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Thursday, 27 July 2017 12:08

Corn puts the sweet into summer dining

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An acquaintance of mine from Yorkshire, England, who is now nearing a century of living, once demanded that I tell her everything I know about sweet corn. She knew I lived in the Midwest where there are plenty of cornfields. My friend’s age and country of origin are important because sweet corn, until post-World War II, was not really grown in England. This is partly due to the shorter, cooler growing season in England — corn likes to take its time, and it likes it hot.

Thursday, 20 July 2017 12:19

Time to fill up on fair food

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It’s county fair time! When it comes to filling your tummy at the Rock County 4-H Fair, July 25 through July 30 in Janesville, there’s so much to choose from and so little time.

Ask anyone who’s been attending the fair for a while and you’ll hear the burgers and malts mentioned as a favorite — they’ve been served up by the Rock County Farm Bureau for the past 41 years. That’s a lot of burgers.

The bureau’s Sheila Everhart said  prices are kept low so participants in the fair can afford to visit their booth multiple times.

“Our target market is families and the 4-H exhibitors at the fair,”?Everhart said. “We sell Johnsonville brats for $3, all-beef hot dogs for $2, burgers and our signature cheeseburger with delicious cheese from Country Quality Dairy — a double cheeseburger is $4.50.”

Wash that down with a shake or malt for $3.

Fair Secretary Mary Check said they try to have a good variety of food vendors. Occasionally, they add a new vendor due to attrition.

Elmer Scott of Elmer’s Kettle Corn had been trying to secure a spot at the fair for years. Elmer is retired from the business, but the kettle has been passed to Codi Papcke, who is excited to bring Elmer’s Kettle Corn to the fair for the first time this year.

“We’ve been at the Janesville Farmers Market since it opened in 2005, but this is the first time at the fair,” said Papcke, who has been operating the business for four years.

The slightly salty, slightly sweet popcorn is a popular treat. The good part is, the busier Elmer’s gets, the faster the popcorn can be made.

“It takes about four minutes to make a batch, but once the kettle gets heated up, we can push through a batch in three minutes,” Papcke said.

That means that everyone who has a hankering for the hot, crunchy treat will be satisfied.

Experience in serving hordes of people in a short time pays off for  food vendors trying to provide a smooth transaction for customers.

Rona Dolgner of the Janesville Tuesday Breakfast Optimist Club said her club has plenty of that experience.

“I’ve been doing it for 30 years; the club’s been at the fair for probably 48 years,”?she said.

They sell cheese curds and chicken nuggets.

“Everyone loves the cheese curds,”?she said. “We go through cases and cases of them.”

Other food items you might want to try this year are the pretzels from Ben’s Soft Pretzels, baked potatoes from Billie’s, pork sandwiches, hot dogs, pizza, cheesecake, lemonade and frozen treats from Kona Ice.

This year, the Optimist Club is adding a new treat: deep-fried sweet corn.

“It’s delicious,”?Dolgner said.

Well, of course, it is — isn’t all fair food delicious?

If you want more

Some treats found at the fair can be made at home. So while you’ll surely want to scoop up a cream puff from the Rock County 4-H Club booth, here’s how you can make them once fair season has come and gone.


Cream puffs

Makes 8 shells:

1 cup water

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter

1 cup flour

4 eggs


Custard filling:

1/3 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

2 cups milk

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 tsp. vanilla

To make the shells:

Bring water to a boil. Add butter and watch until melted (it could boil over unless you stir it). Remove from heat. Add flour and stir until dough forms a ball. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Drop by scoop onto cookie sheet — do not grease the pan. Bake for about 25 minutes in a 425 F oven. The top should be hard and crisp. If you take them out too early, they will collapse.

To make filling:

Mix flour, sugar and salt. Slowly stir in milk. Cook, stirring until mixture boils; boil for two minutes. Stir a little of the hot mixture into eggs, then return to hot mixture, stirring until thick, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Let cool and refrigerate until needed.

