The Fair-est Foods of Them All

It's time to celebrate the all-time greats of saturated-fat technology

Deep-fried salsa and more delicacies abound at state fairs across the country.

There's fair food. And then there's fat-abulous fair food — the fair-est foods of them all. The ones that state and county fairs have made famous for their gooeyness, girth, and flagrant use of the saturated fat gram. Yeah, I’m talking to you deep-fried Twinkie.

Click here for the Fairest Foods of Them All Slideshow.

But superb sat-fat innovation has hit another growth spurt the last few years, truly upping the battered ante. The result? Gastronomic gems that could make even a rodeo clown blush. Inventions involving condiments, beverages, and previously satisfying dessert selections that somehow seem unfinished when compared to fair fodder. Again, that’s you deep-fried Twinkie. With fair season upon us, it’s time to see the number one reason people visit these dens of arterial destruction.

From Los Angeles to Texas to Minnesota, there’s a reason families visit these events in droves in the name of fun, food, and festivity. Yes, that crazy big Ferris wheel holds appeal. But when it comes to satisfaction, nothing beats a cinnamon roll that’s been dumped in the deep-fryer and covered with bacon. Hope you brought an appetite.

— Gregg Rosenzweig, Yellow Pages

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Who is the fairest of them all?

The hearts and minds of British coffee-guzzlers with a social conscience are about to become a new battleground. Kraft Foods, Italy's biggest coffee-maker, Lavazza, and the 100-year-old Lyons Original Coffee brand are all to launch ethical offerings. But instead of working with the growing fair-trade movement, these brands have shunned the UK's leading ethical certification body, the Fairtrade Foundation, in favour of a little-known, New York-based international conservation organisation called the Rainforest Alliance.

Fairtrade-marked coffee accounts for 4% of all coffee drunk in the UK, and 20% of the premium roast and ground sector. Cafédirect, which sells only Fairtrade drinks, has proved that the ethical model can be a success: it is now the sixth largest coffee brand in the UK, with annual sales of over £22m. While the general coffee market has been static for a number of years, fair-trade alternatives have shown considerable growth - nearly doubling between 2001 and 2003.

The Rainforest Alliance, meanwhile, was established 17 years ago with the aim of halting the destruction of the rainforests by providing solutions to the problem of deforestation rather than just raising awareness, explains its marketing manager Sabrina Vigilante. Funded by the US Agency for International Development and a number of private agencies, it sets out to provide farmers with economic incentives to stop them destroying their environment.

So how do the ethical rivals differ? The biggest difference is in the price paid for the coffee. The Fairtrade Foundation guarantees farmers a minimum price of $1.21 (65p) per pound of green coffee beans. This is much higher than the market price, which has averaged 80 cents this year, after recovering from an all-time low in October 2001, when it tumbled to 45 cents. The foundation also pays an extra five cents as a social premium to invest in community projects. This premium is paid even if the market price rises above $1.21.

The Rainforest Alliance offers no minimum or guaranteed price. But Vigilante says that farmers under the scheme still gain financially. She claims certified farmers can receive an extra 10 to 60 cents above the market price for a pound of green coffee beans.

Kraft's corporate affairs manager, Jonathan Horrell, says it pays a premium of up to 20% for the coffee beans it uses in its Kenco Sustainable Development brand. At the current market price of 80 cents, this equates to about 96 cents per pound - still 21% less than the Fairtrade price.

The Rainforest Alliance's first initiative, in 1989, was to establish a forestry certification system called SmartWood. In 1991, it extended the scheme to bananas - it claims to certify 15% of all banana sales worldwide - and has since moved into coffee, cocoa and flowers. It now certifies a total area of more than 35m acres of farmland.

For growers to be certified by the alliance, they must meet a list of "sustainable agriculture principles". These include conserving local wildlife and water resources, minimising soil erosion and treating workers fairly, as well as protecting forests and reforesting where possible. In return, says Vigilante, "we give them the tools to lift themselves out of poverty and open their coffee to more profitable premium markets".

So what is the attraction to food companies of the alliance's scheme? Cynics will point to the price. Not only is Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee cheaper than the Fairtrade alternative, there is also no licensing fee to use the alliance's logo. The Fairtrade Foundation, on the other hand, charges a 2% fee, based on the wholesale coffee price - another significant cost. This all makes the Rainforest Alliance a cheaper way for the large coffee brands to tap into the ethical market. Coffee roasters that sell coffee containing a minimum of 30% certified coffee beans can then boost their ethical credentials by using the Rainforest Alliance logo on packaging.

