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Cumberland County's award-winning fair comes to town only once a year, and it all begins this week for nine days of rides, games, food and more.

I'm not a big fan of fair food considering all it's cooked in. Don't get me wrong, it smells great, but as for me eating it...well, it just won't happen.

The most popular fair food is probably the funnel cake. According to www.foodtimeline.org, although fried breads of many kinds were eaten by Ancient Romans and Greeks, food historians generally agree the idea of funnel cakes (as we know them today) was probably created in Northern Europe. Funnel cakes are made by pouring batter through a funnel into hot oil in a circular pattern and deep frying it until golden-brown. They are often served with powdered sugar, jam, or other toppings, according to www.funnelcake.com.

Corn dogs are especially popular around fair time too. Hot dogs dipped in batter is a yummy concept. This food is better fresh, which is what you get at the fair.

Nothing but the best, right?

Now, I cannot forget to mention candy apples, cotton candy, caramel popcorn, and the much-needed and appreciated sno cones. Sno cones will come in handy in this kind of heat! Perhaps it'll help keep the kiddos cool!

If you can't make it to the midway to enjoy the fresh smell (and taste) of fair food, perhaps you can make these recipes at home.



Appetizer

Soft Pretzels

1 loaf frozen white bread dough, thawed

Flour, for dusting surface

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup coarse salt

Divide dough into 14 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 16-inch rope, and then form into a pretzel shape. Transfer dough to the refrigerator until ready to boil.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add pretzels, 3 at a time, and cook until pretzels rise to the surface, about 2 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels. Arrange pretzels 3 inches apart on buttered sheet pans. Brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with coarse salt or with choice of toppings. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned.

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Main dish

County Fair Turkey Legs

2 liters lemon-lime soda

2 tbsp. sugar

2 tbsp. hot sauce

2 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tbsp. black pepper

1 Vidalia onion, chopped

1 tbsp. House Seasoning, recipe follows

3 tbsp. honey

4 turkey legs

House Seasoning:

1 cup table salt

1/4 cup pepper

1/4 cup garlic powder

Preheat grill. Combine all ingredients, except the House Seasoning and honey, in a large stock pot and bring to a low boil. Add turkey legs and boil for 30 minutes or until the turkey legs register 165 degrees F. Put turkey legs on the grill, season with House Seasoning and brush with honey. Grill over medium heat for about 15 minutes, rotating occasionally as needed. The turkey legs should be crispy and golden brown when done.

Mix the ingredients together and store in an air-tight container for up to 6 months. Use as a seasoning on meat and when cooking vegetables.

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Main dish

Chili Dogs

3 lbs. ground chuck

1 lb. hot bulk sausage

3 onions, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup chili powder

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. sugar

1 tbsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. salt

2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, chopped

3 (16-ounce) cans kidney beans

4 hot dogs

4 hot dog buns

1 cup grated Cheddar

Using a Dutch oven, combine the ground chuck, sausage, onions, and garlic. Cook over medium heat until the meat is browned, stirring the meat to break it up as it cooks. Drain the pan drippings. Stir in the chili powder, flour, sugar, oregano, salt, and stir well. Cover pot and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes and beans, and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes. Preheat a grill. Butterfly, or gently slice hot dogs lengthwise, making sure not to cut all the way through. Grill butterflied hot dogs until done, approximately 5 minutes. Place the buns on the grill to warm them. Place hot dogs in the bun. Put the hot dog on the plate with split side facing up. Ladle chili over and top with cheese.

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Main dish

Corn Dogs

25 (2 packages) mini hot dogs

25 (8-inch) wooden skewers

1 box corn muffin mix (mix according to the directions)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Skewer the hot dogs on the sticks. Make sure the sharp part of the skewers are not sticking out of the dogs. Prepare the corn batter according to the recipe on the box. Coat the dogs with the muffin mix and place on a nonstick baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before removing from the pan. Use a spatula to lift the corn dogs.

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Dessert

Chocolate-Dipped Apples

4 Roma or Granny Smith apples

16 ounces semisweet chocolate, milk or dark

8 ounces white chocolate

Various dessert topping choices

Special equipment: 12 (3-inch) bamboo skewers or wooden pop sticks

Arrange toppings in medium sized bowls. Wash and thoroughly dry the apples. Insert bamboo or wooden sticks into apple cores. Melt each kind of chocolate in separate bowls over double boilers. 1 at a time, gently dip the apples into the chocolate and roll around, making sure to thoroughly cover. Place on waxed paper. Using a spoon or wooden stick, carefully drizzle the white chocolate over the dark or milk. Use the thin side of the popsicle stick to make swirls and decorative patterns. Dip the apples into topping bowls or sprinkle toppings over the apples. Place decorated apples on waxed paper and refrigerate for 15 minutes to harden.

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Beverage

Sno Cones

4 cups water

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar, separated

2 cups frozen raspberries, thawed

1 cup purple grape juice concentrate

4 fresh mint leaves

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 cup orange juice concentrate

1 tbsp. honey

In a saucepan bring the water and 1/2 cup sugar to a boil. Let cool then pour into a shallow pan and freeze overnight. The next day, scrape the surface of the ice with a metal spoon to make shaved ice. Store in the freezer until ready to serve. To make the toppings, puree the raspberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and strain to remove the seeds and set aside. Blend the grape juice concentrate with the mint leaves in a blender and strain and set aside. Whisk together the citrus juices and honey and set aside. Using a large ice cream scoop, scoop a ball of the shaved ice onto 4 cones. Drizzle with various syrups and serve immediately.

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