High temperatures and sudden storms are sure signs that the 2012 Delaware State Fair is underway. The Fair officially opened at 5 p.m., Thursday, July 19 and it will officially draw to a close on Saturday, July 28 so as you are reading this, be aware that you have only a few more days to take advantage of this tradition that has been carried on in Harrington for more than 90 years.
Judges in the culinary department (housed in the Dover Building) tasted and debated long and hard before awarding ribbons to the many competitors in Baked Goods and Food Preservation. Judging is done by two-person teams and takes place over a two-day period. By the end of the first day of Baked Goods, even the most experienced judges confess that they don’t want to see another cookie for about a week. The volunteers who judge in culinary are either food service professionals or they have taken the training classes offered by the Maryland Association of Agricultural Fairs and Shows to gain the certification needed to judge.
This year’s Best of Show Award was presented to Denise Deskiewicz of Greenwood, who has been competing for a number of years and who uses recipes and techniques passed down through her family. Beaming with excitement, Denise explained to us how hard she worked to get her tomatoes so carefully and perfectly packed in the jar. The judges would happily have eaten the entire contents of the entry jar because the flavor was so appealing to them.
The Superintendents’ Award for Canned Goods — given for the most unusual or interesting entry — was awarded to Laura Byrum of Milford for Grandmom’s Spiced Pear Preserves. When Laura submitted her recipe she noted “My grandmom really did used to make these, only it took me years to figure out how to make them as good as she did. Whenever I would ask her she would just say ‘Oh, honey, you just slice up some pears with some sugar and spice cook ’em down and jar ’em up.’ She’s no longer with us but I think of her on the farm every time I taste pear preserves.”
In the Baked Goods Division, the Superintendent’s Award was presented to Gail Wenteler of Frederica for the Bacon Quiche that she entered in the Savory Pie category. Gail sat down and wrote out the recipe from memory for me because she makes this so frequently for her family and Sunday School class.
Denise Deskiewicz’s Canned Tomatoes, Whole
30-plus fresh tomatoes (Early Girl used)
7 sterilized quart jars
New lids and rings for jars (lids sterilized)
Water bath canner
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place five to 10 tomatoes at a time in the water for 30 seconds to one minute, just until the skin starts to split. Take out and immediately put in ice water. Peel the skins off and core out the stems. Place whole in sterilized quarts jars. Gently push down to force out any air and allow natural juices to escape. Place 1 teaspoon of kosher salt into each jar. Clean jar rims. Put on lids and screw tops. Place in the boiling water bath and process for 20 minutes after the water comes back to a full boil. Remove and place on towel or rack to cool. Make sure jars are properly sealed. Allow to rest for 24 hours before storing in cool dark area.
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Laura Byrum’s Grandmom’s Spiced Pear Preserves
3 pounds Bartlett pears
1 1/4 cups water
Juice of one lemon
5 cups sugar
1 1/2 -plus tablespoons Sauer’s Cake Spice (*) or less to taste
1/2 teaspoon powdered cloves
Peel and core pears. Slice thin and place in a large saucepan with the water and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until pears are tender. Slowly add the 5 cups of sugar and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Add spices. Then simmer for 35 to 40 minutes or until mixture thickens and pears are translucent. Ladle into hot sterilized jars to within 1/8 inch of top of jar. (Completed jars should have 1/4-inch head space.) Place on hot sterilized lids and lightly screw on jar rings. Put jars in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove and cool. This recipe is for approximately 1 quart of finished product that you can divide between pint or half-pint jars.
*If you can’t find Sauer’s Cake Spice, combine ground allspice, ground cinnamon, ground coriander and ground nutmeg to taste.
Gail Wenteler’s Bacon Quiche
Prepared pastry crust for a 9-inch pie
10 slices bacon, cooked and crisped
3/4 to 1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
3/4 to 1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
Dash of pepper
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups light cream
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cook bacon until crisp. (I cut bacon slices into thirds and they cook faster.) Put bacon slices on a paper towel; drain and let cool until they can be broken into small pieces. Mix cheeses together in a bowl; toss to mix and set aside. Combine eggs, pepper, salt, nutmeg and light cream and whisk to blend. Place bacon slices over the bottom of the crust. Sprinkle with the cheese mixture. Gently pour egg and cream mixture over bacon and cheese. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes then turn oven temperature down to 350 and continue baking for 30 minutes longer until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean.