuts
1/2 cup chopped Carrot
2/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cups Red Wine
12 cups of Water
4 whole shallots, minced
8 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/4 lb. Parmesan Cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
To make the rabbit filling for Heirloom Ravioli
Rough chop carrots, onion, celery and place in large roasting pan.
Add water, red wine, and top with one whole local pasture raised rabbit.
Roast covered for one and a half hours in a preheated 300 degree oven. Uncover and roast for an additional 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Remove rabbit from oven, when the rabbit has cooled enough to touch, shred the meat from bone, and reserve the liquid in the pan.
In another pan, mince shallots, garlic and saute in a bit of butter or olive oil until the veggies are translucent – combine combine with the shredded rabbit meat.
Toast black walnuts and finely chop, combine with rabbit mixture. Finely grate cheese and add to rabbit mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
To make the ravioli:
Cut one sheet of pasta into 2-3 inch squares or rounds. Beat one egg in a bowl and lightly brush one side of each of the rounds with the egg. Top each round with a Tablespoon or so of the rabbit filling. Top the filling with another round of dough – egg brushed side down – and press the edges to seal the rabbit filling into a round or square ravioli. Continue the process with the remaining pasta and rabbit – consider preparing 3-5 individual ravioli per person.
Just before you are ready to serve, cook the prepared ravioli in boiling seasoned water until al dente, approximately 6 minutes.
To make the sauce for the ravioli:
16 cups of Rabbit stock (this is the liquid in the pan after you have roasted rabbit)
2 Tbsp. Butter
3 Shallots, minced
10 garlic cloves, minced
2 thyme sprigs
2 Tbsp. of peppercorns
Salt to taste
2 bottles Red Wine
2 Red Onions , chopped
Slice shallots & garlic and sweat in butter in a large pot.
Add red wine, thyme, peppercorns and salt reduce to 1 1/2 cups of liquid.
Add rabbit stock to pot and reduce the mixture down to 1 cup to really concentrate the flavors. Strain this reduced liquid to separate it from the spices and chopped veggies.
In another pan, slice red onions thin and saute them sweat until translucent and add to the reduced broth. Season to taste with salt.
To serve: place 4 -5 rabbit ravioli in a shallow bowl, top with a bit of the rabbit sauce and garnish with roasted carrot. Serve hot.
Italian Braised Rabbit
Recipe adapted by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto
1 cleaned rabbit, cut into quarters
10-12 pimento stuffed green olives
2-3 Tbsp. capers
10-12 dried juniper berries (available from the Savory Spice Shop)
2 cups dry white wine
1-2 Tbsp. dried or fresh rosemary
1-2 fresh bay leaves
zest of 2 oranges
1 local or organic onion, chopped fine
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 ( 28 oz) can crushed organic tomatoes
Place the rabbit in a large bowl and add the capers, juniper berries, white wine, rosemary and bay leaves, and juice and zest of the oranges.
Let marinate over night or at least 1 hour. Then pull rabbit pieces from the marinade and pat dry. Reserve marinade.
Sauté the onion in the oil. In a large Dutch oven.
Add the rabbit and brown on high heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the marinating liquid and let it reduce by one half. Add the tomatoes.
Cover and cook over low heat for about 1½ hours, until meat is tender and sauce is thick. (Halfway into the cooking, taste for salt. If the capers and tomatoes are already salted, you probably won’t need to add any.) Serve with polenta, mashed potatoes, rice or risotto. Serves 4.
Heidi Billotto’s Rabbit ( or chicken) in Cream Sauce with Carrots and Mushrooms
1 pasture raised local rabbit, cut into quarters or pieces
1 onion, quartered
2 local carrots
2 stalks local or organic celery
2 bay leaves
8 Tbsp butter or olive oil ( or local bacon fat or rendered beef suet or pork lard)
2-3 Tbsp flour
1 cup local or organic milk ( I love using the raw milk available at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market from Underwood Family Farms ( Building A on Saturday mornings)
1 Tbps chopped flat leaf Italian parsley
salt and pepper
Drippings from chicken or rabbit and bone broth
Place the quartered or cut up rabbit into a large soup pot or Dutch oven and put and add chopped carrots, quartered onion, the stalks of chopped celery and the bay leaves with enough water to cover. to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for about an hour and a half.
When the rabbit is cool enough to take out of the pan, Debone and dice meat (can be done ahead of time). Reduce broth by one half –season to taste with salt and pepper
Melt your fat of choice in sauce pan, stir in flour and add milk using wire whisk, add chicken or rabbit stock and stir to make creamy sauce. Add seasonings to taste then add diced rabbit or chicken meat.
Great served over your favorite rice, cauliflower rice or pasta. The creamed rabbit is shown here served over Geechie Boy Blue grits available at All Natural Farms farm store in Building B at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market and topped with microgreens from Tega Hills Farm, available at the Regional on Saturday mornings in Building C.
Also fun to have a fruity butter sauce recipe in your back pocket when you need a quick and easy finish for braised rabbit and this one is delicious as condiment of sorts atop the creamed rabbit recipe. It starts with any of the Imladris jams or jellies available at All Natural Farms, but I particularly like it with the Imladris Apple Butter. Enjoy
Heidi’s Apple Butter Browned Butter Sauce
1 stick butter
5 Tbsp, Imladris Apple Butter
1 Tbsp. your favorite whole grain mustard
3-4 Tbsp. drained capers
salt and pepper
Simmer butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until deep golden brown, swirling pan occasionally, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Use a flat Pan Whisk to blend in the Imladris Apple Butter and the mustard. Add capers. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Keep on low heat to keep warm. Delicious served atop the Rabbit in Cream sauce or as a butter sauce for your Rabbit Ravioli.
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