Lyons Original Coffee, which is owned by Drie Mollen, one of Europe's largest coffee roasters, was the first to launch a Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee in the UK, in April. The brand was revamped with a new "commitment from source to cup" catchline, as well as the Rainforest Alliance badge. Buying director Wayne Hanscomb says the company wanted to give something back to the farmers to celebrate the brand's centenary, while at the same time attracting a younger audience.

Kraft followed in July, with Kenco Sustainable Development coffee. Launched initially in restaurants, coffee shops, hotels and catered workplaces, the brand is likely to be rolled out across Europe, and probably in British supermarkets, in 2005.

The latest to join the fold is Lavazza, with its Tierra brand. It is not yet fully certified, but Lavazza is working with the Rainforest Alliance to ensure that farms in Colombia, Peru and Honduras, where the coffee is sourced, are certified within a year.

Lavazza's head of coffee buying, Mario Cerutti, says the price is only part of the story. "The point is to open up the profit," he says. "The price paid for coffee is only half the solution. We also help the farmers to become more cost-efficient. For instance, we have transformed the coffee pulp, which used to be discarded, into fertiliser. They now don't have to spend money on fertiliser."

Lavazza has invested more than $600,000 (£320,000) in community schemes since it began working with the Rainforest Alliance in January. The money has been spent on new machinery and production systems for the farms to increase efficiency and coffee quality on projects to enable the farms to achieve Rainforest Alliance-certified status and on social projects, such as building new schools.

As a result, Cerutti says, the quality consistency of its coffee beans has improved, which enables the farmers to get a higher market price for the coffee. "We pay the market price, not an artificial price. There are more than 25m coffee producers in the world, so charity is not sustainable."

Cafédirect has also invested in projects that are over and above the minimum commitment required to meet Fairtrade Foundation criteria. For instance, it claims that in the past year it has invested over 70% of its pre-tax profit in supporting a wide range of activities, including providing market information and management training to help farmers grow their businesses. It has also spent money on social and economic development projects, such as building clinics and schools, and repairing roads.

Some would argue that the fair-trade model itself is flawed, and that the Rainforest Alliance offers a better solution to help coffee farmers escape the poverty trap. The root of the problem is that coffee prices have plummeted, due to a glut of coffee coming on to the market over the past 10 years.

Coffee farmers in Brazil, the world's largest coffee producer, have become more efficient and have increased production, while on the other side of the world, Vietnam has transformed itself into the world's second largest producer. This has increased supply faster than demand, causing a fall in prices.

Nestlé, which makes the Nescafé brand, believes the fair-trade model exacerbates this problem - in the long term, it draws farmers back into the market, attracted by a high artificial price, which will increase world production and force prices down further. Nestlé chief executive Peter Brabeck-Letmathe prefers a demand-led solution: "Present low coffee prices are the result of a global excess supply," he says. "The primary and most direct responsibility of companies like Nestlé lies on the demand side, with the promotion of coffee consumption."

But Ian Bretman, the Fairtrade Foundation's deputy director, says this criticism is misplaced: "No one has gone into the coffee market due to the Fairtrade price. We wouldn't encourage anyone to move into coffee production." In fact, he says, it is the market-price mechanism that is flawed. "Production has not fallen due to lower prices, because small producers are too dependent on coffee - even at the low prices."

Cerutti believes that the argument as to which ethical accreditation is best for farmers is a pointless one. "There are hundreds of approaches to resolving the problems facing coffee farmers, and every one is beautiful," he says. "But we should not discuss which is the best approach until all the work is done."

Both models clearly have their merits, but the Fairtrade Foundation is concerned that consumers may be confused about how they differ in terms of stringency and the deals they offer to growers. Bretman says he is determined not to get into a negative campaign against its counterpart. But, despite efforts by the Rainforest Alliance to differentiate itself from its more established rival, Bretman points out that it doesn't stop a retailer or wholesaler saying, "We don't have Fairtrade coffee, but we've got something like it."

Yet Bretman thinks that the Rainforest Alliance could also open doors for fair-trade coffee. For a long time, he says, companies such as Kraft refused to consider launching a fair-trade-branded coffee because consumers could view its other, non-logoed coffee brands as "unfairly traded". Clearly, Kraft doesn't believe consumers will now perceive its other brands to be "unsustainable", says Bretman, "so maybe it is coming round to our point of view".

Watch a Video

Walter Staib has made numerous appearances on local and national cooking shows, such as the Today show and the Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate and Iron Chef. He is the host of the Emmy Award winning show A Taste of History, which received the 2012 James Beard Foundation nomination for Best TV Show On Location. The show is a vehicle for Staib to share 18th century cuisine with a growing audience. Currently, he can be seen nationwide for the fourth season on PBS and on national cable on RLTV. The show was awarded three Emmy awards in its first two seasons.

Which turkey is the fairest of all?

Turkey testing is a never-ending quest, it seems. Brining, basting, stuffing, roasting, deep-frying - you name it, and we've done it here at The Chronicle's Food & Wine headquarters.

But what haven't we checked on lately? The turkey itself.

Head to your local store, and you'll find the choices overwhelming. Frozen turkeys. Fresh turkeys. Free-range turkeys. Organic turkeys. Even heritage turkeys are increasingly available at Bay Area markets.

Prices range from less than $1 per pound to upward of $7 per pound, which certainly adds up when you're talking about a 15-pound bird.

So Taster's Choice wanted to know: Do premium prices result in premium-tasting turkeys?

We put five representative types to the test, cooking the birds according to our time-tested Chronicle Best Way method, which calls for brining and air-chilling prior to roasting (See recipe, Page G8).

The contenders:

1 of 8 San Francisco Chronicle Food section staff prepare and taste test five different brands of turkey at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of CA in San Francisco Calif., on November 2, 2011. Audrey Whitmeyer-Weathers/Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

2 of 8 Turkeys wander the open pastures on the Diestel Family Turkey Ranch in Sonora CA, Brian Baer/Special to the Chronicle Show More Show Less

4 of 8 San Francisco Chronicle Food section staff taste test and score five different brands of turkey at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of CA in San Francisco Calif., on November 2, 2011. Audrey Whitmeyer-Weathers/Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

5 of 8 San Francisco Chronicle Food section staff taste test and score five different brands of turkey at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of CA in San Francisco Calif., on November 2, 2011. Audrey Whitmeyer-Weathers/Special to The Chronicle Show More Show Less

7 of 8 San Francisco Chronicle Food section staff prepare and taste test five different brands of turkey at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of CA in San Francisco Calif., on November 2, 2011. Audrey Whitmeyer-Weathers Show More Show Less

-- O Organics frozen, non-injected, free-range turkey ($3.29 or less/pound at Safeway).

-- Heidi's Hens (Diestel) fresh range-grown, certified organic turkey ($3.99/pound at Whole Foods and other markets).

-- Safeway Select fresh non-free-range turkey ($1.99 or less/pound at Safeway).

-- Original Diestel fresh range-grown turkey ($2.69/pound at Whole Foods and other markets).

-- Safeway frozen, non-free-range turkey ($1.29 or less/pound Safeway) that had been injected with a salt solution to enhance juiciness. As this was essentially pre-brined, this was the only turkey we did not brine ourselves.

We didn't include a heritage turkey since these smaller-breasted birds require cooking at lower temperatures.

On tasting day, we took a field trip to the culinary school at the Art Institute of California on Market Street in San Francisco the staff had generously agreed to let us use their kitchen, which had enough ovens so we could roast all the turkeys at the same time.

Once the birds were done cooking, we let them rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. The turkey was tasted blind, with everyone served a slice of plain breast meat and dark meat from each turkey.

Most tasters worried that they wouldn't be able to taste a difference. Then came a different panic - that the one they liked best would be the cheapest, mass-produced, juiced-up turkey.

Turns out, they needn't have worried. That turkey was by far the worst of the bunch.

As for the best and the rest? Here's what we discovered:

Robust brined flavor

If you love brined meat, a frozen and non-injected turkey is the way to go - at least according to our tasters who liked the O Organics entry best.

"Very moist and delicious," as one panelist described it, this turkey was the saltiest and "most flavorful" in the field. One taster even gave it a perfect score.

"It's the only one I'd eat without gravy," another added.

Why the flavor difference? Chefs at the art institute confirmed our hunch that frozen turkeys absorb the brine better because freezing breaks down the cell walls.

The trade-off, they said, is texture. The meat generally becomes tackier.

