My birthday falls in June, so last year we had been on Mackinac Island for about a month when my birthday week rolled around. Ted and I came in from a bike ride one afternoon, and Deb (our next door neighbor at the condo, who is in her 70’s) came out on her back porch and said, “I made a bad mistake, and I’m so sorry.” We didn’t have a clue what she was talking about, but she soon explained that she had been shopping off island, and when the dray driver brought her grocery boxes to her door (they do that for senior citizens), he had also left an extra box on her doorstep. It turns out that Deb’s birthday was also that week, and she assumed someone had sent her a gift (she didn’t glance at the address label, just tore into the box – so excited to have received a package). When she opened it and found it filled with sausage, cheese and jam, she became suspicious and checked the label. It turned out the package was addressed to me and was a large box of goodies from Stripling’s in south Georgia that my Atlanta friend Lana had sent for my birthday. Poor Deb was so embarrassed.
We hurried the box inside and put the majority of the meat into the freezer, keeping out some link sausage to cook for breakfast the next morning. When I walked next door that morning to give Deb several samples, she declared it “the best she’d ever eaten”.
I guess I should say right here that I will not in any way get paid for talking about Stripling’s Sausage on this blog. I do not know the owners (although my daddy did – many year ago), and they do not know me. They had no idea I was going to write about them until this afternoon when I walked in the store with my camera, but they seemed excited that I wanted to do a story about the store.
A little history. Grandfather Stripling owned a small grocery and mercantile store, where one of his sons worked. The son’s passion for fresh pork and pork products led to the development of the famous Stripling’s Sausage Recipe still used today (top secret, of course). The son opened his own store on the family farm in 1964, which became known as the “Sausage Kitchen”. It was just a butcher shop where he sold his sausage and fresh cuts of pork, although he soon began to sell beef also.
In 1978, Jack Hardin, who had married Ann Stripling, and their son Ricky bought the “Sausage Kitchen”. They never waivered from the original recipe of a perfected blend of seasonings developed by Rick’s uncle and continued to use the whole hog in their sausage making. Today, the company produces over 300,000 lbs of sausage a year in three stores (two at Lake Blackshear and one in Moultrie, GA). Ricky and Lisa Harden’s children and their families are now also involved in the company, ensuring the family committment to the business for generations to come.
The Stripling’s where we shop at the lake is directly across from one of the entrances to the Veterans’ Memorial State Park. It is a full service grocery, stocked with fresh produce and shelves filled with quality local products. One of Stripling’s most famous customers is Paula Deen, who orders meats from Stripling’s on a regular basis. Stripling’s also carries a line Paula’s products.
Over the years, Ted and I have come to know most of the folks who work in Stripling’s. The store is about 15 minutes from our house, and we are there several times a week – mostly for meats. But they also have great homemade cakes, and specialty pickles, sauces, jellies, and jams. Ted picks up his newspaper there on Sunday mornings – and usually a couple of fresh sausage and biscuits that he brings home for breakfast.
When I walked back to the meat market today, I met Jarvis, a gentleman originally from Jacksonville, FL, now living in Montgomery, AL. He was doing what hundreds of folks do every week. He stopped by Stripling’s on his way to see family in Florida and was taking with him a clothes basket full of Stripling’s sausages that he would pack in a cooler in his car. Anyone who knows about Stripling’s, but does not live nearby, will ask someone who might be going within 20 miles of one of their stores to “swing by” and pick up a cooler full of link or pan sausage. They are THAT good!
So, if you’re ever in our neck of the woods, you need to stop by this little family-owned business for the best sausage you have ever put in your mouth. They also carry other pork products (their sausage-stuffed porkchops are to die for) and all cuts of beef. If you are nowhere around south Georgia, and have a hankering for anything I’ve mentioned (and there is a lot more I haven’t mentioned) just click on www.striplings.com, and they’ll be glad to ship it to you!
Hint: All varieties of Stripling’s sausage come in three “degrees” – mild, medium, and hot. We get the medium, and it is just right for us. But if you like your sausage “smoking”, try the hot!
“I have never met a person who spent time in daily prayer and in the study of God’s Word and who was strong in the faith who was ever discouraged for very long. You cannot be discouraged if you are close to the One who gives all hope and plenty be encouraged about.” . . . Billy Graham.