One should not live anywhere in the south without seeing or experiencing some of the many agricultural events that celebrate their area’s farming bounty. Since the southern culture is so deeply rooted in its farming and agricultural history, just about every county has one or more fairs, festivals, or other community events designed to celebrate the seasonal harvest. And since these events were designed around farming communities and families, they present great opportunities for family friendly activities, good music, and old fashioned fun. And food. Lots and lots of food and other consumables centered around the local harvest.
The standard fair offerings are always available, such as corndogs, funnel cakes, and onion blossoms, but if you don’t want to un-eat your lunch when you ride the Gravitron, leave the super heavy, greasy fair food behind. Eat some of the fresh made foods that the locals are showcasing. You and the crowd beneath the Super Loop will be grateful.
Here is just a very small representation of the annual events happening around me in Texas each year….
Poteet Strawberry Festival—Poteet, Texas, about 30 minutes south of San Antonio, celebrating the strawberry harvest. You may see strawberry shortcake, strawberry jam, strawberry wine, strawberry kebabs, and various strawberry beverages….And of course, music, dancing, and a rodeo.
Cornyval—Helotes, Texas, just on the northern outskirts of San Antonio, celebrating corn. You’ll find corn cups, roasted corn on the cob and corn pone. Music, dancing, and rodeo fill the weekend’s activity roster.
Freer Rattlesnake Roundup—Freer is in south Texas, in an area once known as the Wild Horse Desert. The only things that really grow there are oil, dirt, and scrub brush. With no crops to celebrate, the area celebrates one of the many hearty animal species that call Freer home—the rattlesnake. There are rattlesnake races, rattlesnake handlers, and you’re sure to find your fair share of snakeskin boots, belts and wallets. Of course, there will be music, dancing, and a rodeo. And guess what? Fried rattlesnake tastes like chicken.
Luling Watermelon Thump—Luling is about 45 miles southeast of Austin, celebrating watermelons. There are watermelon eating contests, seed spitting contests, and the grand champion watermelon growing contest. Expect to find watermelon wine, watermelon wedges, watermelon drinks, and other fresh watermelon goodies. There will be music, dancing, and a rodeo. Go figure.
Stonewall Peach Jamboree—Stonewall and Fredericksburg are north of San Antonio about 45 miles in an area famous for its peaches. Not the giant but flavorless peaches that come from somewhere else, but the small, super juicy, highly flavorful ones that you can eat by the bushel. Peach jam, peach cobbler, peach pie are all expected offerings, but try the peach salsa and peach ice cream too. There is a Peach Pit Spit, and various baking competitions…You may not believe this, but there will be music, dancing, and a rodeo.
Aransas Pass Shrimporee—Aransas Pass, Texas, about 20 miles from Corpus Christi, celebrating the local shrimping industry. Are you ready Forrest Gump fans? There are fried shrimp, grilled shrimp, shrimp kebabs, bbq shrimp, boiled shrimp, shrimp po-boys, shrimp burgers, shrimp salads and shrimp gumbo. Thankfully, there is no shrimp wine. Should I mention at this point that there will be music, dancing, and a rodeo?
New Braunfels Wurst Fest (Sausage Festival)—New Braunfels, Texas is about 30 miles north of San Antonio, and was settled by Germans. Hellll-O! They had me at Sausage….If Germans appreciate anything, it’s sausage and beer. Expect a lot of both. Sausage wraps, sausage sandwiches, sausage on a stick, and pretty much anything you could think to make with sausage. Lots of german mustards, and plenty of beer to wash it all down. Apparently the Germans also like music, dancing, and rodeos.
Okay, so obviously in Texas, music, dancing and rodeos are synonymous with fairs. Maybe in your state it is tractor pulls, horse racing, fishing tournaments, or log splitting events. Perhaps pig calling contests and bull frog races.
Whatever the local traditions, these events are great ways to discover and explore your area, meet local friends, teach your children about their heritage (or someone else’s), and have some good, clean, old fashioned fun while you’re at it.
I am sharing recipes for the foods that I enjoy the most at our local fairs……Not only are these simple to prepare at home, but together they make a great meal, and are much healthier alternatives to usual “fair food”.
Anticuchos (Beef Kebabs)
- 4 pounds sirloin, cut into 2 inch chunks
- 2 cups red wine vinegar
- 6 cloves garlic, smashed
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 can beer
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon ground pepper
Place meat into gallon size ziplock bag. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over eat. Place in a baking pan in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Yes, days.
Thread onto skewers. Grill over hot coals or flame, 5 minutes on each side or until desired doneness.
Roasted corn is one of the most popular fair foods sold in Texas venues. It is delicious eaten with nothing on it, but is traditionally served with a selection of toppings for people to dress it up how they wish.
8 ears corn on the bob (do not shuck)
Popular toppings: melted butter, mayonnaise, chili powder, lemon pepper, lime wedges, finely chopped cilantro, finely crumbled cotija cheese, chili limon seasoning, Louisiana hot sauce.
Peel the husks back from the corn, trying not to remove them. Remove the silks, and carefully replace the husks back over the corn. Tie the end with a piece of husks to secure it. Roast over low coals, not over direct flame, and with the lid closed, for half an hour. Remove to serving platter.
To serve, simply peel the husks down, but leave them on. They will serve as a handle for eating. Allow each person to choose and dress their corn how they wish.
Varation: Corn cups—cut the roasted corn from the cobs, and place in cups. Allow each diner to mix in his/her choice of toppings
- 4 cups water
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 2 cups of fresh lemon juice
- 1 pint fresh ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced
Boil water and sugar until sugar is dissoled—less than one minute. Pour into pitcher. Add lemon juice. Puree strawberries in a blender until thoroughly pureed. Add to pitcher and stir. Chill until ready to serve.
Serve over ice, with lemon and strawberry slices to garnish.
Fried Peach Pies
- 1 can (12-13 oz.) evaporated milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup plus 1 teaspoon shortening
Mix milk and egg together and set aside. In a mixing bowl, mix flour, salt and sugar. Cut in shortening until mixture resembes coarse meal. Stir in milk and egg mixture, and work it until a nice dough comes together. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- 3 pounds fresh peaches, peeled, seeded and chopped (or 4 cups frozen)
- ¾ sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 Tablespoons granulated tapioca
- oil, for deep frying
Place all ingredients into stock pot, and bring to simmer over medium heat. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Cool completely.
To assemble: roll dough out into 1/8” thickness……Cut into 4-6” circles using large bisquit cutters, or the rim of a large glass. Place a bit of filling on half of each circle, and fold the other half over it. Crimp edges with a fork. If filling is oozing out, use less.
Fry in hot oil at 365* until golden, about 4 minutes. Toss in sugar if desired, and allow to cool on wire rack.
Alternately, you can bake at 350* for 30 minutes.