I received an email back from the State Fair peeps:
As the University of Tennessee Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent in Davidson County, I have been asked to address your concerns about the standards for judging jelly. Since I did not judge jelly at this year’s Tennessee State Fair, I cannot give specific reasons as to why your jar was not opened. There could be a number of reasons for this happening.
As recommended by the National Center for Home Preservation, judging of home canned goods begins with visual assessment.
· Is the product in a standard canning jar?
· Is the jar sealed?
· Is the approved processing method listed on the jar’s label?
· Is the lid (ring and flat) clean and free of rust? Judges will remove the ring to check for cleanliness and to see if there is the proper amount of headspace in the jar and that no paraffin has been used.
· Is the jelly clear, free from sediment, cloudiness, pulp or crystals?
· Is the jelly a natural color (natural color of the dominant fruit)?
· Is the consistency of the jelly correct? The consistency of jelly can be judged without removing it from the jar. Turn the jar on its side and give it a single sharp shake. Then rotate the jar slowly at an angle or on its side. The jelly should pull away from the jar cleanly, without breaking and without leaving a residue on the jar.
It is my thinking that the judges eliminated your jelly on one or more of the above criteria.
Both the National Center for Home Preservation and the Ball Fresh Preserving Award guidelines, recommend that judges refrain from tasting home preserved food in the judging process. This recommendation is made for the safety of the judges.
The judges who judged the jelly division this year have over 20 years’ of experience in judging at the Tennessee State Fair.
I encourage you to continue participating in the canning competition at the fair.
Naturally, I had to get the last word:
I appreciate you taking the time to answer. It’s interesting and helpful to know the criteria used. My concern was that this was the first year I received an entry back, unopened; as it is the standard, it’s the first year that I’ve experienced it being followed. I wouldn’t have thought much of it, but first the volunteer pointed it out as unusual and then another competitor agreed with me that hers are always opened as well.
As long as the standard is being applied consistently, I have no problem with method the judges use. I don’t call into question their experience, but wanted to make sure I understood the process. I can appreciate that safety is a factor in not sampling the canned goods, but from an outsider’s perspective, it is now clear to me that you are judging adherence to the practice rather than the end result of product – as I take a lot of care with both. Again, provided that the methods used are consistent, it’s a perfectly reasonable explanation. Knowing this, I’ll definitely be curious to see what happens next year.
Thanks again for your time.