PLANT CITY There are many culinary treats to be savored at the Florida Strawberry Festival.
Some are on the midway, deep-fried or spun-sweet. Vendors throughout the grounds offer a variety of specialty foods, and three venues will spoon delectable strawberries over cake or biscuit, topped - or not - with whipped cream.
For a tasty page-turner that will linger long after the festival has ended, consider queuing up for a copy of the Florida Strawberry Festival’s 2014 “Best Family Recipes.” About 1,000 copies of the spiral-bound volume will be available for $10 each in the festival’s Neighborhood Village building near Gate 5.
Created from scratch each year, the cookbook contains 284 recipes featuring regional favorites, as well as cuisine with origins in more far-flung locales - Moroccan Chicken Bake and Gateau Au Citron Facile.
Texas Trash, Copper Pennies and Forgotten Kisses are some of the more enigmatic entries – but no spoiler alert here.
Contributor Robert Robe III even adds a dash of humor to the ingredients for Accidental Jambalaya.
“We try and mix it up so we have a little bit of everything,” said Sunny Smith, who has overseen production of the cookbook for the past two years as part of her duties as special event coordinator. The cookbook, a festival staple since 2006, is meant to be a keepsake, a reminder of time spent at the festival, she said.
Most of the recipes are contributions from Neighborhood Village blue-ribbon winners and contestants, festival staff and area residents. More than 50 are prized recipes from Cabot Creamery of Vermont and Florida Dairy Farmers, which sponsor the cookbook.
Of course, there are a variety of recipes featuring the festival’s singular, saluted fruit. Strawberries lend their delicate flavor to recipes for jams, jellies, salsas and preserves. There’s a Strawberry Mellon Fizz, Strawberry Spinach Salad, Fresh Strawberry Pie, Strawberry Shortcake Cookies and Gluten Free Strawberry Yogurt Cake. Strawberry Jalapeno Sauce, anyone?
Several dishes have royal antecedents. Erica Der and Lauren Der, sisters crowned queens in 2003 and 2009 respectively, contributed recipes, as did their mother Lori Der. Lauren Der, public relations and media representative for the festival, shared a spicy recipe for Jalapeno Boats, while her sister sweetened the pot with a Lemon Curd Coffee Cake, among other recipes.
Not all Neighborhood Village participants want to share the ingredients of their success, however. It may be a treasured, family secret. Smith concedes she has such a closely guarded recipe, but did part with eight others, including the 6 Ingredient Slow Cooker Chocolate Chip Brownie Cake. “It is wonderful … an ooey, gooey, so-rich dessert.”
Even Smith’s son, Adam Raulerson, stepped up to the plate. Most notable is his Asparagus Bundles creation, said Smith. “He is one awesome cook.”
The festival doesn’t kitchen-test the recipes, and no one who wants to contribute is turned away, Smith said. “When you have a small community like Plant City, you’ve got a lot of good cooks. I saw quite a few (recipes) I would love to try.”