Every N.C. State Fair produces a recipe or two that I must try.
This year, I judged the canning contest. The best part of that assignment is helping pick Best in Show. There were amazing dilly beans, sweet dried fig slices and pickled sweet red peppers with a kick. But the recipe that I had to track down was for a lemon-basil jelly, which won the best in its class for Sue Bridges, 62, of Wake Forest.
Bridges has been canning for more than 30 years. Shes won quite a few blue ribbons at the N.C. State Fair but this was her first best-in-class honor. Her jelly beat out all others entered. She was happy to share her recipe, which gets its citrus flavor from lemon verbena leaves. Now I have a reason to ask my husband to grow lemon verbena next year in our garden.
Another recipe that made my mouth water was Taylor Dyczewskis Elvis Presley Pie, which placed second in the peanut dessert contest sponsored by the N.C. Peanut Growers Association. It combines the rock stars favorite sandwich ingredients: bananas, peanut butter and bacon.
A longtime baker, Dyczewski, 35, of Raleigh, said he would plan to enter the fairs special cooking contests every year but always missed the deadline. This year, he remembered at the last minute and was able to fax in his peanut dessert recipe.
Thank goodness, Dyczewski broke his streak and got around to entering the contest. He won $150, and now we all have this recipe for a must-try pie with creamy layers of chocolate, banana and peanut butter topped with Cool Whip, caramel sauce and crumbled bacon.
USE a food processor to crumble half the cookies at a time until fine. Then use food processor to chop pretzels until fine. Place cookie and pretzel crumbs into a large bowl and add 5 tablespoons melted butter. Toss with a fork until moist. Add 1 more tablespoon melted butter if needed. Press crumbs into a 9- or 10-inch deep dish pie pan to form a crust using the back of a large spoon. Place the crust in the freezer for at least 10 minutes.
COMBINE 4 ounces softened cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 cup Cool Whip and 1 cup peanut butter in a large mixer. Beat well and pour over crust. Spread to make first layer and freeze for at least 10 minutes. Using the same mixer and bowl, add remaining 8 ounces cream cheese, 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons milk, 2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 cup Cool Whip. Beat well and divide mixtures into two bowls. Set aside.
MELT bakers chocolate in a small bowl set over a small pot of simmering water. Once melted, add to half the cream cheese mixture and spread over first layer of pie. Place pie back in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. Add mashed bananas to the other bowl of cream cheese mixture. Mix well. Dollop over chocolate layer and spread carefully. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.
TOP pie with remaining Cool Whip, drizzle with caramel sauce and sprinkle with crumbled bacon.Yield: 8 servings Lemon-Basil Jelly This recipe from Sue Bridges of Wake Forest won a best in its class ribbon in the canned goods competition at the N.C. State Fair. 3/4 cup packed basil leaves 1/4 cup packed lemon verbena leaves 1 cup water 3 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 cup cider vinegar 3-ounce packet liquid pectin
WASH basil and lemon verbena leaves. Place leaves in a medium saucepan and crush leaves slightly with the bottom of a pint or half pint canning jar.
ADD water, sugar and vinegar and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Add liquid pectin and bring back to a boil and boil again for 1 minute.
REMOVE pot from heat. Set colander over a large bowl. Pour jelly into colander to strain out basil and lemon verbena leaves.
POUR jelly into clean jar and refrigerate. The jelly will be good for a month. Or you can pour jelly into hot half -pint canning jars, leaving a 1/4-inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. (For detailed instructions on how to use a boiling water canner, go to http://tinyurl.com/mnq9tsv.)Yield: About 4 half-pint jars.
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