I spent yesterday judging preserves for the Royal Queensland Show with my fellow judge Julia Matusik of Julia’s Pantry in Kenmore. We arrived to well organized tables holding over 250 bottles of jams, jellies, marmalades and fruit butters in the sweet section and savoury preserves consisting of chutney, relish, pickles, sauces and more. In addition there is an opportunity for people making and selling preserves to enter their products.
Taste is the most important factor but appearance is also noted. In a jam or marmalade is the fruit evenly distributed throughout the jar, are there any lumps of solid egg white in the lemon butter, is there any sign of burning in the taste and smell of a product? Many of the preserves lacked salt and/or sugar and this led to an unbalanced flavor.
The general message about using less salt or sugar in our diets cannot generally be transferred to the making of preserves without impairing the end result. It is better to make a good preserve and then use it sparingly if sugar and salt are a dietary problem.
Some of the chilli sauces proved to be a challenge to judge due to the type of chillies used. Looking for a balance of flavor in a sauce that might be used on a hamburger, it is hard to taste much more than the heat when habanero chillies are used. Maybe cayenne chillies would be a better choice.
It would seem that not many people make jellies but the small class had some excellent examples. Marmalade was also a good class and the winner had me wanting to find a piece of toast to enjoy it more. A good marmalade shows skill in the cutting of the rind, a lovely jelly that bind the rind and flesh and a good rich flavor and this one had it all.
All entries are labelled with a number so there is no way of knowing who entered the competition. There are classes for novices as well as seasoned preserves cooks and I would encourage everyone to have a go for 2016. Winners will be declared when the show opens on Friday 7 August and I will be keen to see the names of those who took the trouble to enter and hoped for a ribbon.
The Preserves competition is part of the Cookery section in the Fine Arts Competition for the Royal Queensland Show under the leadership of Councillor Mrs Susan Hennessey. Chief Steward Cheryl Thiel has her finger on the pulse in the cookery section which includes the much anticipated decorated cakes as well as all the other cakes, biscuits, confectionery and many more classes. When I look at an entry I think of someone in their home kitchen putting their best effort into making a cake or preserve having no idea how much competition they will be up against. Some of the preserves are made many months in advance when the particular fruit or vegetable is in season and then carefully stored until delivery time to the RNA grounds.
When you visit the Ekka in the next week give a thought to the hope that went into every cooked entry – it might just have won the cook a blue ribbon.