Story and photos by Allison Law
For Tif Smith, entering competitions at the Alabama National Fair is a tradition she’s enjoyed for more than 20 years.
It’s also a family tradition – she cooks with her sister, who came all the way from Dallas, Texas, to enter the Fair this year with her.
Smith won first place in the annual “Crockin’ It” contest, the slow-cooker competition sponsored by Alabama Living at the fair in early November. Her prize-winning dish, Crock Pot Amish Cabbage Patch Soup, is a hearty meal-in-itself that’s perfect for these colder months.
She credits the unique flavor to the cumin. “You have to be careful with it, but that’s that ‘bite,’” she says. She thought that cabbage would provide a nice layer of texture along with the beans, and she added Alaga syrup to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. One judge noted that even though he doesn’t care for cabbage, he enjoyed the flavors and texture in Smith’s soup.
She calls herself a “recipe freak,” and after she suffered a detached retina in March, she used her recuperation time to research recipes and think about twists and touches she could use to make them her own.
Smith lives in Montgomery but grew up in Wayne County, Miss., on a pig farm. She and her family did lots of cooking and sewing, skills she’s tried to pass on to her own children.
“Tradition is real important to me,” she says, and points to her daughter in the audience. “We’ve been doing this since she was 5 years old, and she’s 27 now.” And Smith’s aunt was one of the “fair ladies” – the dedicated women who work hard each year at the fair to help the contestants and the judges, and who keep the competitions running smoothly.
Her family was even keeping up with the competition while the judging was going on. “My mom and dad have already called,” Smith says with a smile. “I said, ‘They’re judging, Daddy!’”
A young man recently asked Smith for advice about competing; he likely knew that she’s been participating in these contests for many years. “You don’t win if you don’t try,” she says. “Anybody can come up with a recipe. You just keep trying. There was many years when I didn’t win.”
Tif Smith, Montgomery
Crock Pot Amish Cabbage Patch Soup
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 large bell peppers, one orange and one red, chopped
- 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained
- 1 15-ounce can Garbanzo beans, drained
- ½ head cabbage, chopped
- 2 32-ounce boxes beef broth
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Several shakes of Alaga Hot Sauce
- ½ cup Alaga Light Syrup
Cook the ground beef in a skillet and drain. Add ground beef, onion, celery, bell peppers, beans and cabbage to the Crock Pot. In a bowl, whisk together beef broth, hot sauce, syrup, tomatoes, tomato paste and spices. Pour over the Crock Pot ingredients. Cook on low 6-7 hours or high for 4 hours. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream if desired.
Stacie Bruney, Montgomery
Slow Cooker Reese’s Cake
- 1 box chocolate fudge cake mix
- 1 cup water
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- 1/8 cup Alaga Corn Syrup
- ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
- ¼ cup Barber’s milk
- 1/8 cup Alaga Corn Syrup
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 30 mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, chopped
- ¼ cup chocolate sauce
For the cake, prepare the slow cooker with cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, beat together the cake ingredients. Pour batter into the slow cooker, cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours. Check after 1 ½ hours just in case. When cake is done, remove the pot from slow cooker and set on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl, mix together the glaze ingredients. Spread evenly over the top of the cake. Drizzle chocolate sauce on top and sprinkle chopped peanut butter cups.
TerreLynn Huston, Montgomery
Mongolian Beef, Southern Style
- 2 pounds chuck roast
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup plus 4 tablespoons water
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon Dale’s low-sodium seasoning
- 4 green onions, sliced into 2-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon Alaga Hot Sauce
Combine ½ cup soy sauce, ¼ cup water, sugar, garlic and ginger in the Crock Pot and stir. Add Dale’s seasoning and stir well. Lay the chuck roast into the Crock Pot, cover and cook on low 8-10 hours. Remove beef; shred with fork, then return to the Crock Pot. In a small saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch and 4 tablespoons water. Add ½ cup liquid from the Crock Pot. Whisk until it boils and thickens. Pour this liquid back into the Crock Pot. Before serving, heat a pan and add olive oil; add the green onion pieces. Let them sizzle for a few minutes. Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce and Alaga Hot Sauce. Serve the Mongolian Beef over rice and top with the green onion sauce.