I’ve been partial to “Fair” cookbooks for a long time—whether they are county or state fairs, but I have to admit that state fair cookbooks are usually pretty impressive affairs (no pun intended),. My personal interest was first piqued when I “discovered” the Los Angeles County Fair and the Los Angeles County’s annual cookbook.  At the time I was entering canned foods, jellies and jams at the fair and if you were a first, second, or third place winner, you were invited to contribute your recipe towards the book that is published the following year. There’s only one slight drawback to this system; if you contribute your blue ribbon recipe  for something unique, like my Hot Hawaiian Pineapple Pickles, you can be sure that someone else will enter your  recipe the year after that.

In any event, fair affairs put a halt to our entering the Los Angeles County Fair—which is held in Pomona, about an hour’s drive from where we lived in Arleta, in the San Fernando Valley. Entering canned foods means making at least four trips to the fair grounds  – once to enter your products, the second to pick up your “tasting jars” (most of these food products require  two jars; one is for display and the other is opened and tasted). The third trip was our weekend at the fair where we spent a night at the sumptuous Fairplex Hotel—and the fourth trip was to pick up our jars, ribbons and winnings when the fair was over.

I am still enamored over the Los Angeles county Fair which is going on even we speak (all this month of September, 2012) and the cookbooks, which I began searching for as soon as I learned they existed. We’d buy at least ten of the current Fair cookbook to give as Christmas gifts, and I managed to locate copies of most of the other L.A. County Fair cookbooks published over the years, including the very first one.    Then—I began discovering other fair cookbooks and I’d like to tell you about one or two of these.

One of the most recent to come to my attention is that of the ARIZONA STATE FAIR’S BLUE RIBBON RECIPES published by Golden West Publishers. This issue is Volume One, published in 1996. You may have some of the other Golden West cookbooks in your own collection; they have published a number of great regional cookbooks, including ARIZONA COOK BOOK, WHAT’S COOKIN’ IN ARIZONA, SALSA LOVERS COOKBOOK, TORTILLA LOVERS COOKBOOK and others as well. All are reasonably priced around ten dollars each.

ARIZONA STATE FAIR’S BLUE RIBBON RECIPES is a collection of “the best of the best” proclaims Gary D. Montgomery, Executive Director, “Included are actual Blue Ribbon recipes, donated by dozens of recent Arizona State Fair Blue Ribbon winners…the money you spend on this cookbook will help ens7ure that the Fair’s Entries program continues to thrive. The money you spend on this cookbook benefits Cox Charities and the State Fair, and will help provide more avenues for creative Arizona cooks to display their talents…”

One of the things I love most about state and county fair cookbooks such as ARIZONA STATE FAIR’S BLUE RIBBON RECIPES is that it provides me with recipes for unusual ingredients. This particular issue features Pineapple Jalapeno Jam, pickled figs, lemon jelly, peach pit jelly, salt brine black olives, and lots of others. Of course it helps if you have your own peach, lemon, olive and fig trees (which we did, for the 19 years Bob and I lived in Arleta). But you don’t have to own fruit trees to make Cherry Almond Delight cake, Feathery Fudge Cake, Orange Chiffon Cake, or Chocolate Roll. Nor do you need to grow your own wheat to make Zucchini Pineapple Bread,   Honey Cooking Soft Pretzels, Amish Friendship Bread, Mom’s Date Bread or Boston Brown Bread.

I have tagged some of the candy recipes to try this Christmas—Quick Penuche, Peanut Butter Bon Bons, Easy Peanut Butter Fudge—and maybe even the Prickly Pear candy, if I can just figure out where to buy prickly pear juice!

ARIZONA STATE FAIR’S BLUE RIBBON RECIPES can be found on starting at $1.99.

If you know of a state or county fair I should know about, write to me!

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith




  1. Hi Sandra! I found your blog a few weeks ago. I’m so happy I found your blog. I enjoy your posts about state fair and blue ribbon cookbooks. And of course your recipes. Thanks to you, I am now collecting them also. I have
    since purchased from Amazon, the Arizon State Fair Cookbook, America’s Best Recipes by Rosemary & Peter Hanley, Blue Ribbon Winners-America’s Beat State Fair Recipes, Blue Ribbon Recipes by Barbara Greenman and Blue Ribbon USA by Georgia Orcutt & John Margolies. I also have two previously purchashed books , Blue Ribbon Recipes by Barbara Greenman and The Road to Blue Ribbon Baking by Marjorie Johnson, Marjorie’s book is my favorite Marjorie is a perfectionist when it comes to baking and has a passion for baking, like no other. I would love to have her sign my book someday! If I try any of your recipes, may I have your permission to post about them on my blog? I will gladly provide a link back to the original recipe on your blog. Please email me with your reply! I will continue to visit your blog and look forward to any new posts with recipes and state fair – blue ribbon cookbook reviews.

    • Hi, Dana – emails such as yours are a red-letter day for me; it’s what I live for–to be able to share a love or passion for certain kinds of cookbooks and then strike a chord with someone else. Wow, I’m impressed – I am going to have to go over all my fair cookbooks to see which ones of yours I have or don’t have. I remember some years ago discovering the State Fair cookbooks for the first time (unfortunately not all states produce State Fair cookbooks every year as I am sure you know. I think the Texas state fair cookbook was one of my first – but the Iowa state fairs have produced some very good ones too–well, you know, you are just off and running, trying to find as many as possible, and read them, and try some of the blue-ribbon recipes. and yes, you can use my name or any of my recipes–I’m more than happy to share any of this with you.
      I think my best years with county fair cookbooks were the L.A. county cookbooks which I began collecting once I knew about them (a girlfriend found the first ones for me)–and then in the 1980s and 1990s I began entering jams & jellies & pickles et al in the fair and whenever you had a first, second, or third place ribbon you were invited to submit the recipes that were published the following year. Oh, we loved it. And I think some of those years were the best I’ve ever seen in Fair cookbooks (and they kept the price to $10 each–I’d buy a dozen and give them out as Christmas presents. 🙂 especially if any of my recipes were in the book. well, keep going, girlfriend. Thank you for writing.

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