Mastering Food Preservation: Blue Ribbon Winners

The last section of  the Master Food Preserver Program was on judging canned goods at fairs, a fitting end to our training as one of the opportunities available to volunteer Master Food Preservers is fulfilling requests at different fairs. Each jar is judged against a standard, as set by The National Center for Home Food Preservation, and are often based on visual criteria alone, such as: type of container, uniformity, texture, pack, headspace, clarity/color, liquid to solids, and cleanliness. As it turns out, the Cumberland Fair was in full swing nearby, and I and a fellow student took a field trip there to see for ourselves what makes a blue ribbon winner.

As we learned, each fair determines what method of awards is to be used — the American method has a set number of ribbons, while the Danish method has no limit to the number of ribbons awarded. At the Cumberland Fair, which uses the Danish method, each jar is judged separately against a standard, and awarded accordingly.

These two jars of canned mackerel and lard were in a class of their own and deservedly blue ribbon winners. Their very ambitious maker also submitted jars of canned chicken and stock.

In addition to the home canned goods, there was a display on drying food. Steaming beforehand helped this cabbage retain its nice green color.

Of course, we couldn’t leave the exhibition hall before stopping by the vegetable display. The blue ribbon winning blue hubbard is a beauty.

Outside of the exhibition hall, the giant pumpkins perched majestically.

While just a few steps away, we found the youngest member of the dairy cattle.

On the outskirts of the Midway stood a farm museum, housed in a permanent structure and alone worth the visit. Among the many displays was one of dairy-related equipment, including a collection of milk bottles.

A wall of tractor seats.

Milking stools, shovels and someone’s patiently mounted collection of Black Pine knots.

We were especially fascinated by this piece of equipment used to knead the water out of butter.

My favorite of all was this set-up for a summer kitchen, used to keep the main house cooler by moving the cooking into a separate building or outdoors. In place of the box oven, I’m imagining a couple of canning pots bubbling atop.

Visit Kate at The Blueberry Files for her take on judging the home canned goods at the Cumberland Fair >

This series of posts follows the Master Food Preserver Program being offered through the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

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4 Responses to Mastering Food Preservation: Blue Ribbon Winners

  1. Judy says:

    Yeah, a trip to a fair. My hat is off to all judges – tough job. Great pictures, love the museum, and I still can’t believe the size of the giant pumpkins.

  2. Liz says:

    I do love the pictures form the fair. I took the kids to the Melbourne version of your fairs – the Royal Agricultural Show last month a lot of fun and lots of jars of jam to look at there too.

  3. Very impressive display of vegetables and I just love the glimpses in to that museum-absolutely fascinating and the display of tractor seats made me giggle out loud!!

  4. Oh! I love your photographs! (The mackerel is admittedly a bit freaky, because I think preserved food should be covered in the preserving liquid.)

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