White rock hills resident Betty McKnight looked at her big box of blue ribbons from the state fair of texas and saw a new business
You do not want to go against Betty McKnight in any cooking competition at the State Fair of Texas. Be it pizza or Spam, she’s a formidable opponent whose flair for unusual flavors is backed up by an overflowing box of blue ribbons.
“Once you get bit by that blue-ribbon bug, you want more,” she laughs.
It was jellies and jams where she shined brightest. From sweet to savory, she has won awards for most of her gooey creations. But it all began with whiskey-orange marmalade.
“My husband just loved it,” she remembers. “We couldn’t find it anywhere. This was before all these specialty food stores. When we did find it, it was obscenely expensive.”
So she whipped up a batch. It proved so popular, on a whim she decided to enter it in the 1998 State Fair of Texas creative arts competition, which includes everything from quilts and paintings to baked goods and chili.
“It was the first time I ever entered anything, and I won the blue ribbon,” the White Rock Hills resident says.
Then, the floodgates opened. She couldn’t stop herself. Sitting in her Jacuzzi, Mai Tai in hand, she let her mind wander and creative concoctions came to her.
“It’s only when you relax that the ideas start flowing,” she says.
And the blue ribbons kept coming, 10 in total for jams and jellies. Judges loved her blends of savory and sweet, like the three-pepper jelly and pineapple-ginger jam. Eventually, it became clear that she was on to something. Her friends and family encouraged her to turn her award-winning hobby into a business, and Betty’s Blue Ribbon Fare was born.
She used to sell her products at the Dallas Farmers Market, but now the jams are sold online only. It’s a homegrown business that’s all about personal touch. She selects and cuts all the fruit herself, making small batches of 12 to 14 jars at a time during the summer months.
When canning became her profession, she became ineligible for the amateur-only jam and jelly contest at that annual exposition. But that’s no matter, for there are dozens of cooking competitions at the Fair, many of which McKnight already has won.
In 2006, she received a blue ribbon in the Spam contest with her Spam-stuffed mushrooms wrapped in phyllo dough. Last year, she took top prize in the pizza cook-off for an Oktoberfest pizza with a beer-soaked crust and mustard sauce topped with bratwurst and sauerkraut.
She’s not taking part in this year’s contest, but she says it’s the friends, not the ribbons, that she’ll miss.
“My favorite thing about the Fair is the camaraderie,” she says.
See all of Betty McKnight’s offerings at bettysblueribbonfare.com.