Food judging uses four out of the five senses, Joyce Wasmund said.
Wasmund, a superintendent at the Franklin County Fair for the Open Class Foods, said she considers the way the food tastes, the way the texture feels, the look and aesthetics of it, and although it’s not part of the judging criteria — she enjoys the smell of the baked goods. She didn’t judge the open class foods this year, but she said she still knows what to look for.
“There’s several criteria,” she said. “Taste is part of it, but the texture, the nutrition — and of course it can’t be burned — the way it’s been baked. Those are the primary [criteria], but I think taste is the first thing, but it also really needs to be the texture.”
The open class foods is open to all ages with an adult division and a junior division. The categories consist of quick bread, yeast rolls and breads, cakes, cookies, pies and also food preservation. The quick bread category consists of nut or fruit bread and muffins, the yeast rolls and breads can consist of graham or whole wheat bread, specialty breads and sweet rolls such as cinnamon rolls. The cakes are angel food cake with no icing, chiffon with no icing, sponge with no icing and any layer cake. Cookies can be bars, refrigerated, pressed or rolled and drop cookies and pies can be any sort of fruit pie.
All entries must be homemade and made from scratch, submitted on a disposable plate, covered with a plastic bag and have the recipe attached, Wasmund said. Attaching the recipe helps judge based on nutrition she said.
“I think they need to learn how to do it from scratch,” Wasmund said. “One kid brought a cookie with only four things in it and it didn’t have any flour in it. It was gluten-free.”
Food preservation this year didn’t have a huge turn out, Wasmund said. Judging the food preservation can be a bit trickier than other entries, she said.
“The biggest thing we look at is the uniformity. There’s not great big chunks of tomato in there,” Wasmund said, picking up a salsa entry. “One thing you want to look at it is [the food being preserved in the jar] can’t be too full or too low. If it’s too low, the air will turn it all dark.”
Submitting a food in the food preservation category has more guidelines to it than people are aware of, Wasmund said. Entries must follow the guidelines in K-State Research and Extension food preservation publications or U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Complete Guide to Home Canning or other accepted guidelines stated in the rule book.
“One thing that is required is a hot water bath for canning,” she said. “It’s where you put your finished product in a kettle full of hot water and boil it for so many minutes. If it’s like green beans, they have to be pressure cooked. So those are some of the things to look at.”
Wasmund said some time ago when she first started canning and preserving she didn’t hot water bathe her jams and jellies, but now it’s mandatory for judging. Knowing if a contestant has water-bathed their entries is difficult to tell, she said.
“You just have to believe people,” she said.
IT’S ALL IN THE MIX
Wasmund has been judging food at the fair for 20 years, she said. Tasting the food is a huge role in judging an entry, she said, but a small taste is all that’s needed.
“You get kind of tired,” she said. “You just take a pinch [of the food to taste].”
Not only does Wasmund enjoy judging the food, she enjoys baking it as well, she said. Her favorite thing to bake she said is also the hardest.
“I really think these angel food cakes are hard,” she said. “There’s a lot of things you have to be special about. I’ve baked a lot of them. I like to judge the angel food cakes and breads because those are the two things I think are the hardest to make.”
Baking an angel food cake is difficult, Wasmund said, and there are certain baking utensils that should and should not be used.
“When you bake an angel food you can’t have any plastic or anything that’s oily because it brings down the fluffiness of it,” she said. “It won’t rise as well if it’s got an oil in it and it took me awhile to learn that.”
‘I BELIEVE IN THE PROGRAM’
Megan Davis, a soon-to-be freshman at Central Heights High School, has been submitting foods for judging to the open class for the past eight years, she said, receiving grand champion last year for one of her entries.
“I got [grand champion] on a braided bread,” Davis said. “It was an Italian Parmesan bread.”
Contestants can submit one entry for each different category, she said, and she takes advantage of that by submitting different types of entries.
“I’ve made like cookies and cake breads, a couple layer cakes. I made a pie this year,” Davis said. “The easiest to make is probably cookies. I do a chocolate chip pudding cookie.”
Davis also helps out with 4-H activities at the fair and her first 4-H youth leader was Wasmund, she said. Wasmund said she grew up in 4-H and she loves seeing kids like Davis grow up in it, too.
“It’s rewarding to see them develop and now she’s an assistant superintendent,” Wasmund said, pointing to Davis. “I’ve been interested in foods, and I’ve been a superintendent for several years and I had to have some help so I got this gal.”
Continuing on helping with 4-H even after participation is important to her, Wasmund said. Though she’s been done competing and participating, she’s been some part of 4-H for the last 54 years, she said.
“I believe in the program,” she said. “I believe it teaches young people to be responsible. It teaches them to learn by doing, and I believe in it.”