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!
Over the years, county fair ice cream has earned its place as an essential part of the Midway food offerings. Forced to fight for fair goers’ sugar cravings against the likes of funnel cakes and deep-fried candy bars, ice cream evolved into creative varieties of itself—complete with add-on adjectives like triple-stacked and double-dipped, wild flavors like maple-bacon and sweet corn, and crazy concoctions like spaghetti ice cream (noodle-shaped ice cream with strawberry “tomato” sauce and chocolate “meat balls”). Scoops of simple, hand-churned ice cream had begun to drift into the realm of make-believe.
Photo Credit: Randy von Liski
Long before the advent of deep-fried ice cream bars and liquid nitrogen flash-frozen cream drops, dairy products ruled the country fair. This single food group was so important that an entire royal court was elected to serve as dairy ambassadors, touting its natural goodness to any fair-goers who would listen. Dairy princesses carried around samples of local cheeses and butters and ambassadors helped out at the milk bar, but the most revered job was reserved for the Dairy Queen. In her neatly pressed sash and best Sunday dress, the Dairy Queen would taste winning dairy entries from all over the county, wave and smile while riding in the fair parade, and, most importantly, dole out blue-ribbon worthy ice cream samples to a hungry crowd. And receiving a cup of freshly churned ice cream scooped by the Dairy Queen herself was quite the regal affair.
Dairy Princesses c. 1950 – Photo Credit: Marriott Library, University of Utah
Ice cream held such importance at county fairs because the fresh, homemade variety took time and effort to make—especially if you had to milk the cow first. My grandmother always reminded me of this as I pestered her and paced around the whirring ice cream churn, waiting for it to finish. Growing up on a family dairy farm, she knew quite a bit about fresh milk and how to turn it into dozens of different dishes, including her famous homemade vanilla ice cream. She always had an array of self-serve toppings prepared—like fresh peach slices, Spanish peanuts, or chocolate syrup. My young mind always found her ability to turn something so simple into a treat quite fantastical. I came to the conclusion that she must be the one, true Dairy Queen and I was the luckiest girl in the world.
Crowning of the Dairy Queen – Photo Credit: Wisconsin Historical Images
Although my grandma was never actually a member of country fair dairy royalty, she still helps preserve the same homemade philosophies and slow-food qualities by making freshly churned ice cream for her family.
Here at America’s Test Kitchen, we can’t claim any royal lineage either, but we think we’ve perfected several ice cream recipes that would earn the royal seal of approval from DIY grandmas and country fair Dairy Queens alike.
HOW THE COOK’S COUNTRY FAIR WORKS
Every Thursday this summer, we’ll post a new story on the Feed. This week we’ve churned up some of our favorite ice cream and ice cream based recipes to keep you cool, including Magic Vanilla Ice Cream, Magic Strawberry Ice Cream, Easy Chocolate Ice Cream, S’mores Ice Cream Cake, and Orange Creamsicle Ice Cream Cake.
MAKE IT NOW
SHOW AND TELL
HOW TO WIN THIS WEEK’S GIVEAWAY
We’re giving away a copy of Cook’s Country Blue Ribbon Desserts! Want to win? Leave a comment below telling us your favorite ice cream flavor. Entries due Wednesday, August 21, 2013, 11:59pm EST. Giveaway for continental US residents only.
LAST WEEK’S WINNER
Congratulations to Clare who shared a comment about her mother’s antique tiny wire mesh strainer (great for dusting baked goods with powdered sugar) and won a copy of The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook! Thank you to all who shared their stories on their antique gadgets; read them all here.