Valerie Runnels is the daughter of Cathy Lott and Chris Runnels. She is 12 years old and a 7th grader at Zavalla Jr. High. Valerie has one older sister, Rozalinn, who is a junior in High School.
It’s obvious that Valerie loves to cook as she has participated in the Family & Consumer Sciences division at the Angelina County Fair for seven years.
“The first thing I ever canned was Candy Apple Jelly. It has Red-Hots as an ingredient, and I made it over the Christmas Holidays with my mom” says Valerie. She continues, “Next I made Dewberry Jelly, Paddington Tangelo Marmalade, and then Red Onion Marmalade.” She explains, “The last one isn’t sweet – it’s a savory marmalade.”
She began as a Clover Kid (pre-4-H membership age) and last year was honored with Best of Show Cheesecake at the County Fair. This year she is showing cookies but wanted to enter the canning show after watching her mom canning at home.
Valerie says the most difficult part is “Waiting for the water to come to a full rolling boil to process the jars, and my favorite part is hearing the jar lids ‘pop.’ Then, you know you have been successful.” Lids on home canned items have a distinctive popping noise when they cool and seal properly.
As an integral part of her efforts, Valerie has learned safe food presentation methods, types of canning methods, different recipes, and the benefits of food preservation.
She says the best part of the project is spending time with her mom, and tasting new recipes for other canning ideas. She takes her food preservation from the very beginning, in their family garden.
She is also entering the salsa competition. Valerie truly enjoys sharing her salsa and canning with several teachers and family friends. Her mom says she’s learning to politely ask for her jars to be returned so she can use them again!
It should be abundantly clear: this busy 7th grade young lady loves to cook.
“I love to cook in the County Fair.” she says, “I love to compete and see what others make. I like that a lot!”
Cathy says about the experience, “I want my daughter to gain life skills through learning to preserve food and how to share her creations with others.” She emphasizes, “I also want her to enjoy our time together in the kitchen.”
While they are certain if the adult and youth canning competitions are separate or combined together. Valerie wants to compete against her mom because “I’m really planning on beating my mom!”
Valerie serves as the Zavalla 4-H Club treasurer, she participates in the District 4-H Food Challenge competition and also shows rabbits at the County Fair competition. In school, Valerie plays basketball, runs track and is a cheerleader.
This year’s Jams, Jelly, & Salsa Show at the Angelina County Fair will be on Thursday, April 18 starting at 11 am in the Special Events room at the George H. Henderson Expo. The entire County Fair is from Monday, April 15 thru Saturday, April 20 concluding with the sale on Saturday evening. The auction will be Saturday evening in the main arena starting at 4 pm.
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.