Country fairs always mean a little bit of fun, a little show and tell and a lot of competition to see who raised the best livestock and who prepared the best baked goods or concocted the perfect meat dish.
If you plan to enter a dish in the Ramona fair, here are a few blue ribbon contenders dating back from the 1800s and early 1900s.
At that time, women received recipes that were passed down from mother to daughter, or were taken from the pages of Pearson’s Magazine.
Pearson’s was a fashion, romance and adventure publication that carried the works of authors like H.G. Wells and Rudyard Kipling among others. It also carried popular recipes of the time, and many of these would be carefully cut out and pasted into mother’s “secret” recipe book.
Here are a few to tickle your taste buds:
Baked Beans Savory
“For the Picnic Basket”
Cook in two tsp. of salt pork or bacon fat a large slice of onion, add one tsp. curry powder and one-half cup of tomato pulp, or half the amount of tomato catsup. Add two or three cups of baked beans, turn in a mould and, when cold, serve on lettuce leaf. (Sounds like a winner to me.)
Prairie Chicken, Circa 1900
After preparing, boil in hot water until quite tender in all the joints except the breast; take out and rub all over with butter; salt, and pepper, and boil briskly with the breast; then take out again and with a lump of butter on each piece set in the oven for a very short time.
(Sounds good but I’m still leaning toward that bunny dish.)
Boiled Ham, March 19, 1914
A ham should be soaked overnight, then washed and scraped before it is boiled. Place it in a large kettle, in cold water, and heat gradually. It is best to let it remain an hour before it comes to a boil, then let it simmer gently, allowing twenty-five or more minutes to each pound.
Breast of Veal, Stewed, January 1867
Brown the veal first by half roasting it; remove as many of the bones as possible, and then put it into a stewpan with some stock, a glass of wine, a piece of lemon-peel, a bunch of sweet herbs, and a carrot; let simmer slowly on a hot hearth, with hot cinders on the lid of the stewpan; about half an hour before it is served, strain off the sauce and remove the herbs, etc., put it then back with the veal, first thickening it with some flour browned in butter; let it boil up, to take off the raw taste of the flour; then add some pickled mushrooms, with their juice; and, when you serve, add some forcemeat-balls, which have been fried, and are hot. To vary the appearance, the tendons may be cut off, and the remainder rolled into a nice round, and finished as before; season with salt and pepper. A ham-bone, or a bit of lean ham, will improve the flavor.
(I have no idea what a forcemeat-ball is, but it sounds like it could hurt.)
Peterson’s Magazine, February 1859
Boil half a pound of rice till it becomes soft; pour it out to cool; add to it one pint of milk, half a pound of flour, and a teaspoonful of powdered cinnamon. Fry them in butter or lard, and serve them with wine sauce.
Peterson’s Magazine, March 1861
Cut some rhubarb into pieces an inch long, place it in a saucepan without a cover, adding chopped lemon-peel and sufficient sugar to sweeten in water; let it simmer till reduced to a pulp; stand aside till cool. Line a flat dish with paste, put in the rhubarb, and, before putting it into the oven, add a piece of butter the size of a walnut, and a good sprinkling of nutmeg.
Serve with custard-cream.
To make the cream: Beat up two eggs with a tablespoonful of cold milk, have ready a half pint of milk boiling hot, to be poured gradually on the eggs, stirring all the time, pour backward and forward in the saucepan. If not sufficiently thickened, place on the fire for a moment, but be careful it does not boil, or it will curdle and be spoiled.
Chop small onions in skillet with large spoon of butter, cook over a hot fire until onion is browned; pour over this one can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup, then add one pound chopped yellow cheese, stir constantly until blended and serve on wafers or toast.
(No bunnies were killed in the making of this dish.)
Peterson’s Magazine, January 1867
Take three eggs, and their weight in sugar and butter; melt the latter without oiling it, add to it the sugar and the rind of one small lemon, very finely minced, and then gradually dredge in as much flour as is equal to two of the eggs. Stir the mixture thoroughly; whisk and beat well the eggs, and add them lastly. Again, mix well together all the ingredients and boil for two hours in a buttered mould or basin. Serve with sweet or wine-sauce.
(Now, we are assuming these are canary eggs, but...)
Quail Pie, September 23, 1881
Quail, butter, pepper and salt. Cut the quail in pieces and stew them about ten minutes, or till tender. Line your baking-dish with a nice paste; put in the birds; a little of the water in which they were stewed, thickened with a little flour; shake in pepper and salt and bits of butter; cover with a nice crust and bake to a delicate brown.
Pickled Walnuts, Circa 1900
One hundred walnuts, salt and water. To each quart of vinegar allow two ounces of whole black pepper, one ounce of allspice, one ounce of bruised ginger. Procure the walnuts while young; be careful they are not woody, and prick them well with a fork; prepare a strong brine of salt and water (four pounds of salt to each gallon of water), into which put the walnuts, letting them remain nine days, and changing the brine every third day.
Real Boston Baked Beans
Boil one pint of beans in a half-gallon of water for one hour. Then pour off the water, put the beans in a large pan, pour over them half a pail of cold water and wash thoroughly. Repeat this several times, until the skins of the beans are all washed off. Place the beans in a half-gallon stone jar and cover with water; add a pound of fat pork or bacon, a tablespoonful of molasses and a little salt, and bake all. Must be kept tightly covered, and, if it gets too dry, add more water.
(What country fair does not have several recipes of baked beans? I would guess judges for this entry spent the night in the barn.)
Sheep’s Brains, Roasted or Baked
Four or six brains will be required for a dish. Prepare the brains as for stewing, and procure as many slices of bacon as there are brains. After they have been boiled and are thrown into cold water, drain and dry them perfectly; brush over with oil, and roll them in highly-seasoned bread crumbs. Put them in the bacon before the fire in a Dutch oven, or bake in a well-heated oven, turning them about that they may be equally cooked, and basting them occasionally. When they are nicely browned, take them up. Lay the slices of bacon on toast, put the brains on them, and send sharp sauce or tomato sauce to a table in a tureen. Time to bake, thirty to forty minutes. Sufficient for six or seven persons.
(Always a favorite at Grandma’s house, which explains why I didn’t visit very often.)
So, there you have it. Some may be tasty, others may be just to scare the neighbors from visiting unexpectedly around dinnertime. I can’t guarantee these are going to fetch a blue ribbon, but they should fetch something.