If you have a 4-H member at your house, you may want to take advantage of the long Iowa winter and begin working on exhibits for the County Fair. When I judge at fairs, I talk to so many 4-H members that have really only baked their exhibit once or maybe twice. It is hard to see how much learning could occur when finding a recipe and baking a product for the first time the night before the fair. During this time of year, we often have snow days at school, or weather that makes it difficult to do much outdoors. What a great time to begin thinking of an exhibit the member wants to take to the fair.
The 4-H member can look for recipes and make the product a few times to ensure that the product is suitable for display at the fair. If the member makes a mistake, needs to alter the recipe, or even change to a different recipe there is still plenty of time. Remember that all this learning will make a great addition to the write-up. Regular practice of the recipe or technique will ensure the member can make the final product for the fair with confidence. Taking notes or making a rough draft of the write-up will also be helpful.
If the 4-H member wants to exhibit some sort of home preserved food, they have time to can some jars of the food and compose a write up or notes for the judge. Having this completed early takes some stress off the member at County Fair time. In addition, working on the fair exhibit this far ahead of the fair allows the member to look at the Inappropriate Foods for Exhibit at 4-H fairs publication or the time to call or email us at AnswerLine to determine the safety of the exhibit. If it is determined that the product is not safe, the member still has time to find a safe, tested recipe and preserve more of the food or correct any other errors that make the exhibit unsafe.
Members considering preserving food can go on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website and take an on-line course in home food preservation. They also have time to look at various recipes on the site and read up on techniques and different canners. There is also a section on the website with FAQs about canning problems. Even research about canning techniques and recipes could make an interesting exhibit for the fair.
We are always happy at AnswerLine to discuss County Fair exhibits especially when a member is working this far in advance of the fair. Call or email us, we would love to help.