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Syd’s Big Apple. Courtesy photo.




Sweet treats
Sugary fair food with a twist

08/25/16
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



 Many of New Hampshire’s fairs are agricultural and celebrate the very best in gardening, farming and livestock. But a fair is not a fair without the sweets — cotton candy, candy apples, homemade fudge — and to preview this season’s flavors, we talked with local vendors who’ll  be making a handful of fair stops this fall. 

 
The big apple
You can’t miss Syd’s Big Apple, based in Merrimack, which participates in the Hillsborough County Agricultural Fair this year. (It also is a regular at the Londonderry Flea Market and will stop by Weare and Hooksett Old Home Days, Aug. 27 and Sept. 17, respectively.)
Business owners Dawn Hermann and Laurae English sell their products — candy and caramel apples, plain or with coconut, chocolate, sprinkles or candy toppings, plus apple crisp — out of a food truck shaped and colored like a giant red apple, which is often decorated with seasonal details and sits on a bed of grass.
The duo founded the company about six years ago while in search of new careers; they were thinking food trucks, because English likes to cook, and Hermann found this blazing red apple truck on Craigslist. 
“I saw this, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s it! That’s going to be our king picker,’” Hermann said via phone. “My brother and Laurae actually thought I was crazy. … It’s definitely a conversation piece, to say the least. I’ve had so many people come up and take pictures of this apple. People will come and stand in front of it with the whole family.”
They named the business after their Maltese puppy, Sydney, and make the caramel and candy apples with Granny Smiths, the apple crisp with a mix of Granny Smiths and Galas. Their season starts in April and ends in October. 
“Six years later and we’re doing OK. People know who we are,” Hermann said. “We have people now who come back to us specifically at our events for our apple crisp. Sometimes people come back for two, three servings.”
 
Cotton candy twist
During fair season, Ben’s Sugar Shack of Temple is all about maple cotton candy, and the company makes trips to Hillsborough, Lancaster and Deerfield fairs this fall. 
Owner Ben Fisk started attending the fairs as a kid. He thinks a lot of people go to them for the food specifically.
“There are a ton of people who go to the fair just to go out. There are people there who go to the same fair for years, who have a whole route planned out,” he said. “The idea of cotton candy — it’s the fair aspect. It’s like, you get pumped to go to the fair for fried dough and cotton candy.”
Sometimes he’s even able to get doubters to buy a bag.
“There are a lot of older people who always say, ‘I don’t like cotton candy,’ but I talk them into trying it, and they always end up buying a bag. [We] sell more to older generations than we do to younger crowds,” Fisk said via phone. “We use maple sugar — with no food coloring, it’s made from natural sugar. It’s not as fiber-y as cotton candy. It’s smoother, and it doesn’t turn your lips blue or pink.”
 
Fair fudge
Nelson’s Candies based in Wilton is another fair regular, and this year it will hit the Sandwich and Deerfield fairs to sell its 24 flavors of homemade fudge. The most popular flavor is Belgian chocolate, said Shannon Griffiths, Nelson’s Candies manager, with chocolate peanut butter coming in at a close second.
But there are quirkier flavors too — like Scottish whiskey (made with Johnnie Walker Red), Cabin Fever (made with Cabin Fever maple whiskey), Bailey’s Irish Cream (made with, yes, Bailey’s Irish Cream) and pumpkin pie fudge, which will be made this fall with real pumpkin. All contain all-natural ingredients.
Griffiths said the fairs are always really exciting. They also plan on bringing products to the New Hampshire Highland Games & Festival this fall. 
“Some people go to fairs specifically for [the food],” Griffiths said via phone. “And I think the fair’s a good way to introduce people to our products.” 





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