Turn fresh summer produce into ribbon-worthy entries this fall

by | Jul 29, 2011

For some, canning is a way to savor the flavors of summer long into cold winter months. Others may enjoy canning as a social activity, hosting parties with friends and dividing the preserved fruits of their labor. The N.C. State Fair offers two more reasons to take part in food preservation: premium money and bragging rights.

Last year, 304 exhibitors vied for coveted blue ribbons in the food preservation category, one of three culinary categories listed in the State Fair Premium Book. This year, the competition is expected to be just as full. You don’t have to grow your own fruits or vegetables to enter one of the canning contest, but if you want to stand out from the pack make sure to start with fresh, local ingredients. For some of the categories, such as canned tomatoes or peach preserves, that means looking for perfect produce now.

You can find the ingredients you need at roadside stands and farmers markets across the state. To find a location near you, go to www.ncfarmfresh.com. If you’re planning to submit, here are a few things you should know:

  • There are eight food preservation adult categories and one junior category for children, ages 9-18.
  • $8,844 in premium money will be awarded in the food preservation category.
  • Pre-registration forms are due Friday, Sept. 23, at 5 p.m.; entries can be dropped off Oct. 5-10.
  • All products must be processed according to recognized safe methods found in the current editions of the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning or the Ball Blue Book.
  • More details about the contest are available here.

Even if you don’t submit an entry in the fair, canning is a great way to preserve the tastes of summer for months to come. The N.C. Cooperative Extension offers several tools to get you started with home canning. If you have additional questions about canning, contact your county cooperative extension office.