State Fair Competition Picky About Pickles

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, September 2, 2005

Ladies and gentlemen (background, soft) we’re just about ready to start the judging of soft spreads and pickles (trails off)

There’s a lot going on in California Kitchen at the California State Fair. While emcee Michael Marks entertains the crowd, the pickle judges emerge from backstage and take their places at a kitchen “set” before the live State Fair audience.

Judge Anna Davis is a UC certified Master Food Preserver. She’ll be looking for many signs of Pickle Primacy, most importantly …

“Oh definitely crisp. You want a nice crispy, pickle that’s not too salty.”

Or uneven, or that has too many air bubbles or is incorrectly labeled. Every jar begins with a seal, and every seal that pops brings a smile.

“That’s a terrific seal.”

Davis resists the urge to be too impressed. After all, these are the first pickles she’s tasted, yet there’s not a sour note.

“Wonderful, great flavor, terrific crunch, beautiful pack in the jar.
These are First-Place pickles, absolutely wonderful.”

For the benefit of the public, all the judges must explain their decisions. Davis grabs a mike and puts on a show.

“The head space is right on at half an inch. The garlic comes through, the dill does, but it does not overpower the pickle. And the crunch! This pickle is a First-Place and I’m giving it a 98 because I’m afraid to go to 100 with my first pickle.”

Next up is a jar of dill pickles that appears pretty enough, but Davis hesitates.

“Lot of bubbles. They’ve got grape leaves in here. We’ll see. [Elaine: Are you going to taste it?] I’m going to open it up and I’m going to do the pH test to make sure it’s got enough acid in here. I’m very I’ve very leery on only processing it in a water bath for 5 minutes. Hardly any pop to it. I’m very leery of this product. “

Before popping the lid off a gorgeous tall thin jar of perfectly picked asparagus spears, Anna sees something that shouldn’t be there -- rust on the lid. She consults fellow judge Judy Scolley.

“Um, this one’s rusty too. I really should disqualify it. Yeah. It’s more than just a speck of rust.”

The rusted beauties were never opened. Davis moves on to more garlic dills, but she’s already deducted points before popping the lid.

“It’s going to get a little bit taken off because all the pickles are not uniform in size. Look at this one’s cut in half versus being a whole pickle so the pack is going to get a little bit taken off of it… Pops. It’s over an inch of head space. HMMM. Very salty …yep,  third place.” 

Michael Marks senses the crowd’s polite disappointment.

“Folks, you might be thinking that our judges are a little bit picky. But this is the California State Fair. This is the Academy Awards of all State Fairs.”

It’s been a stressful couple of hours, but it’s time to pick a winner.

“This happened wed and last week -- the very first product I tasted in a class were just superb. These Garlic Dill Pickles are definitely Best of Class, they’re just an outstanding product.  Nothing comes close to them, they’re wonderful.”

That jar of Garlic Dill pickles got a Blue Ribbon. It’s on display until the end the State Fair for viewing, but not eating. That’s just for judges.