A little sweet, a little savory and so dairy good

Clark County residents enjoy annual recipe contest

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LOYAL, Wis. – For more than 60 years, Clark County residents have been entering the annual Clark County June Dairy Month Recipe Contest hosted by the Clark County Dairy Promotions Committee. For many, the contest has become a family tradition, and the creators of the top recipes wear their winnings as a badge of honor.
“I have been participating in the contest since I was in high school,” said Maryanne Olson, vice president of the Clark County Dairy Promotions Committee. “My aunt, Bessy Spangler, participated, and I came along with her.”
Olson dairy farmed with her husband, Noel, until they sold their cows in 2003. However, the Olsons continue to serve on the Clark County Dairy Promotions Committee.
“This is a really good way to promote the dairy industry and encourage people to use dairy products,” Olson said. “We like to see people use recipes that are ones they make often. … We like to see recipes that others will use too.”
The recipe contest features a theme each year. This year’s contest, which was held June 22 in Loyal, featured pies. Other themes have included soups, holiday cookies, muffins, casseroles, appetizers and bars.
“Bars and cookies were very popular themes with lots of entries,” Olson said.
Each recipe must contain two generous helpings of a dairy product, Olson said.
The contest is open to any resident of Clark County. This year, 18 contestants entered a pie in hopes of hearing their name called off in the top spot at the end of the evening. The eventual winner of the contest was Reita Gerlander, of Willard, who won with a cheddar chicken pot pie.
“I have been entering the contest since I was in the seventh grade,” Gerlander said. “I am 60 years old and have only missed one or two contests. It is a lot of fun. My mother and I have done it for years, and now my niece and great-niece do as well.”
Gerlander said she chose to think out of the box and proceed with a savory pie for her entry.
“They used to have nutritional value as a point category,” Gerlander said. “That is kind of why I chose to make a non-dessert pie.”
Gerlander said she found a basic pot pie recipe that she liked and then began experimenting. Her pot pie included cream cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, butter and milk.
The panel of three judges is made up of one member of the dairy promotions committee, a staff member from the county’s University of Wisconsin Extension office and someone from the local community. The judges rated the pies based on flavor, use of dairy products, appearance, recipe directions and uniqueness or creativity.
Olson said participants range from the young to the old.
“We have a core group of people who bring an entry every year,” she said. “Many of them started coming with family members, and we have several families with multiple family members competing each year. It is good to see that tradition continuing.”
Each entrant receives a pound of butter from Grassland. The top 10 winners receive an individual prize, and the top 10 recipes are published in a booklet. The winner of the contest becomes the chairperson for the next year’s contest. Bunny Dux, of Neillsville, won last year’s contest with her cheddar potato soup and chaired this year’s contest.
The contest chairperson is responsible for lining up the prizes for the winners.
“We ask them to purchase all of their prizes here in Clark County,” Olson said. “We get a variety of gifts for the winners to select from. The first prize winner picks first, and then each one down the list selects their prize.”
While the judges evaluated each of the submissions, those in attendance listened to guest speaker Donna Odeen, the family and consumer science teacher at Loyal High School. Odeen spoke about the variety of flours available and how each can be used in cooking and baking.
“I keep participating and being involved in the contest because it is something I really enjoy doing,” Olson said. “I really like cooking and baking, and the competition is very fun and friendly.”
The winning recipes from this year’s contest, as well as past contests, are available by contacting the Clark County Extension Office.

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