A versatile veggie: PotatoFest offers a variety of treats from local spuds

Versatile is probably the best word to describe the potato.

There are more than 3,000 varieties grown in the United States and about as many ways to prepare them.

And, they’re popular, too – each American potato lover consumes, on average, 30 pounds of spuds per year.

Whatever your taste, Cambria County celebrates the varied vegetable with the 24th annual PotatoFest, scheduled for this Saturday in downtown Ebensburg.

Cambria County is the second largest supplier of potatoes in the state, said Danea Koss, Ebensburg Community Development director.

“That is how the festival came about,” she said. “And everybody loves potatoes.”

Activities will include a wine tasting, which will require a $10 admission, as well as a variety of children’s activities and entertainment from across the region.

Admission is free, and a free shuttle will transport attendees to downtown from Admiral Peary Vo-Tech, the Cambria County Fair-grounds, Pennsylvania Highlands Community College and Lake Rowena, which is handicapped accessible. It will run continuously from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

More than 200 crafts and food vendors will line these streets: Julian, Center, Sample, High and Crawford. Typical festival fare, including chili, hot sausage, kettle corn, baked goods and apple dumplings, is on the menu. And there will be a lot of potatoes in different shapes and tastes.

The Women of the Moose, along with several restaurants, will be selling potato soup, but the organization could not be reached to get its recipes. Martin’s Foods provided its recipes for its Potato Soup and Boston Potato Soup, which also can be found in its collection of recipes at Martinsfoods.com/savory.

Other PotatoFest offerings include potato candy, sweet potato fries, potato ham pot pie, homemade potato chips, potato pancakes, pierogies and other ethnic foods and more.

Brumbaugh Delights, a fixture at festivals and farmers markets in the region, will be selling its potato candy, which is “a little bit of mashed potatoes and a whole lot of confectioners sugar and peanut butter,” said Judy Brumbaugh.

“It’s not a complicated thing. Just tedious and hard to make,” she said.

Brumbaugh also will be making her homemade potato chips on site.

“We’ll use Cambria County potatoes and cook them and serve them while they’re hot,” she said.

A Western Pennsylvania staple brought from the old country will be served up by Gosia’s Pierogies, a Latrobe-based company that has been using an old family recipe from Poland since 2001, said co-owner Terry Smith-Rawecki.

Her business has taken off because more people want to keep their ethnic traditions alive.

“Most of us have grandparents who moved from Poland, and we remember them making pierogies,” she said. “People really don’t have time to cook them themselves like in the old days, but they do want to keep that tradition and excitement alive. It’s really enjoyable because it makes the customers happy.”

She said making them isn’t difficult, but it takes a while to make the little dough envelopes and fillings. No, she won’t share the family’s secret recipe “that definitely makes people scream for more,” Smith-Rawecki said.

The family says everything is made from scratch, using fresh ingredients, hand-made dough, fresh chopped onions and fresh produce.

Its recipes include eight different fillings – sweet cabbage, sauerkraut, sweet potato, prune, cottage cheese, chicken, potato and cheese.

But Smith will only be selling the most popular at PotatoFest: the classic potato and cheese versions.

Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.

Cheddar Potato Soup With Bacon

From Martin’s Foods

6 slices bacon, diced

1 large onion, chopped

1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 -inch cubes

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

Cook bacon in a large, heavy saucepan until crispy. Remove to drain on paper towels.

Cook onion in bacon fat until soft. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for a minute.

Stir in chicken stock, potatoes and season with salt and pepper

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook for 10 minutes.

Add wine and simmer an additional minute. Reduce heat to low and gradually stir in cheese. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with bacon.

Boston Potato Soup

From Martin’s Foods

4 ounces of bacon, cooked and chopped.

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional

3 pounds russet potatoes, baked and removed from the skin

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups 2 percent milk

1 cup non-alcoholic beer (regular beer is always an option)

1 cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese

1/4 cup low-fat sour cream

Cook bacon in a large crockpot until crispy; chop and set aside. Wipe out the fat from the pan.

Add the canola oil and the chopped onion and cook until tender.

Stir in the flour, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper (if desired) and cook an additional 2 minutes.

Add the baked potatoes, broth and milk; stir gently until combined. Cook over medium heat until all ingredients are heated through.

Prior to serving, add the cheddar cheese and sour cream; stir gently until combined.

Serve with additional cheddar cheese, sour cream, reserved bacon and chives, if desired.

Potato and Cheese Pierogi

From AllRecipes.com

6 cups all-purpose flour

3 eggs

1 pinch salt

Water as needed

5 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced

1 pound processed cheese, cubed

Salt and pepper to taste

Onion salt to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes; drain.

For the dough, combine flour, eggs and salt. Mix in a little water at a time until dough is somewhat stiff. Roll dough in small sections about 1/4 inch thick. Using a large biscuit cutter or drinking glass, make circle cuts.

To make filling: Mix together potatoes, cheese, salt, pepper and onion salt. Fill each with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the potato mixture, fold over and seal edges.

To cook, bring a large pot of water to boil, carefully dropping in one at a time; stir once. They are done when they float to the top. Drain completely.

At this point, the pierogies could be frozen between layers of plastic wrap. Or sautee them in melted butter and sauteed onions.

Potato Candy

From Allrecipes.com

2 tablespoons cooked mashed potatoes

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1 teaspoon milk

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 cup peanut butter

Mix together potatoes, butter or margarine and milk. Add enough confectioners’ sugar to make a stiff dough.

Roll out on a flat surface sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar. Spread on a layer of peanut butter and roll up. Chill and slice.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

From Pennsylvania Co-operative Potato Growers

3 pounds gold potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 head roasted garlic, peeled and mashed

1 cup heavy cream (more if desired)

1/2 stick unsalted butter

Kosher salt and black pepper

Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain and return to pan.

Cook for a minute or two over medium heat until they dry out. This is very important!

Add the butter, garlic, 1/2 cup of the cream and salt/pepper to taste.

Mash potatoes until the ingredients are blended. Add more cream until the consistency is the way you like it. Yields about six cups.

Homemade Baked Potato Chips

From Martin’s Foods

2 pounds red potatoes

Vegetable oil cooking spray

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 cloves garlic, crushed through a press

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wash potatoes and slice 1/8 inch thick. Place slices in a bowl of cold water. Drain and fill bowl with cold water again. If water is still cloudy, drain and fill the bowl one more time.

Remove potatoes and pat dry with paper towels.

Line 2 or 3 large baking trays with foil and spray with vegetable oil cooking spray.

Place slices side by side on trays. Do not overlap them.

Melt butter with garlic and brush onto potatoes.

Bake for 10 minutes. Check to see if they are crisp and golden. If not, bake for another 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.