Wallace Cochran of the Merc will seek to defend his Chefs Challenge champion title Friday evening at the Douglas County Fair. This year’s cook-off will feature Cochran with Michael Beard of 715, 715 Massachusetts St., and T.K. Peterson of Merchants Pub and Plate, scheduled to open in August at 746 Massachusetts St.
Each chef will have 30 minutes to prepare a seasonal dish featuring locally sourced ingredients straight from county farms and 4-H'ers. They’ll start cooking at 6 p.m. in the shelter area of the Douglas County Fairgrounds, 2110 Harper St. Judging — which includes an audience participation score — will wrap up by 7:30 p.m.
The Douglas County Food Policy Council sponsors the Chefs Challenge, and representatives will be on hand from farmers markets, grocery stores and educational groups to promote buying and eating local from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“Kansas, and Douglas County in particular, has a rich agricultural history,” County Commissioner Nancy Thellman said in an event announcement. “The county fair provides a great opportunity to celebrate all types of agriculture — from livestock, to crops, to fruits and vegetable production. We hope the Chefs Challenge will highlight our talented local farmers, chefs and 4-H participants, and help connect people to the source of their food.”
I’ll be heading over to the fairgrounds tomorrow in search of the biggest vegetable in Douglas County.
Those hulking, twisted monster pumpkins we’ve seen pictures of filling up entire pickup beds come to mind. More realistically, extension agent Jennifer Smith tells me, the Douglas County fair will have a few big zucchinis and a couple other veggies in the contest (The categories are largest pumpkin, fall squash, watermelon, muskmelon, summer squash and zucchini).
Smith did not seem hopeful that any of our Douglas County veggies would be smashing world records. But I looked them up out of curiosity anyway. Indeed, this year’s fair would have to produce some seriously ginormous veggies to top any of these.
According to guinnessworldrecords.com:
- The world’s heaviest squash weighed 1,236 pounds and was grown by John Vincent and Brian McGill (both Canada) and presented at the Cornerstone Landscaping Giant Vegetable weigh off in Stroud, Ontario, Canada, on Oct. 24, 2009.
- The heaviest pumpkin weighed 1,810 pounds 8 ounces and was presented by Chris Stevens (USA) at the Stillwater Harvest Fest in Stillwater, Minn., on Oct. 9, 2010. The pumpkin measured 15-feet-6-inches in circumference.
- The heaviest watermelon weighed 268.8 pounds and was grown by Lloyd Bright (USA) of Arkadelphia, Ark, in 2005. Lloyd grew and weighed in for the Annual Hope, Arkansas Big Watermelon Contest on September 3, 2005.
- The longest zucchini courgette measured 7-feet-10.3-inches on Oct. 17, 2005, and was grown by Gurdial Singh Kanwal (India) in his garden in Brampton, Ontario, Canada.
- The heaviest zucchini courgette was grown by Bernard Lavery of Llanharry, Rhondda Cynon Taff, UK in 1990 and weighed in at 29.25 kg (64 lb 8 oz).
Incidentally, if you’ve ever considered taking up giant-pumpkin growing as a hobby, you’ll find everything you need to know at pumpkinnook.com — “The Internet Shrine and Library for Pumpkins.” There’s even an entry about naming your pumpkin. Personally, I'd have a hard time picking between Fertile Myrtle, Sasquatch or Jabba the Glut.
After interviewing pie-baking champion Aliene Bieber for this week’s food cover story, (and, along with the rest of the newsroom, quite enjoying the pie in this picture), I typed up the recipe she shared with me to keep for myself (and inevitably not execute as well as she does someday when I try it). But, I figured, why keep it only for myself when sharing on the blog is so easy?
We also have recipes for Harold Agnew’s Basil Chive Bagels and Katherine Berkowitz’s Whole Wheat Bread. You can find those here, along with winning recipes from last year’s 4-H food contests.
Here is Aliene’s cherry pie recipe, with two approaches to choose from for the pastry.
3 cups tart red cherries
1/2 cup cherry juice
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon red food coloring (optional)
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon butter
Mix sugar, flour and salt thoroughly in a sauce pan. Add cherry juice, extract, cinnamon and coloring. Stir until well blended. Cook until thickened then add cherries. Let stand while making pastry.
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
2/3 cup shortening
About 1/3 cup of cold milk
Sift flour, salt and sugar into large bowl. Add shortening. Cut into the flour with pastry blender or hands until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle with milk. Toss mixture lightly until mixture forms a soft ball. Roll out half of dough. Fit into pie plate. Trim off edge. Roll out the other half of dough for top of pie. Put cherry filling into pastry lined pan and dot with butter. Place top pastry on pie. Trim and tuck edges.
Bake at 400F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for 30-35 minutes longer.
Aliene’s Pie Crust (for two-crust pie)
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup butter-flavored shortening
4 Tablespoons cold nonfat milk
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
Mix flour, salt, sugar and shortening until you have a crumbly mixture. Using fingers, mix lightly. Add milk and syrup. Mix just until dough forms a soft ball. Roll out half at a time. If baking for a one-crust pie, bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes or until nicely browned. If making a two-crust pie, bake according to recipe.