In this, a continuing series featuring the wide variety of local meat found at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, the focus this week is on Pork!
From spareribs to shanks, loins to lard, bacon and sausage too, there is a lot of local pork available at the Charlotte Regional Market on Yorkmont Road; and a lot to love about cooking local pork for family and friends alike.
The state of North Carolina is one of the nation’s leading pork producers so its no wonder so many farmers who sell meat at the Charlotte Regional Market, raise and harvest hogs to sell all sorts of pork.
Nearly all of the pork you’ll find at the market is pasture raised, that is the pigs, even though they may be contained in some sort of large fenced in area for their safety, are allowed to roam forests and fields and well, just be pigs – rooting around for acorns, foraging for leaves and roots, and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Farmers do supplement their feed with special grain blends, some organic, some not, some GMO-free, some not; some soy, some not.
When you go to the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market this weekend, stop and talk to pork producers and ask questions as you make your decisions as to where and what to buy.
If you’ve shopped the regional market a lot, or even just a few times, its time to plan a trip back to see all this wonderful market offers, no matter the weather. Local farmers come faithfully, rain or shine, hot or cold, and you should too! There are four buildings on site with pork producers and retailers in three of the four ( the fourth is the Greenery Shed, where you will find plants and herbs to buy and raise up in your home garden beds)
Here is a quick road map so you’ll be able to find your way complete with website and, in some cases, Facebook links for every farm. While you are shopping the market, I strongly suggest you sign up for individual farmer’s email lists – that way, you’ll get an email in your inbox every Thursday or Friday, telling you what to expect to find at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.
Building A is the first open air building you’ll see and its only open on Saturdays, starting at 8 am sharp. The vendors in this building are all local/regional farmers who raise or grown the produce, proteins and product they sell. Pork producers in Building A are at the market every Saturday here, and generally include:
Building B at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market is the middle building, and if its cold or rainy outside the wide side doors to this building are generally down, but there are four different doors where you can go in and out.
This is the place where you will find farm stores, farmers and other vendors who not only sell their own product, but other product as well. If you are looking for pork in Building B, you’ll find what you need at All Natural Farms, LLC In addition to lots of other meats, they carry a large variety of pork from Hickory Nut Gap in Fairview, NC. All Natural Farms also carries locally made Curley Tail Candied Bacon, boxed in regular and habanero flavors – its delicious, on sandwiches, crumbled for salads, atop baked or mashed potatoes and as a tasty snack all on its own!
Building C is the third building on the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market campus – with all the cold and wacky weather we’ve been having the side doors of this building are often closed, but don’t let that keep you away.
Inside you’ll find lots of local vendors such as Uno Alla Volta Cheese ( see the ranch dressing recipe below) and several meat or pork vendors as well. Some of the vendors in Building C aren’t there every week – some only once a month, but its always worth the walk over to see what you’ll find.
In terms of pork in Building C, keep your eyes open for the big blue and white cooler case from Morgan’s Cove Farm, and the stand for Rockraven Farms from Wadesboro, NC, If you smell bacon frying the sizzling and the samples are generally at the Rockraven table.
Across the board, you’ll find sausage in varying degrees of heat and spice available from most pork vendors at the market, and my recipe for sausage sliders below makes for a great go-to for breakfast, lunch or a buffet of hors d’oeuvres.
And speaking of Bacon… bacon, cured and uncured, is always a popular market commodity and when local pork vendors have it it goes fast -so grab a pound or two, and instead of frying or baking up a batch, for fun this time, try the hearty Chicken Fried bacon recipe that follows the sliders, for your next gathering. Serve slices with a homemade ranch dressing ( recipe included) for dipping and a cold local brew on the side – its a keeper!!
Heidi Billotto’s Got To Be NC Local Sausage Sliders
Makes 25 bite-sized sliders
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1 Tbsp. dried sage leaves
1 lb. your favorite local breakfast sausage
25 small potato rolls or fresh baked biscuits
Heat olive oil in a small saucepan until aromatic. Add celery onions and sage. Sauté until onions are slightly browned. Remove from pan and place in a bowl. Add uncooked ground Sausage and blend well to mix. Divide the pork into 20-25 small patties, pan fry in a nonstick saucepan or grill in a grillpan until nicely browned on both sides. Transfer to a bun or biscuit and serve hot. These taste like Thanksgiving on a biscuit!
Heidi Billotto’s Chicken-Fried Bacon, Oh My!
3 cups self-rising flour ( you may use gluten free flour as well)
3 Tbsp. corn starch
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp. fine ground sea salt
2 Tbsp, each garlic powder and onion powder
1/2 quart buttermilk ( keep it local by using Hickory Hill Milk Buttermilk available in Charlotte at both locations of Earthfare or Ran Lew Dairy Buttermilk, now available in Charlotte at the new Sprouts market in Ballantyne)
2 pounds your favorite local bacon, cured or uncured
Vegetable oil or local leaf lard for frying
In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups of flour, cornstarch and seasonings. Reserve 1 cup of plain flour. Place both flour mixes on two large, flat baking dishes.
Pour buttermilk in a separate large baking dish.
Dip each bacon strip first in plain flour, then in buttermilk, then in the seasoned flour. Set the bacon aside on a heavy duty wire cake rack for a few minutes to allow the flour to absorb some of the buttermilk to form a good coating.
