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The County Fair Cookbook

Tater Pigs

The Twin Falls County Fair began as a harvest festival in 1916 and has evolved into a six-day event with three days of rodeo. Tater Pigs were introduced in 1975 by the Twin Falls Magichords, a barbershop quartet singing group. The recipe goes as follows:

4 Idaho russet potatoes, 1/2 lb. each
4 frozen pork link sausages

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scrub the potatoes well. Make a hole through each one just large enough to hold a sausage. Insert a frozen sausage in each. Bake for 1 hour or until the potatoes and sausages are cooked through. Serves four.

Baking the potatoes with the sausages inside flavors the spuds and makes them especially appetizing, according to Blaine Williams, president of the Magichords group.

Roast Pork with Caraway Seeds

Mary Victorine is descendant of one of the 60 Czech families that colonized the town of Malin, Oregon, on the shores of Tule Lake in 1909. The town of Malin in Czechosolvakia was said to grow the best horseradish in Europe and the colonists brought the rootstock of those plants with them when they immigrated.
"Today we raise about one-quarter of all the horseradish in the country right here," Victorine told the cookbook authors. She offered the following roast pork recipe as one "almost-entirely-homegrown" in Malin.
"We like it with a side dish of sauerkraut, browned in the roasting pan after the fat is removed," she said. "To spice it up, serve it with a mixture of three-quarters mustard, one-quarter horseradish."

1 clove garlic
1 4-lb. pork loin or shoulder roast
Salt to taste
1 T caraway seeds
1/2 cup water
1 medium onion, cut into quarters

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut thin slices of garlic and insert them into little cuts in the meat. Salt it lightly, press on the caraway seeds and place the roast, fat side up, in a roasting pan with the water and onion. Roast for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, or until the meat reaches 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Let rests 15-20 minutes for easy carving. Serves 4 to 6.

Grandma Dykstra's Apple Cake

In Grandview, Wash., the Yakima Valley Junior Fair is held for four days in mid-August and is run by 4-H and FFA members. Located in "The Fruit Bowl of the Nation" and surrounded by orchards, the fair naturally features many apple-based cooking contests.

Denise Dykstra, a 4-H member, won a blue ribbon for the following dessert at the Junior Fair in a competition sponsored by the Washington Apple Commission.

2 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 t vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 cups peeled, sliced Washington apples
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Add the sugar, oil and vanilla. Mix well. Add 1 cup of the flour, the baking soda and salt and beat for 1 minute. Beat in the remaining flour, then fold in the apples and walnuts. Spread the batter in a greased 9x11x2-inch baking pan. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Makes 1 cake.

Back to the Book Stall
Big Small Plates
The County Fair Cookbook

by Lyn Stallworth and Rod Kennedy
Hyperion Books, 1996
Order a Copy

At the Calcasieu-Cameron Fair in Sulphur, Louisiana, they eat catfish courtbouillon.
Barbecued chicken is a favorite dish at the Rockingham County Fair in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
At the Twin Falls County Fair in southern Idaho mouths water in anticipation for Tater Pigs.
"Each county fair is unique, a community celebration with its own distinct local essence," write authors Lyn Stallworth and Rod Kennedy, Jr., in the introduction to "The County Fair Cookbook." 
While the fast food restaurant menus and Interstate highways may look the same across the country, the food items found in the most popular county fair food booths are refreshingly indigenous.
There's Yankee Johnnycake at the Plymouth State Fair in New Hampshire, for instance, and Ruritan Chicken at the Canfield Fair in Ohio. At the Kent County Fair in Maryland they sell crab cakes and at the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe, Wash., the Snoqualmie Tribe's smoke-barbecued salmon is served in a cedar longhouse.
Stallworth and Kennedy collected more than 200 "down-home" recipes from food booths, exhibit barns and blue ribbon prize-winners across the country and compiled them in their cookbook along with descriptions of nearly 100 county fairs.

Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2007  All rights reserved.

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