Howdy! Welcome to the first ever virtual Cook’s Country Fair. With a cornucopia of agriculture-themed posts and down-home cooking competitions, for 12 weeks we’ll pay homage to our rural roots and those who taught us to enjoy good, simple food. We’ve got our summer jam-packed with fun stories, blue-ribbon winning recipes, and exciting giveaways. Each week we’ll be asking you, our fans, to share your personal stories in our comments, and we’ll pick a new story each week to be our winner. We hope you’ll join us for the festivities every Thursday afternoon from June to September!
an avenue at a fair, carnival, or amusement park for concessions and amusements. The word originated in 1893 with the Midway Plaisance at the Chicago World’s Fair.
Nowadays, country-fair food stalls sell dishes that better resemble something out of Star Trek rather than grandma’s quaint kitchen. With things like shish-kebabed alligator, chocolate-coated bacon on a stick, red-velvet funnel cake—not to mention Hot Beef Sundaes, frozen s’more on a stick, and all manner of deep-fried creations such as fried beer, fried butter, fried salsa, and fried bubblegum—it’s no wonder that fair foods have developed an unsavory reputation over the years. But there’s a method to the madness.
As a Southerner, one of the very first things I was taught about cooking was how to properly manage a pan of hot oil (mainly how to avoid burning myself or my little brother). After that we learned how to save bacon grease for baking recipes and how to properly make a flour dredge for chicken-fried-chicken (followed promptly by a lesson in pan-gravy, which I never quite mastered). Needless to say, frying is a way of life.
When we’d go to our local county fair, the occasion was always marked by the treat of a freshly fried corn dog paired with a puddle of mustard in which to dip it. It was only later in life that I realized the gastronomic delight that is fried pickles: a sour, salty, and crunchy creation that is only made better with the application of ranch dressing. The meal was always concluded with a white paper plate of powdered sugar-dusted funnel cake or a large bag of still-hot sweet and sticky kettle corn, followed by some scolding about how messy we were covered in mustard splotches and dusted with sugar. But it was always worth it.
In the name of nostalgia, we’ve collected some of our favorite fair-food recipes to share with you. Our recipes for Homemade Corn Dogs and Fried Pickles were perfected in the Test Kitchen, but they taste just like something you’d find at your local fairgrounds. And our Butter Toffee Popcorn is so perfectly caramelized and crunchy, you’ll wonder why anyone would ever bother with that pre-packaged stuff.
HOW THE COOK’S COUNTRY FAIR WORKS
Every Thursday this summer, we’ll post a new story on the Feed featuring recipes worthy of any county fair. This week, we’re frying things up with our Homemade Corn Dogs and Fried Pickles and buttering things up with our recipe for Butter Toffee Popcorn.
MAKE IT NOW
SHOW AND TELL
HOW TO WIN THIS WEEK’S GIVEAWAY
We’re giving away a copy of The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook! Want to win? Leave a comment below describing the most interesting fair food you’ve ever eaten, and we’ll pick one cookbook winner. Entries due Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 11:59pm EST to enter. Giveaway for continental US residents only.
LAST WEEK’S WINNER
Congratulations to lerickson30, who charmed us with tales of Kane County, Illinois, and won a cookbook. Thank you to all who shared their blue-ribbon stories; read them all here.