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Crockin’ it | Home cooks show off Crock Pot skills

Margaret Goins of Montgomery got an extra special birthday present this year.

Goins won first place in Alabama Living’s annual “Crockin’ It” cooking contest at the Alabama National Fair last fall. The competition just so happened to fall on her birthday.

The judges loved her Crock Pot Pecan Pie recipe, which features Alaga syrup (one of the rules of the contest is that each recipe must feature at least one Alabama-made ingredient).

Goins has been entering cooking contests at the Fair since 2004, and each year she enters nearly all the contests held at the Creative Living Center. She says she has a wall in her home that’s full of ribbons, and the last time she counted she was up to 53.

From left: The “Crockin’ It” contest third-place winner Felicia Moore; Lenore Vickrey, editor of Alabama Living magazine; second-place winner Tif Smith; Deborah Paul, director of the Creative Living Center; first-place winner Margaret Goins; and Huey Thornton, 2019 Alabama National Fair president.
Photo by Allison Law

She’d heard a friend talk some time ago about a Crock Pot dessert and decided to try one this year. (Desserts aren’t new to the competition; in fact, the 2016 winning dish was called Rocky Road Dessert.)

Goins says she plans basically all year for the recipes she’ll enter in the fair competitions, since she enters so many. “I’ve got plenty of testers around,” she says. No doubt that makes her friends and family happy! – Allison Law

1st Place: Margaret Goins, Montgomery

Crock Pot Pecan Pie

1 uncooked pie crust

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

2/3 cup Alaga dark syrup

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup margarine, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

Spray Crock Pot with nonstick cooking spray. Place pie crust in Crock Pot and press the edges about a half-inch up the sides of the pot. In a mixing bowl, stir the remaining ingredients until well mixed. Pour on top of the pie crust. Cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours.

2nd Place: Tif Smith, Montgomery

Slow Cooker Oxtail Stew

4 pounds oxtail

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

2 medium leeks, sliced white and light green parts only

1 onion, chopped

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup red wine

1 can stewed tomatoes

5 tablespoons tomato paste

3 cups beef stock

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 bay leaves

4 medium carrots, sliced

2 sticks celery, diced

4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 cup frozen peas

1 can corn

8 shakes Alaga hot sauce

¼ cup Alaga dark syrup

Freshly chopped parsley to garnish

Clean the oxtail by rinsing them and let them sit in water with the apple cider vinegar for about 30 minutes. Take out of water and let drain, then run them under water again.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper the oxtail and add to the skillet and sear on each side for 2-3 minutes. Transfer beef to the slow cooker. Add leeks, onion, garlic, red wine, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, 3 cups beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours or high for 2 to 3 hours or until the meat falls off the bone. Strip the meat from the bones and discard bones and any excess fat. Add carrots, celery and potatoes. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or until the vegetables are fork-tender. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. 

In a small bowl, whisk together flour and 1/2 cup stew broth. Stir flour mixture into the slow cooker along with the frozen peas, corn, hot sauce and syrup. Cover and cook on high heat for an additional 30 minutes or until thickened. Serve immediately with parsley garnish.

3rd Place: Felicia Moore, Hope Hull

Slow Cooker Oxtail Stew

2 racks pork ribs

Salt and pepper

1 13-ounce jar apricot preserves

1 cup ketchup

½ cup yellow mustard

½ cup soy sauce

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo, finely chopped

Alaga hot sauce, to taste

3 tablespoons corn starch

Cut the ribs into two rib pieces, season with salt and pepper and put in the slow cooker. In a bowl, mix the preserves, ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, garlic, chipotle peppers and hot sauce. Pour over the ribs. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or 3 to 4 hours on high. When the ribs are cooked, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove ribs from the slow cooker to an oven pan. Remove the meat juices to a skillet on medium heat; add corn starch and cook until thickened. Brush the ribs with the sauce every 10-15 minutes, until the ribs are glazed and sticky, about 45 minutes. Serve with extra sauce.

What’s in a Name?

Most of us use “slow cooker” and “Crock Pot” interchangeably, but not all slow cookers are Crock Pots; it is the brand name of the first slow cooker on the market. Invented in the 1940s and first introduced in the 1950s under another name, it became the Crock Pot when the company Rival bought the invention and re-introduced it in the 1970s. Crock Pots proved instantly popular, but then, in the 1980s, sales waned when microwaves became the latest kitchen rage. Now they’re back in style. In the last decade, all brands of slow cookers have enjoyed a surge in sales. Some figures state an increase in overall sales of more than 65 percent since 2008.

—Jennifer Kornegay