County and state fair ribbons attest to talent

Heidi Emde has won the highest awards given by the El Paso County and the Colorado State fairs.Photo by David Lowe
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David Lowe

Heidi Emde has garnered hundreds of ribbons from the El Paso County and Colorado State fairs for her food entries in several different categories.

It all started in Omaha, Neb. where husband Eric was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base. She attended a demonstration featuring a pressure cooker at the local hardware store. “I can do that,” Emde said. She still has the pressure cooker she bought in 1983.

In the early ‘90s she saw an ad from the Colorado State Extension Office offering lessons on food preservation. She signed up. She became a certified Master Food Safety Advisor volunteer in the extension program for El Paso County. The program is no longer administered in El Paso County due to budget restraints, and all volunteer work has been suspended.

In 2001 she volunteered helping the judges at the El Paso County Fair. “I discovered what they were doing, it helps to know the rules,” Emde said. With her characteristic look at new adventures, “I can do that,” Emde said.

Emde started with canning jellies, preserves, jams and peach and apple butters from fresh fruit featuring currents, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and rhubarb. The currents, raspberries and rhubarb were from her garden, adding to the quality control of the finished product.

In the vegetable categories she canned green and wax beans, carrots, beets, tomatoes and peas. What she doesn’t grow herself she buys from farmers markets.

In 2002 for her first entries in the El Paso County Fair, she entered 40 different categories including baking and food drying. She won in 35 categories with 25 first-place ribbons and 10 second-place ribbons.

In 2007 she entered 55 different categories, taking 30 first-, 15 second-, and 10 third-place ribbons. She won the highest honor bestowed: “Champion-Kitchen Wizard 2007 El Paso County.” Only one award is given per year, which requires a year hiatus before it can be won by the same person.

That same year she won the “Queen/King of the Kitchen Colorado State Fair in Pueblo.” So coveted is this award, the same person is restricted to being able to win every five years.

She also competes in baking with pies, coffee cakes and dill bread. In the candy category she enters fudge, peanut brittle, and English toffee. In the dry food, dehydrated, categories her entries are fruit, vegetables and jerky.

Emde started her canning to eliminate preservatives used in food that the family was eating. In 2008 she made most of the baby food for her grandson completely free of sugar and salt. “Today, when the grandson is offered salty or sweet items he refuses them,” Emde said.

The entries are judged on the opening day of the fair and the ribbons are in place for the fair-goers.

After a trip to a beer and wine-making store in 2005, Emde uttered her famous statement, “I can do that.” Thus wine making was added to her talents. The Colorado State Fair accepts wine-making entries; El Paso County Fair does not.

In 2006, her first venture into the wine categories consisted of 10 bottles of wine. She won 10 ribbons including the “Best of Show.”

The wine-making kits come with the grape juice, yeast, all the flavorings, and stabilizers; everything but the water. The wine is stored in 6.5 gallon glass jugs for a six-week minimum. Heidi and Eric store the wine for 15 weeks before transferring to bottles. The bottles are stored for at least six months to two years depending upon the wine. Eric makes all the custom labels for the wine bottles.

“If you can make jelly, you can make wine, and vice versa,” Eric said.

“No matter where you live, altitude affects the recipe,” Heidi said.

High Country Feeds in Monument sell the wine-making kits and give wine-making classes.

One can contact Heidi at heidiemde@msn.com