October 4, 2012

Canned Goods at the Fair

Last Saturday, I helped to judge the canned goods at the Cumberland Fair. The past three years, Master Food Preserver volunteers have helped award ribbons to the hundreds of canned goods entered into the Fair. 

Canned goods are judged using the judging resources from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, and based on appearance alone - no tasting required! We looked for attractive color, appropriate consistency, correct headspace (a frequent markdown), clean jars, and new lids.

This was the first year I helped, and it was a lot of fun. We enjoyed seeing the staggering variety of jams, jellies, salsa, vegetables, and the stray jars of meat.

The yellow wax beans pictured above was a particularly attractive sample of canned vegetables. The color is vibrant, the pieces all the same size, the vegetable of good quality, and the headspace correct for a low-acid food (1 inch).

This jar of lard was a first place as well - also the first time I've ever seen home canned lard! I don't even know if there is a recommendation for home canning lard, but I assume it's similar to canning meat stock

The appearance and headspace (again, 1 inch, but hard to see in this picture) were both great, so I had to award it a blue ribbon, despite it being a rather... unusual entry.  

These identical jars of salsa and spaghetti sauce made us laugh - because they truly were identical in appearance - same consistency, headspace, and as far as I can tell, ingredients. 

We awarded the salsa a blue ribbon and the spaghetti sauce a red ribbon (second place) due to the headspace being a little small for a pressure canned recipe. 

The day before the Cumberland Fair, I was up at the Common Ground Fair demonstrating canning applesauce. I of course checked in on the canned good entries in the Exhibition Hall. While they hadn't been judged yet, another Master Food Preserver volunteer was going to be judging them the next day. 

These whole San Marzano tomatoes were beautifully packed, and I hope earned a blue ribbon. 

I was intrigued by this rose hip nectar. While the wire bale jar isn't recommended for home canning, the syrup was beautiful with whole pieces of fruit floating in it. 

And these pickled garlic scapes with fresh dill and hot peppers were beautiful. I am always drawn to scapes packed curled around inside the jar like this. 

And yes, I got my requisite fried shrimp at the Common Ground Fair. Obviously.

Have you ever considered entering canned goods into the fair? Did you know every entry gets a ribbon and a cash prize? 

If you go for it next year, do me a favor and make sure to clean off your jar first? The judges will thank you for it!