Every year for Father's Day Weekend, our small town North Judson hosts a festival celebrating our community's crop claim-to-fame: peppermint and spearmint.
This year is the 36th Annual Mint Festival and it means I'll be especially busy this weekend.
At 11 a.m. on Saturday morning, I'll be judging the annual Cooking with Mint Contest in the Girl Scout Cabin near the downtown area. My other favorite parts of the festival weekend are always the 2 p.m. guided bus tours of our area mint farms (departing from near our town library) on Saturday and the old steam engine train rides through our farming lands. On Sunday, it's the annual Peppermint Parade, led by this year's freshly crowned Peppermint Queen. For more information and details, call (574) 896-3340 thru Friday, between the hours of 8 a.m. - noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Our North Judson town library web site also lists a complete schedule of events.
The other reason it'll be a busy Saturday is I'll be dashing to Crown Point for the afternoon for Crown Point's Annual Corn Roast Festival to judge the 2nd Annual Cooking with Corn Contest at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
The folksy description of this annual event, as described by the organizers, always has appeal: "An old-fashioned street celebration around the Old Lake County Courthouse Lawn and Square, featuring great food, a beer garden, live music, games for the kids, and of course delicious roasted corn courtesy of the Southlake Shriners."
Dawn Stokes, membership director for Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce in Crown Point, the go-to group assisting with the event's details, contacted me again this year to judge the cooking contest.
A corn-on-the-cob eating contest is at 1 p.m. followed by the judging of the submitted entries for the Cooking with Corn recipe contest, all on the corner of the courthouse square. Individuals should try to register beforehand, and the day of the event, bring three samples of their recipe for judges to taste.
So here are the details for readers entering the corn recipe contest:
• Contestants should bring three tasting portions of the spotlighted recipe entered, along with a copy of the recipe, to the designated Crossroads Chamber Info Tent by no later than 1 p.m. Saturday, June 15. There is no entry fee and entrants may bring more than one submission. Recipes will be judged on taste, appearance and originality of the recipe, which can be of any variety, ranging from soups and appetizers to salads, side accompaniments, main dish and desserts. Trophies and prizes will be awarded and winning recipes will be published in The Times. Advance registration is recommended, although "day of" entries will be accepted. Contact Dawn Stokes at Crossroads Chamber to register or answer questions at (219) 769-8180.
So in 2013, it seems corn and mint are competing in every way, from rival festival weekends to field crop coverage. As mentioned in one of my columns last month, corn acreage has overtaken mint, even in our farming area, because of the demand.
But mint, be it peppermint or spearmint, has staying power. And once planted, it doesn't go away very easily. Even though we have corn in all the fields surrounding our farm this year, the previously grown peppermint is still poking through and even creeping in near my dad's newly planted strawberry patch.
I hope to see lots of readers at this weekend's festival and Happy Father's Day to all families near and far! Today's two minty recipes submitted by readers are perfect for toasting and treating Dad on his special day.
Peppermint Ice Cream Cake
4 cups crisp rice cereal
1 (7- ounce) milk chocolate candy bar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 gallon peppermint stick ice cream, softened
2 cups whipped topping
Peppermint candy canes and crushed peppermint candies for garnish
DIRECTIONS: Place cereal in a large bowl. Grate or shave 2 tablespoons of the chocolate from candy bar and set aside. In a heavy saucepan, melt butter and remaining chocolate. Pour over cereal and stir to coat. Press into the bottom of a greased 10-inch springform pan. Freeze this crust layer for 30 minutes and then spoon ice cream over the crust and freeze another 15 minutes. Spread a final layer of whipped topping and sprinkle with the shaved chocolate. Cover with foil and freeze for several hours or overnight. Remove from freezer 5 to 10 minutes prior to serving and decorate with peppermint sticks and crushed candy. Remove sides of pan. Cut with a sharp knife and serve immediately. Makes 8 to 10 serving slices.
Peppermint and Raspberry Cooler
9 cups water, divided use
1 cup fresh chopped peppermint
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups raspberries (frozen or fresh)
2 1/4 cups lemonade concentrate (undiluted)
DIRECTIONS: In a large saucepan, bring 3 cups water, mint and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes. Stir in raspberries, lemonade concentrate and remaining water. Refrigerate overnight. Strain the raspberry mixture, reserving liquid. Press the strained berries and mint through a sieve, to discard any seeds or mint leaves. Combine the gathered liquids and serve over ice. Makes 12 servings.