This resting time and the cake rack are important – if you don’t let it rest on a rack, then the coating will come off as soon as you put the floured bacon in the hot oil.
Heat a good inch of vegetable oil or leaf lard ( also available from many of the local pork producers) in a large frying pan (or in a deep fryer) until a thermometer inserted reads 350 degrees or insert a dry wooden spoon in the oil and wait until little bubbles start to form around the edges of the wood – this is exactly as if a piece of food were frying and indicates that the oil is hot enough to proceed .
Fry the bacon, a few strips at a time (you don’t want to crowd the pan or fryer), until the strips are golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Drain the bacon on a rack. Continue until all of the bacon is fried.
Serve the bacon warm (do allow it to cool a few minutes before serving as the hot bacon can burn) with a cold bowl of homemade Buttermilk Ranch dressing for dipping and you’ll be the one saying, Oh my…..
Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
Recipe by Charlotte Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto
1/2 cup Uno Alla Volta Cottage Cheese or ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Hickory Hill Farm Or Ran Lew Dairy buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 clove local or organic Garlic, minced
Salt To Taste
1/4 cup Italian Flat-leaf Parsley
2 Tbsp Fresh Chives
White Vinegar to taste
Worcestershire Sauce to taste
Fresh Dill to taste
Cayenne Pepper to taste
Paprika to taste
Dried Greek Oregano to taste
Your favorite hot sauce to taste
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Chill until ready to serve.
Hamming It Up…Rib for Rib
While we are talking pork , I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the recent Cheerwine video that just had its debut -many of you have already seen it on my social media posts and if not, you can go to either of my Facebook Pages, scroll down in the feeds and you’ll find it.
This glazed ham recipe is the second in a series of eight recipe videos I did for the iconic Got To Be NC soft drink brand along with Charlotte-based videographer Peter Taylor and its been a popular one! I just love seeing my hands move at such a high rate of speed!!
You won’t find pre-cooked spiral cut hams at the market, but you will find fresh bone in hams you can bake yourself and then glaze as directed in the recipe.
The glaze itself is the key in this recipe and its equally delicious on local Pork Chops and Racks of Ribs as well as on a ham…
If you are cooking ribs, you’ll want to parboil first to break down some of the cartilage so you’ll have tender-to-the-bone final results. Remember that the local ribs you’ll buy a the farmers’ market will cook much faster than their commercial counterparts at the grocery store. I’ve adjusted the time in the recipe below with the assumption that you will be using local pork. If not double the par boiling time to 40 minutes.
Cheerwine – Bourbon Glaze for Pork Chops, Ham and Ribs
Recipe by Charlotte NC based Culinary Expert, Heidi Billotto
½ cup fresh cilantro
½ cup fresh parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 (¼ inch) slices of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 cup lime juice
3 cups of your favorite local beer (or substitute with 3 cups of chicken stock and 5 Tbsp. whole grain mustard)
3 cans or bottles of original Cheerwine
4 cups chicken broth
4 lbs. NC baby back pork rib racks
1/3 cup NC sorghum syrup molasses or local honey ( both available at the regional market)
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1 ½ cups brown sugar
¼ cup dried or fresh ginger root
1 cup North Carolina aged whiskey ( we used TOPO Distillery Eight Oak Carolina Whiskey)
1/2 cup Cheerwine Syrup ( available from the Cheerwine offices in Salisbury) Or you can use 1 bottle of original Cheerwine and boil it down by half, and then proceed with the recipe)
Combine the parboiling ingredients in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and add the whole racks of ribs. Allow to come back to a boil, and then simmer for 20 minutes or so.
While ribs are simmering, prepare basting sauce by combining the remaining ingredients in a medium sized sauce pan. Bring to a boil let boil 2-3 minutes, remove from heat, reserve.
Remove ribs from the simmering liquid. Place in a roasting pan. Brush the ribs generally with the basting sauce and place under a preheated broiler or forgo the pan and place the rib racks, bone side down on a medium to hot grill. Cook 4-5 minutes on each side, basting again with sauce as soon as you turn the ribs. Enjoy!
Thanks so much to my blog partners who help make it possible to bring more posts like this your way. My blog post sponsors are all brands I believe in and I am happy to share their story. Today this HeidiBillottoFood.com post is brought to you by my friends at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture,
The Charlotte Regional Farmers Market is one of four regional state run farmers’ markets and is open year-round with availability for any local farmer to apply for a place to sell. While North Carolina farmers and products do get priority, in Charlotte with the state line so close to the city limits, when there is room, you’ll often find South Carolina farmers selling at the regional market here, too.
Products, available at the regional market, range from local produce, dairy, chicken, seafood and meat to all other things grown, raised, caught or made in North Carolina. As farming isn’t just a spring and summer endeavor, the market encourages customers to “Shop Local” each week offering open-year-round hours.
In Charlotte, the market is open during the week on Thursday and Friday as well as on weekends, but the busiest time is when many Charlotte area foodies take their lead from local chefs and shop the market on Saturday mornings. Looking forward to seeing you there, make your Shopping Local plans now and you can #MeatMeAtTheMarket #TellThemHeidiSentYou