Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's County Fair Time

For the first time in about 25 years, I entered something in the county fair. I have been canning this year for the first time since I was a kid, so I had a serious learning curve. Between trying to remember how we did it when I was helping my mom growing up, and using my Ball Blue Book and the really old Bernardin book my mom gave me, I think I have a pretty good handle on it now. So I entered 15 jars of home canned goodness in the fair.

This process actually started back in the late spring. I figured that if I was going to go to the trouble of canning, I might as well make them nice enough to show. So for each item I canned, I tried to carefully place the food, in a pleasing manner, in at least 1 jar in each batch. Some things just didn't come out very pretty though. My beans boiled out too much juice and have turned dark on top. They are still perfectly edible, but they are not fair-worthy. And I had some other things that I didn't get packed tightly enough and they floated. Like some of the peaches. They will still be fine for making pies but, again, not good enough for the fair.

Toward the end of August, I called the county extension office about how to go about entering. They said that I had to pre-register each jar by September 1 to get them in. So I went up there, got the forms, and began sifting through the jars to find the most perfect ones. I had a jar of green beans somewhere that I had lined up straight that I couldn't find in my mess of a pantry but I still finished up with 15 jars to enter.

I had to take them to the fairgrounds between 2 and 5 pm on Sunday the 14th. But we had a problem. We were going to be in Jonesboro that weekend on a college hunting trip. You know, the campus tour, admissions and financial aid folks telling us the process, tailgating and a football game on Saturday night. And in addition to all of that, we got to deal with my mother-in-law. So we got up early Sunday morning and made the drive back (2.5 hours by the way) so I could get my stuff entered. When we got up there, it seemed there was more competition than in previous years. That had me worried. Like I said, I haven't canned anything in 25 years and this was the first time all on my own. But I left them there and tried not to get my hopes up too much.

Judging was on Monday. The fair opened on Tuesday evening. We went last night to see just how I fared against everyone else. While I was frantically searching the shelves for my jars, the kids pointed out that one of my jars was on the table in front of us. It had a red, white and blue ribbon with a nice rosette that said "Best of Show" and a certificate with my name (well, it was my name but spelled wrong, go figure) on it. I got a Best of Show for carrots, of all things. Out of all of the veggies that had been entered, I took top prize. I was stunned. I was expecting maybe red ribbons. I don't think I have stopped grinning since I saw it.

Everything I entered got a ribbon of one color or another, mostly reds like I expected, but I got 3 or 4 blues and a couple of white too. I then proceeded to call every one I know. My Mom told me that she was proud of me, my Dad told me that I shouldn't let it go to my head, and my sister-in-law just said that she knew that I was going to win so why was I so surprised. My hubbie, bless his heart, had to deal with me saying "guess what? Best of Show!" all night.

Now I have to decide if I want to take those carrots on to the state fair.

Who knows, I might just win there too. If we don't eat them before then.

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