GREENFIELD — Hancock County loves its pies, Barb Dunn has discovered.
The Johnson County native traveled to Hancock County on Friday as the county fair opened, ready to meet dozens of 4-H’ers who handed in their baked creations and watched anxiously as their projects were graded.
An apricot pie from Emily and then an apple one from Olivia.
“Hancock always has the most pies I’ve ever seen,” Dunn said.
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There are always two kinds of young bakers, judges say: Those who have created a new recipe during long hours and likely messy tests in their families’ kitchens; and those who have worked tirelessly to perfect a family recipe that has stood the test of time.
When Abby Anderson stepped up to Dunn’s table with a picture-perfect cherry pie, the teen told Dunn she used directions her uncle learned from her great-grandmother.
Abby said she was new to pie-baking, having baked her first pie last Thanksgiving, with guidance from her grandmother. After eight years in 4-H, Abby took a chance and entered the pie contest for the first time this year. Her grandmother, JoAnn Anderson, was there to watch as the family’s traditional treat was set aside as one of the top entries that day.
“My brother watched (our) mother bake,” JoAnn Anderson said. “That’s how we learned.”
Janet Hobson of Anderson has spent more than 35 years judging baked goods at 4-H fairs across the state and has helped judge at the Indiana State Fair for 25 years. In that time, she’s seen many parents and grandparents waiting just as eagerly to find out how the cakes, cookies, breads and pies measured up.
But judges look at much more than the taste of the treat put in front of them, Hobson said. They consider the color, shape and texture. By simply cutting into the creation, they can see if it has been mixed and baked properly, she said.
Hobson always has a sweet word to say about the project, no matter what the taste might be, she said. What she loves most about judging, however, is the interaction she has with the young bakers. She often offers tips that could take their baking to the next level.
“My favorite part is helping the kids learn and enjoy what they’ve created,” Hobson said.
Baked goods receive a blue, red or white ribbon, with blue designations noting the top contenders. If a blue ribbon entry sticks out particularly on a judges’ taste buds, they are given a star and set aside for further judging, Dunn said.
Champions for each category are then picked from among the starred entries. A grand champion ribbon is awarded to the best champion among all the related categories.
Leaders don’t know how many 4-H’ers will participate in baking competitions until the day of judging, superintendent Patty Paxton said.
This year, those 4-H’ers who took on a baking project were given an extra challenge, Paxton said. Many needed to modify their recipe to make the entry healthier. Many of the cookies and cakes that were presented to the judges were low in sugar, low in fat or gluten-free.
That’s a challenge Brianna Page doesn’t plan to take on again any time soon. Her mulberry cake was a hit with judges, but it was more like an experiment she and her mother took on this year.
Brianna said they created a recipe together using the fruit from a mulberry tree in the backyard. They used mulberry puree as a substitute for all fat products that would normally go in the cake, which took a bit of trial and error.
“And we are never making a low-fat cake again,” her mother, Jenna Rose, joked.
For those doing the tasting, however, the healthier options are helpful.
Hobson said she is not sure how many sugary bites she takes during one judging day.
“Maybe I don’t want to know,” she said and laughed.
9 a.m. — Baby contest, Pioneer building
3 p.m. — Open barbecue contest, 4-H extension office
4 p.m. — Carnival opens
5 p.m. — Pet parade, 4-H show arena
6 p.m. — 4-H barbecue contest, extension office parking lot
7 p.m. — 4-H queen contest, 4-H show arena
10:30 a.m. — Worship service, Pioneer building
1 p.m. — Fair parade
3 p.m. — Carnival and commercial vendors open
6 p.m. — Tractor and truck pull, multipurpose arena
7 p.m. — Fashion revue, 4-H bowl