Taste of turkey

If you prefer clear turkey flavor and a firmer texture, then fresh range-grown turkeys are for you.

Our pair came from Diestel Turkey Ranch in Sonora, where each flock is grown outdoors and allowed reach to its natural peak size, according to Joan Diestel.

35 Best Mushroom Recipes for All You Fungis and Gals Out There

Mushrooms are one of Ree Drummond's most favorite foods of all time. Yes, The Pioneer Woman fully endorses the humble mushroom, and it's safe to say she's serious about her patronage. Ree's even claimed to love mushrooms to the same degree that she hates bananas&mdashand she really, really hates bananas.

So it probably comes as no surprise to see this list of the absolute best mushroom recipes out there. We've got moments where our pal the mushroom is the star of the show (stuffed mushrooms, anyone?). We've got recipes in which he plays a quiet, supporting role alongside bigger, bolder ingredients like beef and chicken. We've got creamy, mushroom-based fall soup recipes and mushroom-based Southern comfort food recipes and cheesy mushroom pastas galore&mdashnot to mention a few mushroom Instant Pot recipes to make your weeknight meals a little more exciting.

But if there's one thing each and every one of the ideas in this collection has in common, it's straight-up deliciousness. Even if you haven't been a huge mushroom fan in the past, these dishes are bound to prove that mushrooms are just the fungi your dinner was missing (had to).

The 5 Best Foods to Eat to Help Relieve Your Joint Pain

Millions of women deal with chronic or sporadic joint pain, and if you’re one of them, you know how uncomfortable it can be. Whether it’s the result of arthritis, an injury, or overextending yourself at work or the gym, it can make even the most simple tasks uncomfortable. Depending on the severity of your pain, over-the-counter drugs, prescription medicine, physical therapy and surgery are all options for getting some relief.

Another is incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet. According to the Arthritis Foundation, “a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and beans but low in processed foods and saturated fat,” is ideal for managing joint pain. You may recognize these foods as part of the Mediterranean Diet, which many experts recommend for its myriad of benefits to one’s overall health. If you’re dealing with joint pain, consider adding one or more of the foods below to your plate.

Brassica Vegetables

Foods such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale and turnips are all considered members of the Brassica family and have certain antioxidants that help reduce joint pain Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RD, CDE, Cardiology Dietitian, and owner of EntirelyNourished tells SheKnows. “Brussel sprouts, Swiss chard and cooked kale are also rich in vitamin K, which helps reduce joint pain since vitamin K-dependent proteins are present in joint tissues,” she adds. “If you’re deficient in this vital nutrient, it could lead to worsening joint pain.” These foods, but broccoli in particular, are also proven to help fight osteoarthritis due to a compound called sulforaphane, which slows down the destruction of cartilage in joints.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish oil and cod liver oil both contain high levels of two omega-3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which reduces inflammation in the joint and connective tissue, and also assists with reducing the ratio of pro-inflammatory omega-6 compounds that are oftentimes a culprit with joint pain. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold-water fish such as salmon and nuts or seeds, which means you can easily snack on Omega-3&ndashrich foods. Plus, with omega-3, you can even take care of other parts of your body as it’s also great for your heart and skin.

Anti-Inflammatory Fruits

Fruit is loaded in fiber and antioxidants that fight inflammation and disease in the body. They also contain tons of vitamins, minerals and fiber that helps feed our healthy gut bacteria, keep our blood sugar levels balanced, balance hormones, help with regularity and promote heart health Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, and founder of Real Nutrition NYC tells SheKnows. Fruits you’ll want to keep an eye out for include blackberries, plums, apples, papaya, pineapple and especially blueberries and purple grapes because they contain an antioxidant called anthocyanin, which prevents inflammation in the body and joints.

Lentils and Beans

Because protein in red and animal meat can lead to inflammation, lentils, beans and legumes are a great vegan and vegetarian alternative that provide fiber, protein and contain anthocyanin, the powerful phytonutrient that decreases inflammation in joints, Shapiro says. However, she does warn against eating too many beans and legumes as they can cause gastrointestinal distress.


Last but not least, spices such as garlic, ginger and turmeric also help reduce inflammation and may even prevent cartilage damage from arthritis, which is a common cause of joint pain, due to the enzyme diallyl disulphine. Tip: Opt for fresh garlic from the produce section. Preservatives may be added to bottled garlic, which may decrease some of its strength, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

What Else Helps Ease Joint Pain?

