It is my favorite time of year. The weather has started to warm up. The sun shines a little bit longer every afternoon. The azaleas and dogwoods are abundant, and they are blooming. There is a haze of yellow dust from all the pollen in the air, and the grass is getting greener. I eagerly bring out the Birkenstock sandals, paint my toes, and start enjoying an Alabama spring!
Another favorite part of this season is the beginning of planting the garden in our back yard, flowers in my pots on the front porch, and being able to buy some of our favorite produce of the season that we’ve missed over the colder months. One of our favorite places to stock up on local produce, meat, and all other things local is just a short drive from Auburn and Opelika, George’s Farmers Market off Highway 431 in LaFayette, Sturkey proper.
This Sunday, my husband and one of his good buddies went turkey hunting at our family’s place in LaFayette. Since the weather was so incredibly beautiful I suggested that we meet in the middle at George’s Farmers Market, and I would bring a picnic lunch. It was a perfect day for a picnic. The sun was warm, but there was a nice cool breeze. There are several picnic tables, a sandbox, and monkey bars for the little ones to play on just to the side of George’s Market. I have also witnessed many beautiful sunsets at this exact spot. It is a great spot to have a picnic whether it is for lunch or dinner.
After we finished our lunch, I did some grocery shopping for dinner. George’s Farmers Market has all the necessities to stock your pantry, and for a delicious dinner. Some of the things we bought included: Alabama tomato basil pork sausage out of Eclectic, two beautiful Georgia raised pork chops, plenty of sweet baby squash, sweet potatoes, local lettuce from Selma, cheddar cheese out of North Carolina, and I also stocked up on local Auburn honey while we were there, harvested by Jesse’s Girls Honey. Wild honey is great to add to your diet during allergy season. It is believed that eating local honey helps you build up resistance to the pollen, easing allergy symptoms. Plus, it just makes everything taste yummy. It is a great alternative to other sugars as well.
With our finds we were able to create delicious appetizers and dinner. We grilled the Alabama tomato basil pork sausage, and used the cheddar cheese to make pimento cheese. In my opinion, any southern appetizer platter must have pickles, so we added some canned pickles as well. We ended up with a beautiful local, homemade-style charcuterie board. We paired this with a 2016 Schloss Vollrads Estate Riesling. The Riesling was sweet, crisp, and delicate. It reminded me of wild southern honeysuckle. This pairing was a great juxtaposition to the savoriness of the sausage and pimento cheese. What a great way to start the evening, and dinner.
For the main course, we cooked the pork chops. We first rubbed the pork chops in Uncle Clyde’s Gold Dust Seasoning, out of Selma, and put them on the hot grill. We took the sweet potatoes, diced them up, tossed them in a light dusting of cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, paprika, salt, and pepper and baked them until tender. Right before serving we drizzled the honey over the sweet potatoes. The sweetness of the honey played well with the spices on the sweet potatoes. This is absolutely my most favorite way to eat sweet potatoes! With the baby squash, I sliced it in half and lightly salted the squash halves. Let them sit for about five minutes and sweat. I, then, heated about two tablespoons of butter in a skillet, put the squash halves face down in the butter, and sautéed the squash, flipping occasionally, until the butter starts to brown the squash and a slight char is achieved. I had an elderly lady teach me this preparation a long time ago, and it became the only way I want to eat squash. We put together a salad with our fresh local lettuce and tomatoes. It was the perfect meal. The pork was juicy, tender, and flavorful. The sweet potatoes were delicious and savory. The squash was sweet, soft, yet crispy. We amazingly had enough left over for lunch for one the next day. For the entree, we paired a 2011 Chateau de Vaudieu Chateauneuf-Du-Pape with the pork. The rich, complex flavors of this wine paired nicely with the well-seasoned pork.
George’s Farmer’s Market is open Monday through Saturday from 9 AM to 5 PM and 1 PM until 5 PM on Sunday. Hours may vary if weather is inclement. The drive from Auburn or Opelika is short and scenic. Pack a picnic, and go enjoy their outdoor space. If you are social media savvy follow their Instagram and Facebook pages to stay up-to-date with the events, special hours, and other things they have going on at the market. Some of the events they host throughout the year range from farm to table dinners, sunflower fields, pumpkin patches, Christmas trees, and pie tastings. You definitely can have a good time while grocery shopping at George’s, make new friends, and discover new local products that you will not want to live without.
Pro tip: If you are fortunate enough to catch them with a stock of their fresh homemade sourdough bread, buy it! It is amazing!