On these warm sunny days, some of us are inspired to venture out into the backyard more often. Perhaps you are dusting off the lawn chairs, planting a vegetable garden or firing up the grill. It is a promising time to reap seasonal produce and refresh weeknight menus with lighter recipes and locally sourced ingredients.
Georgia has received justified recognition for its peaches, pecans and poultry, but other homegrown offerings can easily stock your pantry with essentials and more. From grass-fed meat and artisanal cheese, to quality honey, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, BBQ sauces, spice blends and marinades – there’s a long list of Georgia products you can use to create a bright and flavorful backyard BBQ.
Plan a locally sourced menu
Start off with a homemade charcuterie board displaying an assortment of crackers, fruits (berries, figs, grapes), pecans, honeycomb, and organic gouda and cheddar cheeses (available through dairy consortium Formaggio ATL). Try your hand at a refreshing onion soup, grilled onion pizza or made-from-scratch buttermilk-drenched Vidalia onion rings.
“Toombs County Vidalia onions are low in sulfur [that’s what makes you cry as you cut other onions] and have a sweet flavor,” says Chef Marty Carlton of White Oak Kitchen + Cocktails in Atlanta. For Vidalia Onion Restaurant Week, April19-25, he is serving petit filet mignon with a sweet and spicy jam of Vidalia onions, green tomatoes, peaches and chilies, simmered with white wine, distilled white vinegar, chili flakes and sugar.
Instead of plain old lettuce and tomato salads, switch it up with smokey grilled radicchio, kohlrabi, fennel and spring onions. Ladybird Farm in Hull offers subscriptions to farm-harvested produce delivered to your door, as well as cooking tips and recipe links. Toss the sliced raw veggies with green garlic, shallots, herbs, salt, pepper and nutritious artisanal pumpkin seed oil from Oliver Farm, and roast on the grill for a couple of minutes. You can also tour Oliver Farm in Pitts and pick up unique nut oils and gluten-free flours.
At Butcher and Vine’s two locations in Athens and Watkinsville, you can browse the butcher case for cuts of beef, pork, poultry and seafood, as well as wine and local fare. Executive Chef Kory DePaola tells shoppers how to prepare the meats, as well as the storiesd behind the producers. One of his favorite things to cook is Stone Mountain Cattle pork loin, generously rubbed with salt, pepper, brown sugar and paprika. “Grill for four minutes on each side and let rest at room temperature for at least five minutes to allow the juices to redistribute through the meat.” He recommends serving the meat with thin-sliced green garlic, sauteed until melted.
For easy weeknight desserts, Georgia’s blackberry and blueberry syrups make decadent toppings on Mountain Fresh Creamery’s fresh churned vanilla ice cream. Savannah Bee Company’s whipped honey with chocolate, lemon and cinnamon flavors is great with yogurt parfait and for dipping homemade cookies.
DePaola likes to round out the meal with a simple strawberry shortcake with tart rhubarb whipped cream. “You can use your favorite pound cake or biscuit recipe for the base,” he says.
Breweries and wineries are booming across Georgia, and you can purchase many locally made craft beers and wines at grocery stores and liquor stores. Pair your BBQ dinner with a bottle of popular SweetWater or Creature Comforts beer, or unwind with a Georgia-stomped glass of wine. Some of Georgia’s award-winning wineries include Farmer’s Daughter, Chateau Elan, Frogtown Cellars and Yonah Mountain.
Georgia also has a long history of producing spirits such as bourbon, apple brandy and Southern-style dry gin.
Support the community
To purchase local food and drink, buy directly at neighborhood farmers markets. You can also order online through Georgia Proud Provisions. Refer to Georgia Grown and Georgia Organics websites to locate markets, stores, farms and restaurants that promote Georgia products.