In addition to incorporating these foods into your diet, there are a lot of other lifestyle adjustments you can make to help ease joint pain according to Dr. Nilanjana Bose, a rheumatologist in Houston, Texas. “I recommend patients try to reduce or cut out red meat, carbohydrates, sugars and processed food and increase their water intake. For more motivated patients, a vegetarian or vegan diet may be good as well,” she notes. “These diets can help reduce overall inflammation, total calorie intake and result in weight loss and reduced strain on joints. I also recommend use of supplements, regular low-impact aerobic exercises, stress management techniques &mdash deep breathing, meditation, yoga &mdash and physical or aquatic therapy.”

Collagen peptides or collagen from bone broth may also help decrease joint pain and possibly increase joint function in those with arthritis. Tea is also proven to help provide relief. “Green tea contains many antioxidants that decrease inflammation in joints,” Shapiro says. “Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is a powerful one that blocks the destruction of joints.”

Classic ragu bolognese

Active time: 2 hours | Total time: 5 hours

Inspired and informed by outstanding recipes by Lidia Bastianich, Domenica Marchetti and Thomas McNaughton, this is Leslie Brenner’s (who is the editor in chief of Cooks Without Borders) favourite way to make ragu alla bolognese.

Legions of nonnas and authors have opined that the essential element for Bologna’s signature sauce is time. This recipe takes about 4½ hours to cook – and that’s once you have everything prepped.

It’s important to finely chop the onion, carrot and celery for the soffritto. The diminutive size, aided by the long, slow cooking, will allow the vegetables to melt into the ragu. Equally important are the minced beef and pork, which should be the best quality you can get, and are browned together slowly for about an hour. A pot wide enough to have plenty of surface area for the slow browning is essential to success.

If you’re using the ragu to dress tagliatelle or other pasta, when the ragu is finished and you’re ready to serve, transfer the amount of sauce you need to a large saute pan, keeping it warm while the pasta cooks. When the pasta is nearly done, spoon a little of the pasta cooking water into the ragu and stir it in, then use tongs to transfer the tagliatelle into the sauce, toss gently and cook for another minute before serving.

Storage notes: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to three days or frozen for up to two months.


113g pancetta, cut into 1¼cm cubes

6tbsp unsalted butter, divided

1 medium yellow onion, very finely chopped (see headnote)

1 medium carrot, very finely chopped (see headnote)

1 large or 2 smaller celery stalks with tender leaves, if any, very finely chopped

450g beef mince (20 per cent fat, ideally grass-fed)

450g pork mince (ideally pasture-raised)

700ml good quality shop-bought chicken broth or homemade beef stock

235ml dry white wine, such as pinot grigio

225g tomato puree or tinned tomatoes and juices, passed through a food mill or pureed in a food processor or blender

Freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, for serving (optional)

In a mini food processor, combine the pancetta and garlic, pulse a few times to break up the pieces, then process until it becomes a smooth paste.

Scrape the paste into a large, wide casserole dish or other heavy-bottomed pot, along with two tablespoons of the butter. Melt them together over medium heat, spreading the paste around with a wooden spoon. Cook until the fat is mostly rendered, about four minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onion, carrot and celery – the soffritto – and cook slowly over medium-low heat, stirring frequently enough so the soffritto doesn’t brown – until the onion is soft, translucent and pale gold, which takes about 15 minutes.

Add the minced beef and pork to the pot, increase the heat to medium, and break up the meat with a wooden spoon as much as possible. Once the meat starts to faintly sizzle, reduce the heat to medium-low. Let the meat brown slowly, stirring occasionally and continuing to break up any remaining clumps, for about one hour, until evenly browned and burnished.

When the meat is nearly done browning, in a medium saucepan over high heat, heat the broth until simmering cover and keep hot over low heat until ready to use.

Increase the heat under the browned meat to medium-high and stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits or deposits on the bottom of the pan. Cook and stir until the wine is mostly soaked in and evaporated, about three minutes. Stir in the salt and nutmeg, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the milk, cooking and stirring until it is barely visible, for about three minutes.

Measure 470ml of the hot broth and dissolve the tomato paste in it. Stir the broth with paste into the meat sauce, then stir in the tomato puree (keep the unused broth handy in the pot in case you need to reheat it and add more to the sauce later). Partially cover the pot and let the sauce simmer slowly and gently, stirring occasionally, until it is thick and all the components begin to melt together, for about two hours.

