All’s fair in state fair cooking contests

Published 6:34 am Tuesday, October 11, 2016

By Deirdre Parker Smith

The State Fair starts Thursday, and brings with it a number of cooking contests. The entry deadlines for all the contests has been extended to the day of the contest, which makes me think they are looking for entries. This could be your chance at a blue ribbon, and, in most cases, prize money.

Here’s a rundown of what’s available:

N.C. Peanut Growers Association is sponsoring a PB&J contest, Thursday at 4 p.m. How hard can that be? Well, you have to use at least a half cup of peanut butter and fresh peanuts as a garnish.

House-Autry Mills is sponsoring a Chicken & Waffles Recipe Contest Friday at 10 a.m. $250 top prize. The best way to make this recipe a success is by using any House-Autry Mills product. It’s OK to think outside the box. Make it the best gluten free chicken and waffle recipe and you could win an extra $50 prize.

North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission — Sweet Potatoes Are Perfect for One-Pot Meals Recipe Contest, Saturday, Oct. 15 at 10 a.m. $250 top prize. Judged on taste (35%), most creative use of sweet potatoes (35%) and prep time (30%).

Gold Medal Flour “Best Pie” Contest, Sunday, Oct. 16, at 2 p.m. Looks like these need to be sweet pies that use at least one cup of Gold Medal Flour and you’ll need proof that’s the flour you bought and used.

North Carolina Apple Growers Association Apple Recipe Contest, Oct. 17, 10 a.m. This must be an autumn-themed dish with any variety of North Carolina apple, and you’ll need to use a minimum of two cups of apples. The theme is “Autumn is apple season.” Taste and appearance carry the most points, with creative use of apples thrown in.

North Carolina Egg Association, “Incredible Eggs” Go International Recipe Contest, Oct. 18, 10 a.m. They may be North Carolina eggs, but the dishes must be internationally influenced. No desserts. You’ll need to use at least six eggs. Use of eggs and taste are the top scores.

North Carolina Pork Council Tar Heel Tailgating Pork Challenge, Oct. 19 at 10 a.m. Be “innovative, appealing and unique.” Anything you’d serve at a tailgate, including dessert, as long as pork and only pork is the meat ingredient. Taste is 50 percent of the judging, with creativity at just 10 percent. Time to whip out those bacon brownies.

North Carolina Pecan Association Pecan Recipe Competition, Oct. 20 at 10 a.m. This one’s not too complex — use at least one cup of pecans for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack, including dessert-type recipes (their term).

North Carolina Cattlemen’s Beef Council Beef Appetizer Recipe Contest, Oct. 21, 10 a.m. This is pretty straightforward, too. You must use ground or whole cuts of beef as the meat ingredient — no other meats of any kind. Make it tantalizing.

The Great American Spam Championship, Oct. 22 at 10 a.m. Sing it with me, “Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, …”  Two categories  — one for adults, one for kids, and two national grand prizes, which is a trip for two to the 2017 Waikiki Spam Jam Festival in Hawaii or Spam Kid Chef of the Year, $2,000 cash. Aloha! Theme is 40 percent of the score, as is taste. You must use at least one 12-ounce can of Spam product and up to 10 other ingredients. The theme is sweet and savory. Cake mix is one ingredient and salt, pepper, cooking oil and water do not count in the 10.

And, the King Arthur Flour Baking Contest on Oct. 23 at 2 p.m., which offers gift certificates to Baker’s Catalogue or cookbooks. Adults must make pound cake and kids must make brownies. All items must use King Arthur Flour and be made entirely from scratch. You’ll have to bring an opened bag of flour or the UPC label from that bag when entering.

To get complete rules for all the contests, go to and there you can find entry forms, or simply follow the directions for each contest.

Below is the 2015 winning Peanut Growers recipe:

PB&J Wontons

1 cup unsalted, unsweetened peanut butter

1 cup pepper jelly (as hot as you like it!!!)

24-36 wonton wrappers

3 Tbsp. olive oil

Coarse sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay out wonton wrappers on parchment paper, leaving a little room to work between each.

Place one-half to 1 teaspoon of peanut butter in the center of each wonton.

Place one-half to 1 teaspoon of pepper jelly on top of the peanut butter in the center of each wonton.

Get a small bowl of water. Dip your fingers in the water and run them along all edges of a wrapper. Then fold that wrapper into a triangle and press edges together. Use a fork to help press edges (optional, but pretty).

Repeat with the rest of the wonton wrappers. Brush the tops of the triangles with olive oil. Sprinkle wontons with coarse sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Bake for 10-15 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes. Enjoy warm or cold. Any leftovers store nicely in a zipper bag for up to a week.

— Gretchen Van De Carr, Durham.

And this is the apple contest winner from 2015.

Fresh Apple Pecan Raisin Cake with Honey Bourbon Glaze

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups coconut oil

4 cups peeled, cored and chopped apples (Granny Smith or another firm, tart variety)

1 cup raisins

1 cup chopped pecans

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp allspice

Mix ingredients until well combined. Spray bundt pan with cooking spray. Spoon batter into the pan and tap on counter a couple of times to settle the batter and remove air pockets. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Take out of oven, let cool, turn upside down onto flat serving plate and remove pan. Drizzle with glaze.


4 Tbsp. butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 tsp. vanilla

1/3 cup bourbon

Melt butter in a saucepan, then add brown sugar, honey and vanilla. Remove from heat and stir in bourbon. Carefully light fumes above sauce using a long match or lighter. Let stand until flames disappear.

— James Halley, Gasburg, Va.

For more 2015 winning recipes, go to the same web page and click on list of 2015 Special Cooking Contest Winners.

Good luck!