Fill the cooled shells with whip cream or custard filling and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Keep refrigerated.

Thursday, 06 July 2017 12:29

Mulberries: Now’s the time to enjoy them

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There are three types of mulberry: black (Morus nigra), red (Morus rubra) and white (Morus alba). The black mulberry tree originally is from Persia, which is found within the area of modern-day Iran. The red mulberry is native to North America.

I have the black mulberry.

The white mulberry is a native of China and is an important food for the silk worm. The silk industry still needs the leaves to feed its tiny workers.

The bark, berries and leaves of the various mulberry varieties have been used for centuries as medicinals. The black mulberry berries are a laxative, tonic for the blood and an anti-inflammatory. They also are an antioxidant and contain copious amounts of vitamins A, B and C.

Mulberry leaves are an antibacterial. A tree from the leaves can be used to induce sweating and end a fever, while encouraging the expulsion of congestion in the lungs.

Native Americans used the red mulberry as an anthelmintic, a natural wormer particularly effective on tape worms.

No matter the variety, the mulberry fruit is highly perishable, which is why you don’t find it on store shelves. It shows up at farmers markets once in awhile. The fruit doesn’t travel well, but mulberry jelly does,  and that’s what I like to make with my mulberries.

The jelly is one-fourth of my sweet and sour sauce, so I?often use it in Chinese dishes, a nod to the mulberry’s origins.

Thursday, 29 June 2017 12:55

Summer fruits: Pretty and good eating

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What do you like best about summer? One thing I absolutely love about summer is summer fruits. 

I love the look of them all lined up at summer markets. Plum skins shining purple black, fuzzy peaches blushing, blueberries twinkling, raspberries squeaking in the colander — there is not a summer fruit I don’t love, and that includes tomatoes (but that’s another story).

I love the way they smell, too.  Cantaloupe with its musky aroma, watermelon that is sweetly sticky.  And the way summer fruit tastes!  Now there’s something to write home about; ripe nectarines that ooze summer at its best, tart cherries that make your lips smack together. 

I love the way summer fruits snack — right in the hand. No preparation required. And I love to cook with them. They make wonderful light desserts, add pizzazz to entrees, liven up salads and add zing to summer coolers.

I simply cannot be talked out of my enthusiasm for summer fruits.  Now’s the time, people! Seize that summer fruit while it’s ripe! 

Get started with these fruits:

Thursday, 22 June 2017 11:11

Go wild or plant your own greens

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It’s easy to pick up a bag of prewashed and cleaned greens, but when you find out how easy they are to grow, you just might become a gardener without even trying. Take a look at the price you’re paying for that fancy bag and you’ll receive an extra dose of incentive for growing your own.

Start by adding a packet of mixed greens to your window boxes — lettuce comes up fast and you’ll have time to harvest it a couple of times before your ornamental plantings thicken up and push them out of the way. Potting up a patio container of greens is another easy way to have a salad at your fingertips.

No store can carry every variety you can plant easily. And lettuces make a pretty border that will be gone (and eaten) by the time those impatience and petunias climb over the edges of the garden.

If you enjoy indulging your wild side, try picking greens for free. Consider nettles (stinging nettles lose their sting when cooked like spinach), chickweed, dandelions, lamb’s quarters (also called wild spinach), shepherd’s purse and watercress, to name just a few. I can find all of these in my backyard, so they certainly are plentiful.

For seed-package mixes, try a mild mesclun mix for a complete salad from a single package. You’ll find a variety of color, textures and a mild taste. Spinach is very mild-tasting when picked before the heat hits or before it goes to seed. Other favorite greens include arugula, leaf lettuce, bibb, butter crunch, butterhead and oakleaf (available in red, curly and standard).

For hearty greens that hold up to steaming or stir-frying, try Swiss chard, beet greens, mustard greens, broccoli rabe, collard greens and kale.



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