Stir the sauce – if it is starting to look at all dry, reheat the remaining chicken broth, ladle in a little more, about 120ml, and stir. Continue to simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally and adding a little more hot broth or water as needed, until the vegetables have completely melted into the sauce, for about one hour.

Cut the remaining four tablespoons of butter into a few pieces and stir them into the sauce add about 20 grinds of freshly ground black pepper and stir that in, too. Taste, and season with more salt and/or pepper, if desired.

Nutrition (based on 12 servings) | Calories: 336 total fat: 25g saturated fat: 11g cholesterol: 77mg sodium: 593mg carbohydrates: 8g dietary fibre: 1g sugar: 4g protein: 16g.

Fairest foods of them all

There might not be a Lobster Boy on display anymore, but they're still doing bizarre things with lobsters at the county fair. The real freak show these days takes place behind the steamed-up windows of the gaudy trailers along the food corridor of the midway, where meats, vegetables, candies and more are dipped in batter and hot oil before being put on display under the hot orange lights. This past Sunday (May 24), I visited the Silver Dollar Fair, and I bring back these tales of the wonders I encountered.

Egg roll on a stick: I’ve been eating/craving oversized egg rolls fried onto corndog sticks since my mom let me try a bite at the Shasta County Fair back when I was in grade school. After that, regular, puny, egg rolls just made me angry. And I was overjoyed when the first fried food that I saw on the midway at this year’s fair was a banquet pan filled with a glowing pile of chicken egg rolls in the window of the “I Love Orange Chicken” trailer.

Dipped halfway into a golden-yellow sweet-and-sour sauce and presented to me molten hot, the crunchy roll slid down the stick and onto my hand as I took the first messy, painful bite. It was insanely good maybe the best egg roll on a stick I’ve ever had. It was perfectly crispy and the chicken-and-veggie filling actually was prepared with some care, with soft and lightly caramelized onions intermingling nicely with the shredded cabbage.

Sharky’s Fish Fry: The huge trailer was topped with giant blue billboards and a row of floodlights advertising its cornucopia of fried options, the most popular being a couple of offerings featuring lobster: the lobster corn dog and lobster fries. In fact, a couple of days prior to my visit, camera crews from the Cooking Channel had visited Sharky’s to film a segment on those two dishes for Carnival Eats. I had to try one. The lobster corn dog—with a “dog” made of lobster—looked impressive, but I followed my cashier’s endorsement and went for the lobster fries, which featured a basket of fries, covered in lumps of lobster meat, plus a thin chipotle aioli and a little chopped parsley. The aioli was pretty flavorless and the fries weren’t very crispy, but the combo worked as a refreshing twist on fish and chips.

As I dug into my lobster pile, I was distracted by what looked like very crispy foods on sticks coming out of the window, and had to try something from Sharky’s with a little crunch. Even though it was against my better judgment, I gave in to the grinning mustache on the poster and ordered the Cap’n Crunch shrimp on a stick and … damn, if it wasn’t really, really good. Reminiscent of fried coconut shrimp, the Cap’n Crunch breading added a sweet butteriness that complemented the shrimp well. But, the kicker was just how crunchy the captain’s little yellow nuggets became after frying. Too good. Too good to ever put my arteries through that again.

Funnel cake: The longest food line at the fair, any fair, is undoubtedly in front of the funnel cake trailer. And such was the case this night at Funnel Cake Express, an Orland-based business that travels the fair circuit every spring/summer.

If swirled/poured—from a funnel, or pitcher with a spout—into the very hot oil correctly, the pancake-like batter of the funnel cake turns into a knotted-up mass of interwoven strings of fried crispiness. It’s then immediately coated in something sweet, usually powdered sugar or cinnamon-and-sugar blend (or a number of gooey toppings that you can have piled on top). And Funnel Cake Express did it right. The granulated sugar in the cinnamon/sugar blend soaked up the residual oil and lent a caramelized finish to the crispy edges. I could’ve eaten three.

The Secrets of Fruits and Vegetables

The first secret of fruits and veggies is simple: they’re nutrient dense. This means that for their weight, most produce is low in calories so you can eat a lot more when your diet is rich in veggies and fruits -- and still not consume a whole lot of calories. Just try that with chocolate!

