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By Debra Moore – Redding.Com

When you think of fair food, what comes to mind?

“Corn dogs,” said Heather Waldrop without hesitation. The Redding resident prefers hers with ketchup, not the traditional mustard.

Tehama District Fair employee Jacque Brown said corn dogs are the most popular food at the fair.

“People love corn dogs,” she said. “They also like funnel cake and all the sugar stuff.”

The Shasta District Fair starts today in Anderson. In honor of unique fair food, we offer recipes to bring the fair into your home year-round.

Waldrop also cites sweet treats when she thinks about fair food – cotton candy and caramel apples.

While some people might wait until fair time to indulge in these treats, Victoria Rodriguez of Redding makes these foods at home. She made corn dogs for her boys when they were young and whips up batches of caramel apples for family and friends during the holidays and for other special occasions.

Rodriguez said she once asked a carnival worker for his corn dog recipe.

“It’s the easiest recipe,” she said. “Their secret was pancake batter.”

Carnival workers would mix up big batches of Krusteaz pancake batter and then dip the hot dogs into the batter and fry them.

Rodriguez duplicated the recipe for her sons. “You just make the batter according to the package instructions and then dip a hot dog into it. Sometimes it took two coats,” she said.

She then fried the corn dogs in hot oil.

“They looked pretty authentic,” she said. “And the boys loved them.”

She also made corn dogs for their Boy Scout troop with an equally enthusiastic response.

While corn dogs are now rarely on the menu since the boys left home, caramel apples remain in demand.

“Everybody wants one,” Rodriquez said.

She and her friend, Michelle Porter, spend a day shopping, making, decorating and wrapping the festive gifts. While they are favorite holiday treats, Rodriguez said that they also make great hostess or thank you gifts.

Rodriguez and Porter start with the best apples they can find. They prefer to work with Granny Smith apples for their tart, crisp taste. They look for apples that are blemish-free and well-rounded.

Rodriguez’ husband, Cisco, gets into the act by sharpening wooden dowels purchased at Michael’s to insert into the apples. Popsicle sticks work well, but Rodriguez prefers the look and sturdiness of dowels.

Because they make so many apples at a time (40 last Christmas), the women buy caramel in 5-pound slabs.

Rodriguez said the individually wrapped caramels can also be used, but cautions that it takes a long time to unwrap the candy.

The women melt the candy in the microwave, being careful not to scorch it. While the candy is melting, sliced almonds are placed on cookie sheets. Once the apples are dipped into the melted caramel, they are immediately pressed into the almonds and then placed on parchment paper to set.

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