Janet's Notebook
Award Winning Recipes Straight From the County Fair

Norma DeRemer's Homemade Relish

People tell me there's a whole lot to do at county fairs - rides, games, music, crafts - but I never can seem to stray far from the FOOD! And I don't mean those rich-smelling food trucks (although those are mighty good too.) No, I mean the Blue Ribbon food... the recipes from real folks right here in my area. The food that gets put out at Sunday suppers and make you silently hope for a dinner invitation. This time of year - fair time - is when community comes together to celebrate local cooks and homemade recipes. Sometimes that acknowledgement comes in the form of a simple hug. Other times it's the pinning of a big, blue ribbon. And you know what? Either way, that plain makes me giddy.

I have to say, I'm pretty proud to have many county and state fair ribbon winners right here at Just A Pinch. Our goal, after all, is to honor Blue Ribbon cooks 24 hours a day 365 days of the year!

One of our lovely members, Judi Harris of Montana City, MT, is among the county fair winners dishing up their winning recipes here in the Club. One of our favorites from Judi, her Best In Show Blackberry Cobbler, really epitomizes the flavors and feeling of fair season. "This [recipe] was in my mother's handwritten cookbook," says Judi. "I made it for the Jefferson County Fair ...and it won 3 awards: First Place, Champion, and Best in Show. I always make a double batch of this - it never lasts long!"

And it's no wonder! Judi's cobbler recipe bakes the fresh blackberries to perfection, and the cake-like base crisps up impeccably. You'll want to be sure to have a good amount of ice cream on hand for this one!

And speaking of ice cream, another perfect pairing comes from Blue Ribbon winner Crystal Villa of Arizona. We just can't get enough of her beautiful Apple Bundt Cake, first place winner at her State Fair! "This cake always seems to be a hit with everyone that tries it," explains Crystal. Not in the mood to make the glaze called for in the recipe? That's where the ice cream comes in! Crystal tells us ice cream is a great substitute for the sweetness of the glaze. (Although, I'll admit that I do so love the way her glaze looks when drizzled over the cake.)

Savory dishes are fair game for fair ribbons, too! Norma DeRemer's signature Hot Dog and Hamburger Relish has its roots in her local county fair. Years ago Norma was inspired by a ribbon-winning fair recipe, and has since transformed that recipe into a must-have spread.

"I started making this back when I first got married," says the York, PA resident. "Times were hard and money was tight down in Southern Ohio back then. Now that I'm living in PA, I couldn't find green tomatoes anywhere. I'm growing some tomato plants but not getting much off of them so I went to a local farmer and asked him if he would sell me some green tomatoes and sure enough that sweet farmer did... My family and friends love it."

In fact, Norma's relish really takes me back to the homemade relish my own grandmother used to make. We used it on everything! This relish is just as tasty...and makes a lot. I've been known to wrap the relish jars in gingham and give them as a hostess gift. There are always smiles all around.

These are just a few of the Club members who have been honored at their local fairs! Talented cooks abound here at Just A Pinch and it surely does not go unnoticed. I continue to learn so much from you Blue Ribbon guys and gals, and I count myself a better person for it. Happy cooking!

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Norma DeRemer - Aug 29, 2011
Angela, check at the bottom of this page. Isn't it exciting to have your own apron and look so professional.
margaret mcleod - Aug 28, 2011
I have entered into a local town fair since 2004, and pretty pleased with what I won. Like in the Alabama Pecan Festival I entered a pecan pie, got 1st place prize. And when I entered the Greater Gulf Ala. State Fair, I come out with 1st and 2nd place prizes. Here is a few of them---FIG PRESERVES & CAKE, PEACH PICKLE, BING CHERRY JAM & CAKE, FIG-STRAWBERRY JAM, SUGARFREE APPLE PIE, PECAN PIE. This is why I love to cook. Once you enter, you won't want to quit, it's habit-forming. I say GOOD_LUCK to everyone also.
Norma DeRemer - Aug 26, 2011
Thanks Colleen. Go ahead and enter something this year. If not this year go to your fair and check it out and talk with people and try entering someting next year. I'm sure you will enjoy the experience of trying something new. Good luck!
Angela A Hurtado-Greenwood - Aug 26, 2011
How do I go about thanking Just A Pinch for my apron. I was so excited to receive it!!! Love it - feel like a "chef" in it. Now to get cooking! LOL!!!
Judi Harris-Nulle - Aug 25, 2011
Eva - in response to your question: Has anyone noticed if there is a category that is most difficult or one that's the easiest?

I would say that depends on what you like to bake. I myself won Best in Show last year with my blackberry cobbler. I can make that in my sleep! I also entered Banana Bread and Apricot-Date Bars - both won First Place blue ribbons. The banana bread recipe is a family heirloom. The apricot-date bars mom made when I was growing up and I love them! I made things that I'm comfortable in making. to me that's the way you should treat entering a county or state fair. Go by the guidelines that have been set up for either county for state fair and choose to make what you enjoy making. The judges will see the difference, rather than just making something you're not familiar with. Speaking of that, the two recipes that I'm entering this year at the county fair, I've not made before. But I KNOW a good recipe when I see it and both have won blue ribbons at the author's respective county fair. The first one is a cherry pie recipe that my stepmother-in-law made and it won First Place. The second recipe is a chocolate bundt cake that won First Place also.