The second secret: Satiety. All produce, from a juicy pear to a crispy bunch of red lettuce is packed with water and fiber, says Seattle dietitian Kerry Neville, MS, RD, and both of these not only keep the calories down, they make you feel fuller longer. This means you could be satisfying cravings for something sweet or crunchy every day -- and still lose weight.

Think about it. Maybe you’re in a 3 p.m. slump and want a snack to get you through to dinner. Which will fill your belly better, a palmful of potato chips with 155 calories, or three cups of whole strawberries with 138 calories? A can of sweetened cola at 136 calories, or a heaping cup of grapes with about the same number? In each case, the produce lets you eat a lot more, fills you up fast, and keeps you full longer.


July is the month when people in Tudor England picked fresh strawberries, cherries, plums and gooseberries. Only strawberries and cherries were eaten raw. Plums and gooseberries were cooked. It is safe to assume that raspberries were enjoyed fresh too, as there aren’t any surviving English recipes for cooking raspberries.

The combination of young, wealthy men going off exploring Europe (The Grand Tour), the arrival of new, exotic food and cheaper sugar resources from the New World, were all combining to create a novel interest in foreign recipes and al fresco dining.

So, with this in mind, this month we are going on a fruit-based, outdoor dining spree across Europe, tasting our way through sixteenth-century Europe, combining the Tudors’ love for outdoor eating with our twenty-first-century passion for fruity desserts and BBQ’s!

The chosen recipes feature those aimed at the more adventurous cook, together with some straightforward ones for those with little time or experience.

Happy culinary time travelling!

Summer Tudor Recipe #1: Strawberye

The first of our summer Tudor recipes come from two fifteenth-century books, or Harleian MS 279. It is a modernised transcript from Take a Thousand Eggs or More, by Cindy Renfrow. There is a second, identical one in How to Milk an Almond, Stuff an Egg and Armor a Turnip, by David Friedman & Elizabeth Cook.

This dish is a spicy, thick strawberry dessert.

1 cup of red wine
1 pound of fresh or frozen strawberries
1 cup of almond milk
½ cup currants
2 tablespoons rice flour
½ a cup of sugar
Dash of (white) pepper – (I used long pepper)
2 teaspoons ginger powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon galingale
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon butter or lard
pinch of saffron
pomegranate seeds

In a blender, combine strawberries, wine and almond milk. Blend until smooth. Pour blended mixture into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add rice flour and stir until mixture thickens slightly. Then add currants, red wine vinegar, butter and spices and stir over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Spoon hot sauce into a saucer and garnish with pomegranate seeds. Makes approximately 4 cups, serving 8 to 10 people.

The sauce can be used to accompany grilled chicken or eaten as a refreshing dessert.

Original version: Harleian MS 279 – Potage Dyvers 123.

Take strawberries, & wash them in time of year in good red wine then strain through cloth, & put them in a pot with good almond milk, mix it with white flour or with the flour of rice, & make it thick and let it boil, and put therein Raisins of Corinth, saffron, pepper, and sugar great plenty, powdered ginger, cinnamon, galingale point it with vinegar, & a little white grease put thereto colour with Alkanet & drop it about, plant it with the grains of pomegranate, & then serve it forth.

Strawberries in medieval England and the sixteenth-century would have been much smaller – very much like the ‘wild’ strawberries you see today. The larger varieties we are familiar are a seventeenth-century introduction from the Americas.

Galangal ( Alpinia galangal) was very popular in medieval cooking and became very common in the fourteenth-century, but it was used in Europe from the ninth-century. It is native to Indonesia and China and has a husky, pungent but sweet flavour, similar to ginger.

Summer Tudor Recipe #2: Conserved Cherries in Jelly

Bartolomeo Scappi was the chef to several popes and wrote the monumental ‘Opera’ (=works), which is considered the first, modern cookbook. It includes directions for shopping, full menus, extremely detailed recipes and illustrations. Cherries are the heart of this, our next of our summer Tudor recipes.

This translated version comes from ‘Cooking in Europe 1250-1650’.

Take ten pounds of fresh marasche cherries or visciole, picked that day, that have not been bruised. Leave the stem in the middle and gather them into bundles of ten. Get a casserole with a pound of clear water and place in these cherries and as they begin to scald, add ten pounds of fine sugar pounded and sieved and let it boil very gently, skimming with a spoon. When the cherries split, and everything is coloured remove them and put them on a plate to dry, and let the liquid boil by itself, until it becomes cooked, not forgetting however to skim it. Test it on a plate, when it forms a little ball that doesn’t spread out, remove from the fire. Pour out the cherry solids into cups or silver plates with the tepid liquid over and put it in a cool place to congeal. In this same way, you can make sour cherries, and in the same liquid, you can cook fresh damson plums’.

