Student Claims Grand Champion Honors in Canning

-by Elizabeth Mullally McWhirt- Although some could ascribe it to beginner’s luck, 12-year old Katie Baggett recently won top honors in the “Zesty Salsa” division as well as being named “Grand Champion” over all entries in the Canning Division. Not bad for a first-timer!

“I’ve been cooking with my grandma all my life, but my mom and I only started canning two years ago,” she says. “At first we didn’t know what we were doing.” Katie and her mom began with making pickles but moved on to salsa a year ago. “We had a garden and had lots of tomatoes.” This past summer, Katie entered her zesty salsa into Fulton County’s “Town and Country Days,” sponsored by the Fulton County Extension Service. Her blue ribbon automatically qualified her for entry into the 4-H Food Preservation Division at the Kentucky State Fair’s Cloverville in Louisville. Katie’s salsa was judged on its container, appearance, texture and consistency and flavor, and she scored top marks in each category.

Bernita Cheirs, County Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development, expends great efforts to encourage students like Katie Baggett to try new activities and pursuits. “I try to get students to focus on leadership and team building. I’ve always been an advocate for youth and trying to give kids opportunities. 4-H is free and we offer quite a few programs.” Notable 4-H programs directed by Cheirs and enjoyed by Fulton County students include Communications Day, the Reality Store, Breads contest, chicken incubation, and Leadership.

As for Katie, she has taken her awards in stride. What’s in her future? “Well, we’re now harvesting a lot of grapes, so I think I’m going to try to make jelly,” she says.

Zesty Salsa

6 lbs. fresh tomatoes (about 18 medium)

½ cup white distilled vinegar

1 pouch Mrs. Wages brand salsa mix

  1. Wash fresh tomatoes. Scald 3 minutes in boiling water. Dip into cold water. Cut out cores, remove skins and chop coarsely. This should yield about 10 cups tomatoes. If using canned tomatoes, do not drain liquid.
  2. Combine tomatoes, Mrs. Wages medium salsa mix, white distilled vinegar in a large non-reactive saucepan. Do not use aluminum. Bring mixture to a boil. Stir occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer 1- minutes. Stir occasionally. Salsa is ready!
  3. Prepare home canning jars and lids according to manufacturer’s instructions for sterilized jars. Pour hot salsa into clean, hot pint canning jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe rim and cap as each jar is filled.
  4. Process jars for 40minutes in boiling water bath canner. Turn off heat, carefully remove canner lid, and let jars stand for 5minutes in canner. Remove jars. Let jars sit undisturbed to cool at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Test jars for airtight seals according to manufacturer’s directions. If jars do not completely seal, refrigerate and consume within 1 week. Use shelf-stable product within 1 year.