September 12, 2011 - Nashville, TN
For Immediate Release
Nashville resident Allison Everett spent the weekend in celebration. After five years of entering the Tennessee State Fair, her pepper jelly has risen literally from worst to first.
In 2007, Mrs. Everett entered her pepper jelly into the State Fair and was one of four entrants - the only one without a ribbon. The following year, she rose to third place, out of six competitors. In 2009, her jelly again placed third - this time, besting seven other entrants.
Last year, Everett broke a barrier erected by the Chambers family of Cumberland Furnace Tennessee, and came in second to newcomer Beth DiMaggio. She held a press conference to discuss her long-standing feud against her nemeses, and outlined her plans for Tennessee Pepper Jelly domination.
For several months after, rumors of the end to the Tennessee State Fair circulated. In early 2011, planners were able to confirm that September would once again bring "A Fair To Remember".
In early August, Allison harvested her habaneros, culled her cowhorns and made a batch of pepper jelly. It failed spectacularly. Allison identified her problem immediately – pectin viscosity differential.
"I bought Ball brand liquid pectin because it was so much cheaper than Certo. I used the Certo recipe, because it's far and away the best - but apparently Certo measurements are not compatible with Ball pectin. The results are certainly edible - I'll be giving them away as Christmas gifts - specifically to people I don't like as well, but as far as Fair quality canning - Ball let me down. Their jars are top notch, and with their approved recipe, I suspect it would be a different story."
A second batch was made using Certo a week later and with bated breath, Allison waited for it to jell. And jell, it did.
"It was still softer than I would have liked, but I was out of time and out of patience. I could only enter it and hope for the best."
The fair opened on September 9th, and several of Allison colleagues urged her to check out her results that day. She had intended to wait until later in the weekend, but curiosity got the better of her. She had told several people to "prepare to be disappointed". She held out hope that she'd remain in the running for any ribbon, but felt certain she'd spend the next few days eating crow and making fun of her shortcomings.
Allison's tune quickly changed when she saw a blue ribbon attached to her jar.
"I honestly couldn't believe it - I really had to look several times to confirm that I had won."
She began placing phone calls to family members, texting friends, and talking with others who had gathered to view results. She met the White Ribbon winner for Salsa, and spoke with a man who won ribbons in several entries, including a Blue Ribbon for his pickled mixed vegetables. They compared notes about their competitors, and agreed that Nancy and Owen Chambers, Marjorie Hoffman and Minnie Fay Huddleston - the darlings of the canning circuit - all needed to be taken down a peg.
After her informal photo shoot/meet-and-greet, Everett drove home feeling proud and excited.
She built a display for her jelly in her Nashville home and will place the winning jar there, along with the ribbon as soon as she is able to claim it on Sunday, September 18th.
But after the initial excitement of her win, and the sheer raucous joy of a Blue Ribbon victory party held at her home on Saturday, she is suffering what has been diagnosed as Post Jelly Judging Letdown Syndrome (PJJLS).
"I don't have anywhere left to go from here. Now I'm the one everyone is going to try to beat. The hunter has become the hunted. I mean, what's the point, any more?"
Mrs. Everett is planning to take some time away from canning to reflect on her experiences and plot her next move.
"I'm working on a spec script for Lifetime Movie Network. I'm in talks with Caroline Rhea play the role of me. I'd kind of like Joanne Worley and Wilford Brimley to play the Chamberses, but it's up to the execs at LMN, I guess. Beyond that, well - I still have my job, and I have Matt and Lola [her husband of six years and dog of 12 years], and you know - I should probably clean out the attic, maybe prune back the rose bush. I also really need to make a dentist appointment."