Note: Marasco cherries are a dark, sweet variety similar to morellos. Visciola cherries are sour cherries.

It is not clear why he suggests gathering the cherries into bundles of ten. Because this is an original recipe, it still includes the process of pounding and sieving the sugar. This conserve was eaten as a starter or dessert. It was not consumed on toast, as we are familiar with today.

Summer Recipe #3: Plum Tart

German, 16th century: Sabina Welserin no. 70. This sumptuous version of the third of our summer Tudor recipes comes from How to Milk an Almond, Stuff an Egg and Armor a Turnip.

¾ lb prunes or plums
1 ½ cups of red wine
4 eggs
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ¼ cups flour ( or use a ready-made shortcrust pie case )

Simmer the prunes/plums in the wine for about 40 mins until they are quite soft. Remove the pits, force them through a strainer (Or use a food blender). Then add eggs, sugar and cinnamon. Make a shortcrust dough, or use a ready-made pie crust case. Fill with fruit paste. Cover with a lattice made out of dough strips — Bake at medium heat for about 40 mins.

Summer Tudor Recipe #4: Grilled Mackerel

From Le Menagier de Paris (196), 1393. This Modernised, translated version comes from The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy.

4 fresh medium-sized mackerel, cleaned, washed and thoroughly dried. Prepare the sauce. Salt the fish and grill them (on the BBQ) about 7 inches from the heat and about 7-8 minutes on each side. Serve with the prepared sauce.

Cameline sauce :

½ slice of country bread
1 ¼ cups white wine
½ teaspoon of ground ginger
a few threads of saffron ( pounded)
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 -3 teaspoons light brown sugar

Cut up the bread and leave it to soak in 1 cup of water. Stir the wine into the spices. When the bread softens, squeeze out excess water and mash with a fork then stir in the spiced wine mixture. Press through a sieve into a nonreactive saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. Add the salt and brown sugar to taste. Serve with the grilled mackerel.

Summer Recipe #5: Candied Goos-berries

A Closet for Ladies and Gentlewomen, 1602. This version of our fifth and final summer Tudor recipe comes from The Tudor Cookbook, by Terry Breverton.

‘To Candy Goos-berries. Take your fairest berries, but they must not be too ripe, for then they will not be so good, and with a linen cloth wipe them clean. And pick off all the stalks from them, and weigh them. To every ounce of berries, you must take 2 ounces of sugar and half an ounce of sugar-candy. And dissolve them in an ounce or two of rosewater, and so boil them up to the height of Manus Christi. When it is come to its perfect height, let it cool and then put in your berries, for if you put them in hot, they will shrink, and so stir them around with a wooden spatter (spatula), till they be candied. And thus put them up and keep them.’

We hope you have enjoyed this month’s Great Tudor Bake Off with these 5 vibrant, summer Tudor recipes. For some of another of our seasonal favourites, you can read about our Tudor recipes for Easter here.

Each month, our Tudor recipe is contributed by Brigitte Webster. Brigitte runs the ‘Tudor and 17th Century Experience‘. She turned her passion for early English history into a business and opened a living history guesthouse, where people step back in time and totally immerse themselves in Tudor history by sleeping in Tudor beds, eating and drinking authentic, Tudor recipes. She also provides her guests with Tudor entertainment. She loves re-creating Tudor food and gardens and researching Tudor furniture.

Further Reading

How to Milk an Almond, Stuff an Egg and armour a Turnip
Cooking in Europe 1250-1650, by Ken Albala
The Medieval Kitchen, Recipes from France & Italy, by Odile Redon, Francoise Sabban & Silvano Serventi
The Tudor Cookbook by Terry Breverton
The Goodman of Paris (Le Menagier de Paris), The Folio Society, 1992.
The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi, translated by Terence Scully
Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery Books ( Thomas Austin )
Take a Thousand eggs or more, (Cindy Renford) – A translation of medieval recipes from Harlan MS. 279, Harlan MS. 4016

Watch the video: You can get fair food at this drive-thru! Bite Size (December 2021).