Saturday, August 29, 2009

The County Fair Cookbook, Lyn Stallworth & Rod Kennedy Jr.: Swiss Cabbage Pie

I was a 4Her from early on. It helps that my dad was an Extension agent, and helped get 4H going in our town; my sister is now the secretary for 4H in that same office. I was part of 4H sewing, cooking, forestry, photography, and rabbits...a lot of clubs! I went to 4H camp (which has mixed memories for me, especially as my first-ever high fever was at camp, and so there are some hallucinations wrapped up in my recollections of the senior counselors). The best part of 4H, though, was The Fair.

Come the third week in August, life moved to Canby. Even before we had 4H projects of our own, we'd go and watch Dad judge the photography. Mom would talk about when she made cookies for her county fair, and ate so much dough she was ill. My sister and I showed our rabbits, had our sewing skills evaluated, demonstrated recipes, and once and a while even thought about going to see the rodeo.

To say I love my county fair -- and, yes, though I've been gone for 19 years, I still think of that as my fair -- is an understatement. So, when I got a happy reminder that, yes, I have a cookbook blog, it was easy to pick a seasonal choice: The County Fair Cookbook by Lyn Stallworth and Rod Kennedy, Jr. (Hyperion, 1994). The book is divided up by region, focusing mainly on the United States but including some Canadian fairs. The recipes represent both their region and the homey comfort of county fairs in general, and are accompanied by loving descriptions of the fairs themselves. There's even a page dedicated to my fair, but we'll get to that later on this week. For now, let's go to the Eureka County Fair, in Eureka, Nevada. The fair runs the first or second week of August, for three days. Just take Route 50 out of Reno.
Swiss Cabbage Pie

"When he was a kid on the ranch, my husband's grandmother took this down to the hayfield around two p.m. as an afternoon snack with coffee," says Ethel. "I collect cookbooks, and when we lived on a ranch I'd find a great-sounding recipe and realize I didn't have most of the ingredients called for. We were seventy-five miles from one town, and a hundred and fourteen miles from another. You learn to substitute. I've created a few new recipes out of necessity."

Serves 6 to 8

1 loaf unbaked bread (can use frozen purchased dough)
1 pound bacon
8 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups cream or half-and-half
1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese (optional)

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
1. Roll out the bread dough about 1/4 inch thick and place it in a 9-inch pie pan. Crimp the edges, as you would a pie.
2. Cut the bacon into small pieces and brown them in a large heavy pot. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the grease. Stir in the shredded cabbage and cook over moderate heat, stirring, for 1 minute.
3. Over low heat, add the salt and pepper, eggs, cream and the cheese, if you are using it. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring. Put the mixture in the crust and bake for 30 minutes, or until the filling is set and the edges are golden brown.

Remember, folks, that in my book, cheese is NEVER optional. Cheese is essential. Also, if you got frozen dough for this, please thaw it according to package directions before starting. Do not try to roll out frozen dough.

You could buy your cabbage pre-shredded in a bag, if you're not keen on deconstructing a head of cabbage on your own. But, as Mary Frances over at the Gluten(-)Free Cooking School shows, it's cheaper, tastier, and just more pleasant to do it yourself. Go on over to GFCS, and see how easy it is. Plus, as Mary Frances says, "After a long day, it’s sometime really fun to hack into a large vegetable with a big, long knife."

My copy of The County Fair Cookbook is massively dog-earred, and I've yet to plot out just which recipes will show up on this blog. So, if you have a favorite fair, let me know, and I'll see if we can get up a recipe from there, or at least from nearby.

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