I entered my upteenth jelly/jam competition at the New York State Fair this year – I can’t quite remember when I entered my first, but I think it was around 1990. And, it all started out with a group of girlfriends who didn’t have much $, and noticed that at the time, you could get a free ticket ($6) and paid parking ($3) for entering recipes in the Culinary Division of the NYS Fair – for a cost of $5 and a postage stamp. No brainer, right?
Well, things have certainly changed – ticket prices have risen ($10) and there’s no more paid parking (bummer) – and entry fees have gone up to $7. Oh, well, still ahead of the ballgame…and still having fun! I was the only one that actually entered from the get-go, but no sour grapes there…unless they’re in one of my jams:-)
Since food was always at the forefront of my family history, it’s no surprise that my mother was quite the jam/jelly maker. As soon as berry season came round, Ma would load up my brother Alan and me into the old blue and white Ford(?) wagon and go berry picking.
I particularly remember blueberry picking, because Ma would tie a clothesline “strap” to a couple of old white porcelain enamelware pots (the ones with the navy blue stripe around the edge) and put them around our necks so we could pick berries. At least that was the plan. It was lucky for Ma that the lady tallied up the blueberries on the way out…and didn’t watch us as we ate two berries for every one in the pot. But we had a blast.
I still have fun picking berries at the patch down the road – local folks have had these great blueberry bushes for generations, and this year, they were loaded to the hilt. Dave & I piled up the quarts and headed home to freeze them…or, in my case, make a few batches of low-sugar blueberry jam. And one jar found its way into the New York State Fair “Taste of NY” Jam…from local produce…and I left the Fair with a Third Place white ribbon – made my day for sure.
But my day got even better when one of my newer entries in the savory division, Sage Jelly, garnered a Blue Ribbon – and, I thought that one was a long shot! It has an interesting taste, and can be used as a dinner condiment for real or faux meat entrees (yeah, I’m a vegetarian) or on toast. Very tasty…and the judges agreed. They even made a note that this is a really nice surprise for the category.
Though my favorites were made from wild berries on PondView Lodge’s acreage, the judges didn’t quite have a wild enough palate for Chokecherry Jelly and Mayapple Jam…though one of them noted that they really liked the Chokecherry Jelly, but it got marked down for a technicality – wasn’t translucent enough to be classified as a jelly. But they noted to please try again next year – I appreciate the encouragement and thought that was a nice gesture.
Well, I will try again next year with those wilder varieties, but in the meantime, I’ll bask in the reflections from my shiny new 2013 New York State Fair ribbons…