Now, I need to tell you all what I've done to try and keep winning blue ribbons and best in show. You know, last year I entered our county fair for the first time and came home with Best in Show, Champion, and First Place for my blackberry cobbler. That set a pretty high bar for myself, ya know?? How can I stay in that realm and not go downhill and get no ribbons?? Didn't want to go there. I started looking online for books that had to do with Blue Ribbon Baking. I found two. 1) The Road to Blue Ribbon Baking with Marjorie Johnson. Mrs. Johnson, over time, has at least 10,000 blue ribbons. Every recipe in her cookbook has won a blue ribbon. This is where I got the chocolate bundt cake recipe that I'll be baking for Saturday's county fair. The second cookbook is called "Every 1 A Winner, Blue Ribbon Recipes: Blue Ribbon Recipes (Every One A Winner)by Sue-Ann K. Dondlinger. So, I have two books that supposedly will keep me in "blue ribbons". Then it came time to actually look through both books. I first looked The Road to Blue Ribbon Baking" - it made my mouth water! ALL of the recipes looked fantastic! Then I broke it down to "what do I want to make?" and I began looking through for anything chocolate (my addiction and obesession!) - found the chocolate bundt cake - read the recipe and decided on "that one". I didn't find anything in the second book that I really wanted to make. That's HOW I decided what to make for this year's county fair. It will be the chocolate bundt cake and my stepmother-in-law's cherry pie recipe.

Also, in the guidelines for the county fair it tells you how much you can enter in a single category - like cakes/pies, etc. Like 6 muffins. I have a great recipe for granola that my stepmother made for a contest for Paul Newman's Own and she won the grand prize - a large amount of money to go to her favorite charity, a trip to NYC, and they put her up at the Waldorf-Astoria and she got to meet Paul Newman - he presented her with the winning certificate. But, our county fair doesn't have a food category for granola, so I can't submit it to them for judging. It's all very simple to me if you want to enter a state or county fair - find out what the rules are first, then go from there. Cause if you don't follow the rules, your product won't be judged and all that hard work you put into it will be for naught.
Norma DeRemer - Aug 25, 2011
Thanks Pam and Eva for your kind words. I'm sure all the ladies wish you both the best of luck with your experience with your county fairs. Bless the both of you and it sure is nice that all of use decided to join JAP. What a wonderful family we a gathering here.
Eva Warner - Aug 25, 2011
Thanks so much for all of the information! That will save me a great deal of trouble by knowing some things ahead. I will see if our County is online. That would be nice. Now, I just need to figure out what to enter. . Hmm.. I think I'll try to find the guidelines & see if that gives me any ideas. Has anyone noticed if there is a category that is most difficult or one that's the easiest? It is so nice to have the inside scoop from you ladies! Thanks so much! I'll keep you posted. I may not get to do it this year; if not, I'll have to do it next year! It somehow seems wrong that I've never done it. A gap in my life experience.. God bless you ladies & may you all do well at the Fair! :D
Pam McMillan - Aug 24, 2011
The Tennessee Valley Fair will be in Knoxville, TN in a couple of weeks, and this article has just inspired me so much! I won't make it this year, but you certainly have to try things out before you enter a competition! I have taken advantage of the great recipes from the great, and generous, cooks here at Just a Pinch, to give me some ideas about things like pickles, jams, etc, to make for Christmas gifts this year. Thank you all so much for your generous spirits in not only sharing recipes, but family stories. I read almost all of the comments about the wonderful donut recipe posted today, and it made me miss my mother so much, but also made me so glad that others had such wonderful memories about their own mothers. Aren't we all blessed! pam
Judi Harris-Nulle - Aug 24, 2011
I'm still a newby myself in this county fair entering. I've only done it last year and this year, but the entering of it is consistant each year. Thanks for your thanks, Norma!
Norma DeRemer - Aug 24, 2011
Thanks so much Judi for your input on this. It has been many, many years since I entered anything. So glad you could help these ladies out.
Judi Harris-Nulle - Aug 24, 2011
Both last year and this year I've gotten the Fair Entry Book on-line by typing into the search engine Jefferson County Fair, Boulder, MT". It comes up with the website for the Fair. If your county doesn't have a website for your county fair, call the County Office and inquire about your local Fair. Or if you go to the Fair this year and go to where the baked goods are ask someone there who you would contact about entering next year.
Judi Harris-Nulle - Aug 24, 2011
For those of you who haven't entered a county fair before, let me tell you what it takes to enter for our fair. You have to read the entry guidelines for Section F - Foods. This tells you what you can and can't enter and how much of a certain food is required to enter. You must also fill out a Fair Entry Form and put the Department Letter, Class #, Lot #, and Description of the food you're entering. You cannot enter without an Entry Form. You can't just walk in and enter. On Fair Day you must enter your food items between 7:30 and 10:00 a.m. You must also, along with the Entry Form, enter a copy of the recipe. They do this in case the judges have any questions about what was used in making the cake/pie, etc. Once the judging is done and the ribbons are given out, all baked goods must stay exhibited until 4 p.m. the next day - Sunday. At that time you can pick up your ribbons and if there's a money prize attached to them, you can pick up your prize winnings then.
Norma DeRemer - Aug 24, 2011
Go to the fair grounds before the fair starts and tell them that you want to enter something in the fair contest. Depending on what it is they will guide you on what to do. Good luck and you will have so much fun doing this. Hope you get a ribbon. Let me know how it turned out. Best of luck on your new ventures.
Eva Warner - Aug 24, 2011
Wow! This makes me want to enter something at the fair. I never have & didn't know exactly what you have to do. Can one of you fair experts tell me the procedure. I think some of my Mother's recipes might hit the spot. I don't know when the fair is. I think it's coming pretty soon. Let me know how to win! :D
Colleen Sowa - Aug 24, 2011
I have never entered anything in a fair... been thinking about it lately.... would be fun... Congratulations to all who have!