Thursday, March 4, 2010

Time to Prepare for the Oscars of Food Preservation - Weekly Email


It's Oscar week here in LA and the award craziness is in full swing. Are you ready for that Oscar party yet?

Wolfgang Puck has preserved food on his retro menu for the Governor's Ball - smoked salmon (which is usually cured as well) on crackers in the shape of the Oscar statuette. Little know fact about me, I worked the Governor's Ball in 2005, and I made lots and lots of those Oscar-shaped crackers.

Speaking of the Oscars, traffic and parking may be affected at the Hollywood Farmers' Market this Sunday. This is important because Delilah Snell and I will be doing a demo of how to can pickled vegetables from 10am - 12pm. We will giving away some of the cans at the end of the demo, so you too might be a winner on Oscar Sunday.

Speaking of award ceremonies, it is time to prepare for the Oscars of food preservation - the 2010 Los Angeles County Fair!

Although the fair isn't until the end of August, and the entering deadline for the food preservation judging is near the end of June, if you want to win some blue ribbons, now is the time to get ready as the canning season begins to swing into full gear.

If you haven't considered entering your preserves in the fair competition, why not? It isn't that difficult, there are dozens of classes, and how cool would it be to have an actual blue ribbon you could show off?

So what is the first thing you need to do?

Read the official rules (only 4 pages): [PDF]

Read the list of divisions and classes within divisions: [PDF]

There are 17 different divisions, such as butters, fruit & vegetable pickles, jams, jellies, conserves, marmalades, relishes, sauces, etc. Within each division is a number of classes. For example, the relishes division includes such classes as sweet pickle, chow-chow, piccalilli, corn, chutney, pepper/onion, zucchini and other.

Finally, you'll need to print out the entry form: [PDF]

The entry fee is only $5 for 1-5 entries and increases to only $25 for 21-30 entries!

Now you're ready to start preparing to enter. As you can through the season, keep the rules and classes in mind. If you are going to be making some marmalade anyway, why not put aside a couple of jars for the fair? You'll need to put the recipe aside as well, so a notebook will come in handy.

Here are a few hints on winning those ribbons:
  1. Follow the rules! Why bother entering if your preserve will be disqualified because you didn't follow the rules?
  2. Judges will be looking at the flavor (for tasted entries), texture, appearance, and color of the food.
  3. The syrup or pickling brine should be clear, not cloudy.
  4. Cut pieces of fruit or vegetables should be uniform in size and appearance.
  5. The crisper the pickle, the better.
  6. All entries should be free of air bubbles, but jellies, sauces and relishes especially.
  7. Pay attention to detail. With a two jar entry, they should be identical, even as to how the sealing lid faces on the jar.
  8. Proper headspace is important.
  9. Jars should be clean and shiny (use vinegar in the water bath to prevent mineral deposits on the jar), and the lids and rings free of rust.
  10. Don't turn over the jars; food under the lid will cause the preserve to be marked down.
  11. Use high quality fruit for best taste and appearance.
  12. Did I mention you should follow the rules?
Honestly, it isn't all the difficult and requires just a little more record-keeping when you're done canning. You're going to be canning anyway, so why not take a chance?

Enter as many classes as you can. It increases your chances to win, and the Sweepstakes goes to the person who won the most ribbons. Only one entry per class, though.

Good luck with the fair! I'm hoping to see some of your names with blue ribbons next to them come late August!

That's it for this week. If you have any questions about canning, pressure canning, fermentation, dehydration, freezing, pickling, curing, smoking or brewing, feel free to email me at

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Ernie Miller

1 comment:

  1. People enter your canned goods it really is fun to see how you did. I got Best of Show last year now that was soooo cool!