Despite a past fondness for snickerdoodles, Elkhart County 4-H Fair Board president Rich Utley cannot handle cinnamon like he used to.
But that didn’t keep Utley from savoring slices of six homemade custard pies, most of which featured the potent spice, while judging the fair’s 2015 President’s Baked Item competition Thursday afternoon.
“Old age, I think,” he said with a hearty laugh. “I don’t eat cinnamon as much I used to, because it gives me heartburn. It (the winning pie) was just the right mix that I like — real good.”
In a humorous twist, Rhonda Yoder’s winning entry in Thursday’s competition had no cinnamon at all. Utley, who did not cleanse his palette between pieces, may have been tasting the residual flavors of the other five entries.
“It was nutmeg, actually, my fresh-ground nutmeg,” Yoder revealed with a chuckle. “There is no cinnamon in it. I did not tell him that.”
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Among the nearly 60 attendees inside the Home and Family Arts Building, Yoder sat in the front row of spectators with her son and cracked a smile as her winning number was announced.
She had entered the annual competition once before with a rhubarb pie. For her custard pie, the Middlebury mother strayed from her usual recipe and added cream for additional texture, a move which could have helped her secure the $10 first place cash prize.
“This was just a recipe I found in a cookbook,” she said. “Up until now, I had been using my grandmother’s recipe.”
Each year, the choice for the baked item in the contest is decided by the fair’s annually changing president. Utley, who was flanked during judging by his wife, Linda, and granddaughter, Kayli Prough, prefers custard pie for its mild sweetness.
“I’ve liked it for quite a while,” Utley said. “My grandmother used to make it, my mom made it. My wife doesn’t make it anymore, but I really like that pie.”