Blue-Ribbon Recipe

The 2012 N.C. State Fair brought out the best of our state — including quite a few blue ribbon winners from Garner.

Among them is Donna Koch, appropriately pronounced “cook,” who for the second year in a row brought home the fair’s blue ribbon for her special take on peanut brittle, in the fair’s Breads, Cakes, Cookies and Candy category.

Koch also earned a blue ribbon with her non-fruit muffin recipe, and placed third with her oatmeal raisin cookies.

“I’ve loved to bake since childhood,” Koch said, “because it tastes good! The state fair is a fun thing for families to do. We love going to the fair and seeing our entries, whether they win or not.”

The Koch family is formerly of Nebraska, where they were bitten by the fair bug via the children’s 4-H entries. They moved to North Carolina five years ago.  

Daughter Naomi Koch was also a winner at this year’s fair, earning honorable mention in the professional art category. She teaches homeschool art classes in the Garner area.

Koch graciously agreed to share her prize-winning peanut brittle recipe with us, and hopes you enjoy making it — and eating it, too!

Donna Koch’s Prize-Winning Peanut Brittle


2 cups sugar

1 cup white corn syrup

½ cup water

1 pound unroasted Spanish peanuts (about 3 cups)

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 Tablespoon stick margarine


Grease a large cookie sheet. Combine sugar, salt, syrup and water in Dutch oven or large heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Cover and cook to soft ball stage (234 degrees F). 

Add peanuts and cook to hard crack stage (290-300 degrees), stirring frequently. 

Remove from heat and stir in baking soda. Then add vanilla and margarine. Spread into large cookie sheet. Note: It will not fill the whole cookie sheet.

This starts to set fast, so you will need to work quickly from the time you add the baking soda to the time you spread in the pan. Be careful, as the mixture is very hot! It helps to have a helper hold the pot while you scoop it onto the cookie sheet.

More Winners

Other Garnerites won big in the N.C. State Fair’s Breads, Cakes, Cookies and Candy category this year, too. They include:

William L. Spencer, who earned blue ribbons for French style baguette, vegetable muffins, and sticky buns, placed second in yellow layer cake and drop chocolate cookies, and third for yeast rolls; 

Deborah L. Tingler, blue ribbon for yeast bread;  

Karen McCauley, blue ribbons for angel food cake and drop oatmeal raisin cookies;  

Madison A. Smith, blue ribbon in tube/sheet/loaf cakes;  

Sarah G. Lapinskes, placed second in youth culinary competition within the category; and

Ben J. Lapinskes, placed third in youth culinary competition.  

List of winners list courtesy of the North Carolina State Fair.  


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