Bill Johns of West Knoxville / Farragut places in all 5 categories he submitted and also earned “Best of Show” at the 2015 Tennessee Valley Fair in Culinary Arts for Canning. Johns, a first time entrant who has only been canning for six years, tops the competition in this year’s regional contest.
“I am very humbled and proud of this recognition from my peers” Johns said. Johns also stated “I have earned a lot of accolades and recognition throughout my life, but this definitely falls in the ‘Top 10’ and is one I will always cherish.”
According to Dee West, Department Head of the Culinary Arts for Canning division of the Tennessee Valley Fair, that placing “Best of Show” for a first time entrant is unprecedented in the fair community and especially at the Tennessee Valley Fair. “You just do not see many young men or anyone who have only been canning for a short time just walk in as a first time entrant and place in so many classes either” West said. To earn “Best of Show” Johns topped 322 other canning jar entrants in the adult division of the Tennessee Valley Fair!
Johns submitted 5 canning jars to the Tennessee Valley Fair competition placing First in 4 of divisions and Third in 1 division. The categories included Salsa (Placed 1st for “Yellow Roma Tomato and Serrano”), Other Fruit (Placed 1st for “Pineapple”), Other Pickled (Placed 1st and “Best of Show” for “Pickled Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes Medley”), Ball Preserving Award – Pickled (Placed 1st for “Pickled Sliced Tomatoes with Rosemary”), and Applesauce (Placed 3rd for “Cinnamon Applesauce”).
The entrants were judged for physical characteristics of the jars, lids, and rings in addition to the creative beauty of the contents per class including appearance, color, consistency, uniformity, and headspace according to West.
According to Johns, he has received many compliments from people about his canning abilities over the years and has been encouraged to enter some contest out there. It was not until this August when Johns canned some yellow roma tomato salsa that came out exceptionally beautiful that he decided to research how to enter the Tennessee Valley Fair. In addition, Johns submitted other canning jars from his pantry he preserved this year.
The “Best of Show” winner was especially special for Johns since his daughter, Leilani, grew the heirloom cherry tomatoes in her container garden this season. Leilani especially enjoyed harvesting the cherry yellow pear tomatoes that looked like miniature light bulbs. The rest of the ingredients such as garlic and peppers used for the pickled cherry medley came from “Sundown Farm™…the smallest Farm in Tennessee™” located in the backyard of the Johns’.
Johns who is also an exceptional gourmet cook and master griller expanded into canning in 2008 when he searched for someone to teach him the ropes in food preservation. Johns was referred to Janet Orme of Farragut through a mutual friend. Orme who was an experienced canner advised Johns on getting started and helped him with his first canning batches. “Preserving food is a natural progression for healthy living and capturing the real value out of what you grow and enjoy eating” according to Johns who is also a supply chain management expert. Johns further states “When I first moved back to Tennessee in 2000, I was only in control of about 5% of my food chain but now I control about 90% of it in terms of growing, raising, bartering, or obtaining my food for myself and my family.”
As for next year’s Tennessee Valley Fair, Johns plans on “retiring” from participating as an entrant in the Culinary Arts contests as he believes he will never be able to repeat such a feat. Johns also mentioned he was jokingly told by several fair visitors, participants, and Culinary Arts entrants that there are “many great grandmothers and ‘Aunt Bees’ out there” who would also like for him to move on to something else”.