|My very own personal favorite food from the fair. I used to get|
these as a kid growing up in NH
Fair time also gives us some of the most flavorful foods found anywhere!! You can get deep fried dough, pizza, popcorn, cotton candy, sausages smothered with peppers and onions, snowcones, burgers, hotdogs, turkey legs as big as your arm, 101 different varieties of fudge and apples covered in candy shells or gooey caramel. The best part...is that list only begins to scratch at the surface of the foods you can find at the fair!
My inspiration for writing this piece came from the unlikeliest of all places, the local supermarket. While shopping the other day I came across a display of Candy Apples. Without really knowing why I stopped my cart and said kind of loudly, "You can't get good Candy Apples at a supermarket" and then continued to shake my head and say "You can only get the good ones at the fair or at an orchard." My small moment on top of the soapbox however, was heard by a few people who then proceeded to stare at me. Blushing, I just kept on going and headed over to get some peppers and onions around the corner. Funny thing was, I kept thinking about those apples as the next few days went by and that got me to think about some really great and happy times from my childhood. Every Labor Day weekend while young meant going to the fair, not just for a day because that wouldn't be right. I would go for multiple days and each day was all about the food. I would get to the fair grounds right as things opened up and was lucky enough to spend the whole day and night running around seeing friends and quite naturally eating! My grandmother and I had a special relationship when it came to the fair. While I was having my fun, she had strict instructions to bring home fudge. So each day I went, fudge would come home with me. After the fair was over, she would come to my house and we would sit out on the porch eating fudge. We would talk and laugh like we were the only people in the world. These days when I see a vendor selling fudge I smile and think of those days. One of the simple truths about good memories that I have preached for years is that somewhere in those memories, you can always find food.
So as I was strolling down memory lane and thinking about fair food, I made a very interesting discovery. One that had me kind of shocked. You see fair food has changed since the days of the fried dough and snowcones. You can still find those perennial favorites without any difficulty, but now you have something new to choose from as well. It appears that fair food, like many things right now has gone by the way of gourmet eats. You now have access to foods that wouldn't have even been thought of a few years ago, let alone back in 1897 when William Morrison and John C. Wharton invented Cotton Candy or as they called it 'Fairy Floss'. They later sold the warm spun sugary goodness at the 1904 Worlds Fair in St. Louis for 25 cents which back then was considered a fortune!. It came in a box and they reportably sold over 65,000 units which made them a nice little profit and started a craze that continues today with different flavors.
Don't despair though if you plan on going to the fair and want to keep the calories down. The ever popular fair ground is also going healthy, because le'ts face it, something needs to combat the Fried Ice Cream Burger. Here in MA, you have access to the Big E which draws people by the thousands and is also home to an award winning Tomato & Basil Salad. Made by Mary Beth Draghi and the folks at Little Acres Farm Stand in the Connecticut building, the salad uses fresh ingredients that include a Balsamic & Spice Dressing, Fresh Mozzarella Balls, and Late-Crop Tomatoes along with Fresh Basil. Some of the other healthy goodies you can find across the country include Peach Yogurt Sundaes or Grilled Portabello Mushroom Sandwiches, which are found over at The Mushroom Bar at the Minnesota State Fair. Heading back into MA at the Big E, stop by the Maine building and grab Salmon on a Stick as you stroll around the rides and games.
Let's get back over to the apples for a little bit. A real fair apple covered in that hard candy shell or the aforementioned caramel, has been and always will be one of my personal favorites. So after a little digging I was able to track down some ideas and recipes to make these at home in your kitchen. They make an excellent treat around this time of year and with apple orchards opening the gates in a couple of weeks, this gives you more then just apple pie to work on. When choosing apples to use, it is my recommendation to use firm apples with a bite of tartness to them. The firm flesh of the apple stands up well to the candy coating and the sweet and tart combination works nicely together. I found this list online at a website called www.instructables.com and it should work well when choosing what apples to work with. These guys are also responsible for the actual recipe I typed out below. You will also want to get your hands on a candy thermometer. Working with sugar is never an easy task and making sure you have the right temperature is crucial to achieving the best results.
* Fuji Apples, firm and sweet apples
* Granny Smith Apples, green skinned apples with tart flavor
* Braeburn Apples, firm with a slightly sweet and tart flavor
* Jonathan Apples, firm with similar flavors to the Braeburn
Try and use smaller apples when working on the candy process.
6 Candy Apples
(sticks for candy making can be found at most party supply stores)
1/2 Cup Light Corn Syrup
2 Cup White Sugar
3/4 Cup Water
Food Coloring, traditional coloring is red, but have some fun and experiment with blues, green and orange
Toppings, use any type of candy or nuts
In a small/medium sauce pot combine the syrup, sugar, food coloring and water. Bring to a boil over medium/high heat. As soon as the mixture boil,s reduce heat and allow to simmer until the temperature reaches 300 degrees. It will take some time so be very patient. While stirring gently, brush the sides of the pot occasionally with a pastry brush and warm water. The temperature will create a good crunchy shell on the apples. Dip the apples into the mixture, tilt the pot to completely coat the apple if needed. Remember to just dip the apples and coat them. You don't want to just place them into the candy mixture. If you are using candy toppings, roll the apple into the mix before the shell can harden. Place the apples on a baking sheet covered in foil and sprayed lightly with pan coating. Finished apples on the tray can go into the refrigerator to cool.
Oreo Cookie Fudge
3/4 Cup Butter
2/3 Cup Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 Cup Marshmallow Fluff
1 tsp Vanilla
2 Cups White Chocolate Chips
3 Cups Crushed Oreos
Take a 9x9 pan and line it with aluminum foil, coat with pan spray. In a sauce pot melt the butter combined with the condensed milk over low/medium heat. When the mixture comes to a boil reduce heat to a simmer. Use a candy thermometer to reach a temperature of 230-235. Stir in the chocolate chips. Remove from the heat and continue to stir. Add the Fluff, vanilla, and 2 cups of the crushed Oreos. When the mixture begins to stiffen and become smooth pour it into the prepared pan. Use the remainder of the crushed Oreos to sprinkle over the top. Keep in the refrigerator over night to allow it to settle.
Thanks for taking a stroll with me down memory lane. It was lots of fun and just one of the reasons that I truly love what I do. It was my Grandmother who truly taught me how to love food and all that goes with it and I know if she could see me today that she would be proud of where Kitchen Time is going. Later this week I will be doing a piece on Martinis and finishing up with that piece on Mediterranean Cooking. Feel free to share with friends or family. Send me an email over at firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure to visit us over on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Kitchen-Time-with-Chef-Sean/246701912098777 and online at the main Kitchen Time page www.teachingyoutocook.com