Preserves Judging


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.





5 thoughts on “Preserves Judging

  1. A great story and great pics for this year’s Ekka but lets all hope that this year the judges at the Ekka are better and follow the rules. Last year the judges failed to follow the rules in some of the classes as they didn’t read the Schedule – wrong bottle sizes; wrong cake tin sizes went on to win when they should have been disqualified as per the rules. And it is always strange that the same people keep on winning year after year.

    • Did you enter the competition last year or this year? Some entrants who have been competing for many years submit quite a number of entries and have become very good at the particular class or classes they have entered. As a judge I have no idea who the entrants are – they are only a number on a bottle to me. I had to wait until Monday (my first day at the show) to see the names of who had won ribbons.

  2. It seems the ones that keep winning must know what the judges want. And I was disappointed with the breaking of the rules last year. And novices aren’t really novices at the Ekka. So I didn’t enter this year.

  3. Hi Alison,
    Very nice article. This is the first time I have ever entered a preserve in at The Royal Queensland Show or any show to be honest. I have been making a spicy mango chutney for a few years now with the excess of Bowen mangoes that my back neighbours (Colleen and Geoffrey) provide. I have always got pretty good feedback whenever I give someone a jar. I thought that I would enter this year “for a bit of fun” and it even won the Novice category which was a pleasant surprise. I am definitely no expert and am a 37yo bloke who loves rugby, sport in general and makes a bit of mango chutney for fun. Thanks. Thomas

    • Hello Thomas
      I am delighted that you had a go at entering and even better that you won in your category. I hope this win will encourage you to make other preserves and increase your entries for next year.

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