Whenever we are headed for Springfield on I-55 from Chicago, we always detour to Funk's Grove, which is roughly 50 miles north of Springfield.
Funk's Grove, as far as they know, is the only commericial maple sirup (SIC) grove in Illinois. It is also along an old section of Route 66. Just to the south of the grove at McClean is the Dixie Truck stop which is home to the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame.
The big attraction for my family is an opportunity to eat maple sugar candy. Of course, we usually stock up on maple sirup but having recently acquired a gallon from a Chowhound whose family maples in Ohio, I took a pass this time.
Some years ago, Crisco conducted Pie competitions at State Fairs which were on par with the Pillsbury Bake Off. All first place winners at the State level were brought to a central location for a bake-off. First place winner received a $25,000 kitchen make over.
One year the competition's rules required the pie to reflect agricultural products from their native state. I developed a pie recipe which had a cornmeal crust, an apple-maple custard filling with a swiss meringue top. On all my test examples, the pie came out perfect and the meringue did not weep. I made my pie the night before and left in the wee hours of the morning to drive downstate for the competition. Guess what happened: the %#$% meringue weeped. I did not place, where everyone else's pie had a neat little wedge cut out. My pie had a large section removed with lots of fork and spoon marks. I found the Culinary Art's administrator to inquire about my marks. I had a perfect score in creativity, originality, taste but lost in the visual appearance because of the weeping meringue. She also said it was by far the best tasting pie in the competition and apologized for the rough appearance my pie now had.
I wasn't able to compete the next year, but found someone had borrowed some of my ideas ... I know because I had been scoping the competition for several years. Unfortunately, Crisco has since discontinued the pie competition.
Life goes on...
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