It has been a difficult summer and somewhat sad without the traditional county and state fairs where many of us got together to see animals, 4-H exhibits, the biggest ear of corn and the juiciest looking tomato.

But what a lot of us really miss is that large variety of fair foods, which include everything from cheese curds to cotton candy.

While some of those tidbits, such as cotton candy, can be difficult to make without expensive equipment, there are other appetizing fair foods that can easily be prepared at home - even the ever popular cheese curds. So, if you can’t go to the fair, bring the fair home to you.

In the absence of county and state fairs this year, pair your own homemade pork tenderloin sandwich with homemade fried pickles and corn on the cob. Donna Evans / Echo Journal Correspondent
In the absence of county and state fairs this year, pair your own homemade pork tenderloin sandwich with homemade fried pickles and corn on the cob. Donna Evans / Echo Journal Correspondent

Those ever delectable cheese curds are a tidbit that many consider a summer staple. These bits of cheese are actually the byproduct of the cheese-making process and can be made from mozzarella, Colby or Monterey jack cheese. Cheese curds have a long history originating back to Ancient Rome with a dish called Globuli. The Romans had a similar dish that was fried bits of breaded cheese that were rolled in honey. Today’s fried cheese curd recipe is not much different than how these cheese bites were prepared thousands of years ago.

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Pork tenderloin sandwiches are available in some restaurants, but they never seem to have quite the flavor of the ones you find at county and state fairs. Some recipes call for using pork tenderloin, but there are quite a few that substitute the tenderloin with a pork chop. The trick to crafting the perfect pork tenderloin is in the two-coating process – first with flour, dipped in egg, then bread, cracker or Panko crumbs or a combination of all three.

Fair foods, especially those fried in oil, might not be the healthiest. Remember to get your oil hot and set the cooked food on paper towels to absorb any excess oil.

Don’t let the summer go by without enjoying some of those fair foods you can’t live without. You’ll find it is not difficult to make some of those delicious treats at home. Enjoy and Happy Eating.

Fried Pickles

Adapted from southernliving.com

  • 1/2 cup whole buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 16-ounce jar dill pickle chips, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups finely ground cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup (about 2 1/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • Canola oil
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Ranch dressing

Place a piece of foil or wax paper on a baking sheet. Lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the buttermilk, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Add the pickles and stir to coat.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the cornmeal and flour. Add a few pickles at a time to the cornmeal mixture and lightly toss the pickles around until they are evenly coated with the mixture. Place onto the prepared baking sheet.

Pour the canola oil in a large skillet to a depth of about ¾ inch. Heat the oil to 350 to 365 degrees (medium high heat). Once the oil is hot, place the pickles in the pan, but do not crowd the pickles. Fry just until golden brown and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and place on a plate covered with paper towels. Serve immediately with Ranch dressing.

Old Fashioned Tenderloins

  • 4 to 6 thinly sliced pork chops (you can use thick pork chops, but pound them with a meat cleaver until they are ¼-inch thick)
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • Canola oil
  • Hamburger buns
  • Desired toppings (pickles, onion, tomato)
  • Mustard and/or ketchup

Heat oil in a heavy skillet or deep fat fryer to 350 degrees

Combine the flour, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper and salt in a small bowl. Place the egg in a shallow dish. In a third bowl, combine the seasoned and Panko breadcrumbs.

Place the pork chops in the flour mixture and coat both sides. Dip chops, one at a time, into the egg mixture, then coat with the bread crumbs.

Working in batches, gently add the pork to the pan and fry for 2 to 3 minutes per side. Cook just until golden brown. Place onto paper towels to absorb any excess oil.

Place the pork onto buns and top with desired toppings and condiments.

Beer Battered Cheese Curds

  • 1 pound cheese curds
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup beer (plus an additional 2-4 tablespoons as needed to thin batter)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Canola oil for frying

Heat oil in deep fat fryer or a large skillet to 375 degrees. If using a skillet, make sure enough oil is in the pan so the curds will be completely covered, approximately 2 inches up the sides of the pan.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In another medium size bowl, add the beaten egg and the beer. Mix until well combined and then add to the flour and mix well. The batter should be the consistency of thin pancake batter. If it is too thick, add more beer, a tablespoon at a time. If it is too thin, add another spoonful of flour.

Using a slotted pan, place several cheese curds into the batter and make sure the curds are evenly coated with batter. Let the excess batter drip off and then place into the heated oil.

Fry for one to two minutes, just until the cheese curds are lightly browned. Remove and place on paper towels to drain. Let drain just a few minutes and then serve.