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Opinion

Meet the best of 150 muffin makers

Barry Schrader for Shaw Media
Jayne Higgins of Sycamore came away with the top prize in all classes of muffins entered into the Sandwich Fair’s culinary competition last week.
Barry Schrader for Shaw Media Jayne Higgins of Sycamore came away with the top prize in all classes of muffins entered into the Sandwich Fair’s culinary competition last week.

It could be said that Jayne Higgins is “pleased as punch” with the Best of Show ribbon she earned at the Sandwich Fair last week.

The Sycamore baker came away with the top prize in all classes of muffins entered into the fair’s culinary competition last week. That means judges tasted 150 muffins, chose the top one in each of 15 categories, then selected the best one of all.

Jayne’s recipe is unique and one she hasn’t entered before, containing fresh basil, tomato, mozzarella cheese, olive oil, balsamic vinegar all mixed into the batter. She named it Caprese. That would certainly tickle your taste buds.

Known affectionately as the “muffin lady” at St. Mary’s Church in Sycamore, Jayne has provided the congregation with hundreds of her creations over the years. It all began 15 years ago, when she found a book of muffin recipes at a garage sale. She has been entering the fair ever since, generally competing in 50 or so categories from garden produce and flowers to hobby collections.

Slowed down by hip surgery this year, though, she said she only managed to enter 30 different classes — such as whole wheat breads, caramel pecan rolls, and snickerdoodles. She also won a blue ribbon this year for her Divinity.

If you think competition isn’t tough at the fair, consider that there are 2,204 entries in the open food categories alone, plus another 713 in the junior division. When I collected this data from fair historian Joan Hardekopf, I forgot to ask where I sign up to be a judge next year.

Jayne is just as proud of her granddaughter, ElleAnna, who recently turned 8 and could enter baked goods in the junior division. Well-prepped in the culinary arts by Grandma, the girl captured ribbons for her zucchini bread, apple pie, snickerdoodles, and fudge.

A longtime member of the Sycamore History Museum board, Jayne is probably best known for organizing and the chairing the historic homes tours during Pumpkin Fest over the years. By the way, it is Saturday, Oct. 28. She is always seeking docents to help guide visitors in each home that day.

Another tidbit from the fair: I saw Mary Simons in the Republican tent and we chatted about hobbies. I learned that her daughter, Lynne Kunde, collects DeKalb- and Sycamore-area memorabilia. Right now, she is looking for old matchbooks from DeKalb businesses, past and present, to create a design spelling out the word “DeKalb” in matchbooks. If you happen to have one, you can drop it off at the county elections office where she works.

Too bad “Dirty” Ralph’s Newsstand isn’t still open. I bet he had boxes of them, along with his multitude of tobacco products.

(Barry Schrader can be reached via email at barry815@sbcglobal.net or through P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115. His past columns are posted on his website www.dekalbcountylife.com.)

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