During summer months throughout the country, families and friends are involved in country fairs. Whether they’re at the community, county or state level, one thing they have in common is food.
However, food items on the midway are entirely different than food items being judged for a blue ribbon!
I judged in that area a few times years ago, at our own Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles (usually I judged in the arts and crafts section). But, I sure remember my first time as a food judge. I was assigned to the baking category and I started off with a bang. I took normal bites of cookies, brownies, cakes and pies and very soon I was on a “sugar high.” We were being interviewed by a reporter from KSBY, who happened to be a friend of mine, and when she got to me I could hardly talk about all those sugar-filled entries. In fact, it was several days before I could face anything that had sugar in it.
Other foods that are judged, of course, are the results of a bountiful summer harvest. Pickles are forever popular, and jams, jellies, and preserves are favorites to “put-up” for competition at the fair.
Since it is too late now for local competition, consider “putting up” a few jars for winter holiday gift-giving.
Bread-and-butter pickles are some of those old-fashioned pickles that never go out of style. I remember that my Grandma O’Haver’s pantry was never without several jars and she served them with almost everything.
My resource this month is a wonderful little cookbook titled “The Country Fair Cookbook” compiled by Alison Boteler in 1995. It has become one of my “go-to” cookbooks for summer, even though here in California most of the recipes are good all year ‘round!
I have to admit that when they say “don’t judge a book by its cover, I did. It has a red border (I love red) and features a strawberry/blueberry dessert with a true “Americana” background. It just looked like summer, country fairs, and all that is good about America.
I’ve picked out a few recipes to share. There’s really no theme except that they are good for using summer produce. Enjoy!
Iced Bread-and-Butter Pickles
• 4 quarts thinly sliced cucumbers
• 8 onions, sliced
• 2 green bell peppers, split in half, seeded and sliced
• ½ cup kosher salt
• 2 trays of ice cubes
• 4 cups sugar
• 1 ½ teaspoons turmeric
• ½ teaspoon ground cloves
• 4 teaspoons whole mustard seed
• 1 teaspoon celery seed
• 4 ½ cups distilled white vinegar
Combine cucumbers, onions, and peppers in large bowl. Sprinkle salt over vegetables and toss to coat. Empty trays of ice over vegetables. Let stand 3 hours. Drain vegetables completely. Combine sugar, spices, and vinegar in large kettle and bring to boil. Reduce heat to very low and add vegetables. Heat through but do not allow liquid to boil. Meanwhile, sterilize five 1-pint jars (and loose lids) in another kettle filled with boiling water. Turn jars and lids upside down on clean dish towel to drain. Ladle pickles into hot jars; liquid should come within 1/4 –inch of top. Seal lids and process jars in kettle of boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove jars with tongs and cool. Once opened, pickles must be stored in the refrigerator.
With pulled pork sandwiches so popular these days, here’s a delicious slaw to serve with them that will win on two scores. Number one, it uses some of that fresh corn you grew this summer, and number two, it absolutely needs to be made hours, or a day in advance of serving. The flavor improves as it marinates!
Cabbage and Corn Slaw
• 6 cups shredded cabbage
• 2 cups cooked corn, removed from cob
• ½ cup diced red bell pepper
• ½ cup diced green bell pepper
• ½ cup sugar
• ½ cup distilled white vinegar
• 2/3 cup vegetable oil
• 1 teaspoon celery salt
• ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
• ½ teaspoon dry mustard
Cook several fresh ears of corn and cool. Slice corn kernels off of the cob and measure 2 cups. Add corn to shredded cabbage and red and green bell peppers. Toss in large bowl. Blend sugar vinegar, oil, celery salt, pepper and dry mustard in a separate bowl. Pour over cabbage mixture and toss. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight to blend flavors.
Lemon and Egg Dressing
Try this last recipe for Lemon and Egg Dressing on 2 pounds of cooked fresh green beans with 1 small red onion sliced paper-thin, to make a delicious summer salad.
• 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1tablespoon sugar
•½ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
• ¼ cup vegetable oil
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
• 1 hard-cooked egg, finely chopped.
Combine all dressing ingredients in small bowl and whisk to blend.
Pour over green beans and red onion in large bowl and toss well. Cover and chill at least 3 hours to blend flavors.
Enjoy the rest of summer!