mmm-yoso!!! is a blog about food. Today, Cathy is busy writing because Kirk and ed from Yuma are busier doing other stuff.
Hi. This post was written before the County Fair will open on Saturday June 14. The Theme of the Fair was chosen about eleven months ago and for this year it is "Summer of Sports" and dates for deadlines to bring entries to the Fair are set -so that everything will be in place when people walk in the gate on opening day. Not only will things be in place, but awards have been awarded and ribbons are on everything.
You might recall my little little three part blogging of the Fair last year. One thing I mentioned (and continue to mention, even to complete strangers in grocery checkout lines) is that the preserved foods are "the heart of the Fair" to me...Preserved foods and Home Arts in general are *the reason* we have a County Fair- why almost every county in the US has a Fair. The San Diego County Fair is the fifth most attended County Fair in the USA. If we did not have Home and Hobby, a Student Showcase and Kids Best, the Fair would just be rides, carnival games and a giant Swap Meet sale...oh and wonderfully unusual foods(which will be blogged about in Part Two).
Some of the vendors were in place, since they have no place else to be. But the Fairgrounds were not really set up when I was there...the Saturday after Memorial Day, when the Preserved Foods were judged.
These were the entries. The table in the forefront is where two judges, along with their own "secretary" and "runner" sit. There were a total of six judges. You can see the judges have crackers, lemon slices and water as their palate cleansers- the basket is filled with disposable forks and spoons.
Here is another view. The entries are set up in Divisions and Categories. The labels with the contestant's names are folded over, so the judging is "blind". Underneath each entry is the recipe the entrant followed. One of the things the judges look for is that the preserved foods were...um... properly preserved.
As a small example, in this Division 3209 of Relishes and Sauces. The judges had to judge 7 different barbecue sauces, 12 chutneys, 8 mixed relishes, 7 canned salsas and these 5 "other than listed" relishes and sauces.
After reading the label listing dates and type of canning method and seeing that the item in question was preserved properly, as well as the recipe the entrant has provided, the judge will open each canned item, being certain to hear the "whoosh" sound of a good vacuum seal. They then check that enough "head room" was used in the preserving process. Usually then the judge will smell the item and then insert a fork or spoon, to check consistency, spoon some out and either taste then, or do the same above steps with each item and then begin tasting. A lot of wasted calories and possible illness can be eliminated before tasting.
I took a photo of this beautiful rose petal jelly, which, unfortunately was kind of liquidy and not properly jelled, but looked so very pretty in the jar. Apparently it also tasted quite nice, but when a judge has 12 different jellies to try and one isn't properly prepared, it is sadly eliminated from getting or even being considered for a ribbon.
Despite your thinking that it must be exciting and fun to judge jams, jellies, preserves and conserves...well, it kind of isn't. These judges have to sit down and eat sugar based products for a good three to four hours in a row. Think about it. Even if you are a chocoholic and think you could eat chocolates all day every day...really-four hours straight? The judges basically eat no carbohydrates for one or two days before they have to judge, so the sugar rush won't adversely affect them. One judge who I spoke to told me she eats no carbs for two days prior and loads up on meat and cheese for breakfast before driving to the Fairgrounds. Still, she gets kind of shaky and on a sugar high for hours after she gets home, and then crashes the next day. The Strawberry Jam category this year had 27 entries. That poor judge had to not only find the best of all of them...but had to taste and re-taste so many jams just of that flavor to determine the best...of 27.
These were some of many entries in the "other than listed, miscellaneous" division. See the Thai Hot and Sweet dipping sauce-2nd from the right? That is chopped garlic on the bottom, hot chilis in the top layer and a nice sweet oil in between. Mix it up, put it on a cracker, and you have the Best of Show winner.
You can see more details of dates and times of the fair on the website. I try to go in as soon it opens in the morning, and park in one of the free lots. Transportation on school buses and a few Double Decker buses is provided every 15 minutes or so; also free. Parking this year is $9.