Elkhart County 4-H Fair 2015: Cooking competitions put culinary skills to the test

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By: Geoff Lesar
glesar@flavor574.com

J. Tyler Klassen/Flavor 574

Attendees of the 2015 Elkhart County 4-H Fair will have a chance to cluck, cook and crank their way to blue ribbons and bragging rights.

This year’s fair will feature a delicious spread of food contests, including longtime favorites like the Byler Lienhart Cook-Off, the Great Homemade Ice Cream Crank-Off Contest and the Senior Citizens’ Cookie Baking Contest.

The President’s Baked Item contest this year is custard pie, and will be judged by Elkhart County 4-H Fair president Rich Utley. Plus, there are two “Anything Goes” ingredient contests this year instead of just one — contestants will enter creative recipes using either sweet peppers or zucchini.

Most of the 4-H fair cooking contests are presented by the Elkhart County Extension Homemakers, but some have been added to the lineup this year to fill competition voids after the recent statewide ban on live poultry transport.

“Obviously everyone was bummed about that, because that’s the fun part about it,” said Valerie Jacobs, organizational leader of the 4-H Poultry Club. “You know, you raise this animal up and you get to come and bring it to the fair. But honestly, all of the kids have been doing very well, they’ve embraced the changes this year that we’ve made and they’re excited about some of the contests.”

Although live birds will not be present, club members will be able to display their processed meats for judging and participate in cooking contests like a chicken barbecue contest and egg cook-off.

Elkhart County Purdue Extension educator Robert Kelly is optimistic about the poultry club changes and believes this year to be a learning opportunity for club members.

“There seems to be a lot more opportunities to educate the public and 4-H members about biosecurity,” Kelly said. “This year, it makes it more relevant to them. These things (avian flu) do happen and this is why we do what we do.”

Kelly said a review board will determine if the new contests will continue in the future and believes some could become permanent additions to the fair.

Thursday, July 23

President Rich Utley’s Baked Item – Custard Pie, Noon

  • Check-in is 11-11:45 a.m.
  • Contestants may enter only one item.
  • Entries can be picked up following judging.
  • First place receives a $10 prize.

Saturday, July 25

“Anything Goes” with Sweet Peppers, Noon

  • Entries must have sweet peppers as a main ingredient in the dish.
  • A copy of the recipe must accompany the recipe and be typed or neatly written on an 8½ by 11 sheet of paper.
  • Exhibitor name, address and phone number should be included on the backside of the recipe.
  • There is no pre-registration, participants are limited to one entry and the entry fee is admission to the fair.
  • Entries should be checked-in at the Home and Family Arts Building between 11 and 11:45 a.m.
  • Awards will be given to first, second and third place finishers.

Chicken Barbecue Contest, 9:30 a.m. (Poultry Barn)

  • Features an open class (charcoal or propane) and 4-H class (charcoal only).
  • Ages 10 and under must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Signup deadline is Friday, July 24 and can be done at either the Poultry Barn or by calling Valerie Jacobs at 574-354-0612.
  • Chicken will be supplied. Contestants must provide all other materials, including a grill.
  • An apron and plaque will be awarded to the winner of each class.

Egg Judging, 2 p.m. (Poultry Barn)

  • USDA grade eggs will be accepted for judging.
  • To sign up, call Valerie Jacobs at 574-354-0612

Monday, July 27

Dairy Delicious, Noon

  • Check-in is 11-11:45 a.m.
  • Two categories: party foods and main dishes.
  • Recipes must contain at least two dairy foods such as milk, cream, cheese or ice cream.
  • Entry should be a minimum of six servings.

Tuesday, July 28

Longest Apple Peel Contest, 11:15 a.m.

  • Check-in is at 11 a.m.
  • Contestants will have 30 minutes to peel an apple from Kercher’s Orchard with a paring knife.
  • First, second and third prizes will be awarded to the longest single peels. 

32nd Annual Senior Citizens’ Cookie Baking Contest, 11:30 a.m.

  • Check-in is 9-11 a.m. at the Home and Family Arts Building
  • Contest features three categories: bars, drops and formed.
  • Brownies will not be accepted.
  • Contestants must be 62 or older.
  • Entries should include six cookies.
  • Awards will be given to first ($3), second ($2) and third ($1) place finishers.

Wednesday, July 29

Egg Cook-Off, 10:30 a.m. (Poultry Barn)

  • Features an open class and 4-H class.
  • Signup deadline is Tuesday, July 28.
  • Contestants can enter by calling Valerie Jacobs at 574-354-0612.
  • Dishes must be prepared prior to competition and include at least four eggs.

“Anything Goes” with Locally Grown Zucchini Contest, Noon

  • Check-in is 11-11:45 a.m. at the Home and Family Arts Building.
  • Entries must have zucchinis as a main ingredient in the dish.
  • A copy of the recipe must accompany the recipe and be typed or neatly written on an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper.
  • Exhibitor name, address and phone number should be included on the backside of the recipe.
  • Sweet Corn Charlie Produce is sponsoring the contest and will award gift certificates to first, second and third place finishers.

“Bursting with Blueberries” Contest, Noon

  • Check-in is 11-11:45 a.m.
  • Anything made with blueberries will be accepted for judging.
  •  IN Terra is sponsoring the contest and will award prepaid VISA gift cards to first ($50), second ($25) and third ($20) place finishers.

Saturday, August 1

The Great Homemade Ice Cream Crank-Off Contest, 11:15 a.m. (ice cream must be done by noon)

  • Check-in is 10-11 a.m.
  • Contest will take place in front of the Home and Arts Building
  • Contestants may compete as individuals or in teams of 2 or 3.
  • One entry per person/team.
  • Contestants must provide their own ingredients and equipment, including an extension cord, ice and salt (ice is available for purchase at fairgrounds).
  • Recipes must include real pasteurized dairy products.
  • If eggs must be used, powdered or pasteurized are recommended. Raw eggs must be heated to 160 degrees before using in a recipe.
  • Recipes should be prepared ahead and ready for freezing.
  • Ice cream may be shared with contest judges, officials and immediate family. Health code prohibits public distribution.

Byler Lienhart Cook-Off, 11:30 a.m. (Lamb Barn)

  • Check-in begins at 9 a.m.
  • If items items require longer cooking time, cooking can begin before 9 a.m., although it must be done on-site.
  • Each contestant must submit two copies of the recipe used.
  • A minimum of 80 percent of the cooking must be done on-site.
  • Contestants are responsible for providing the meat, recipe, ingredients, utensils and cooking source for entree preparation.
  • Cuts: Any fresh, lean cut with at least three-ounce servings
  • Ground: Must be freshly ground and 80 percent lean
  • Six categories are beef (cut, ground), lamb (cut, ground) and pork (cut, ground).
  • Cash prizes will be awarded to top finishers.

Best of Michiana Ribs, Noon

  • Check-in at 9 a.m.
  • The rib competition follows the same guidelines as the Byler Lienhart Cook-Off.
  • Ribs can be boiled at home prior to barbecuing or smoking.
  • One entry per participant.
  • One winner will receive a gift certificate to Yoder’s Meat and Cheese Co.
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