They call it the other white meat but I call it delicious.
This month I’ve been working with the #GotToBeNC Department of Agriculture division, some local bloggers and recipe developers as we visit our local farmers markets and challenge ourselves to get the main ingredients to cook a complete meal for the family.
I love shopping at the farmers market and just mosey-ing along to see what’s fresh and in season. One thing that’s always in season is meat. Many people forget about the great chicken, pork and beef products at the farmers market. Yes, it can be a bit pricier, but I’ve really found that pork is one of the most affordable and I can stretch my dollar a bit farther when buying larger cuts. On the day I last ventured out to the farmers market, the fair was in town so the Winston-Salem market didn’t look like it’s usual self. I have shopped with Mill River Farm in Mount Airy before, so I happily purchased my pork butt and sweet potatoes from husband and wife farmers, Steve Murphy and Kim Eyer.
Eyer and Murphy have an abundant farm and they sell pork products such as bacon, pork belly, pork butt and loin, chicken, grass-fed beef and eggs.
Their farm is open for visits on Wednesdays. Or you can find them at the market on Saturdays, where you can speak to them directly and find out more about how they raise their animals and grow produce. Like I said before, locally raised meat can be a bit pricier, but there’s something wonderful about knowing where your meat came from and how it’s been raised. The couple also sells a large variety of produce products such as lettuce, kale, peas, beets, sweet potatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage. Eyer said this season has been a good one.
“We had a late frost that was was hard on the fruit for some locals,” she said. “But the vegetable season was great with rain at the right times and not too dry.” You can also find Mill River Farm’s products at Let it Grow Produce.
When I did my shopping, I found the perfect ingredients to make what I’m calling a Carolina Poutine. Poutine is typically french fries and cheese curds with a rich brown gravy and is truly a guilty pleasure. My recipe is a take on that with pulled pork, North Carolina sweet potatoes, Ashe County cheese curds and a smoky Carolina barbecue sauce.
Serves two to four
2-4 Sweet Potatoes (one per person), preferably local
Pulled Pork (from a 2-3 pound butt or shoulder)
Barbeque Sauce of your choice (I used a blend of chipotle sauce with some Eastern North Carolina sauce I had on hand)
Salt and Pepper
To prepare the pork: Give it a good, liberal rub of your choice of seasoning plus plenty of salt and pepper. If you’re able, grill the pork on all sides. I don’t have a smoker, so I let my grill and my slow cooker do the work for me. Get it good and browned on all sides, then place in the slow cooker with about 1 1/2 cups of water or chicken broth (beer or a mixture of barbeque sauce and water is fine too, you just want a flavorful liquid). Cook on low for four to six hours. Once tender and falling apart, remove from cooker and shred it. Cut the sweet potatoes into fry-sized sticks. Coat with oil and sprinkle with smoked paprika (optional), salt and pepper. Bake at 400-degrees until lightly browned and crispy for about 30 minutes.
Just before you remove the fries from the oven, heat up the sauce. I simply used my favorite Eastern North Carolina style sauce and added some smoky chipotles to it. You will want that sauce to be piping hot so that it can melt the cheese curds as it hits them. On a platter or pan, place the crispy sweet potato fries in a heaping pile. Top with shredded pork, cheese curds and drizzle the sauce over the top. The sauce should be hot enough to start melting the cheese curds. If not, it’s okay to place it under the broiler until they appear to be just melting. Garnish with chopped green onions and enjoy!
This delicious and fun recipe is simply a guide. If you can slow cook your meat on a smoker, so much the better. As I said before, I don’t have a smoker but I do have the grill and a slow cooker. I get a really good crust by grilling on high, though I keep an eye on it as the fat and any sugar on the outside can cause it to light up. You can also bypass the slow cooker and modify by cooking on a low heat in the oven for 2 1/2-3 hours. The sauce is also up to you. A mole would be amazing with those sweet potatoes. Play around with your flavors and have fun!
If you have trouble finding cheese curds from Ashe County, I have seen other makers (orange and white cheddar) in the cheese monger’s case at neighborhood grocery stores.
The Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Market, Cobblestone and Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, Wine Merchants, Ronnie’s and the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market are all great places to find local beef, pork and poultry as well as lamb and venison and you can find locally-made boutique cheeses as well.
Be sure to check out these pork recipes as well, all developed by my squad featuring North Carolina pork.
Kristi Maier is a food writer, blogger, and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.