A is for Apple

A is for Apple

Bowl of apples
Photo source: bing

October is National Apple Month. “A” is for Apple.  We have all heard this childhood saying as well as other apple idioms.

The Fall season has arrived and along with cooler weather, shorter days, and autumn leaves comes the bounty of Fall………apples.

In Autumn, apples fill farmers market and grocery store bins with seasonal shades of red, green, yellow, and russet.  Popular varieties of apples grown in the United States include Mcintosh, Fuji, Red Delicious, Gala, Crispin, Honeycrisp, Granny Smiths, and Golden Delicious.

Nutrition

A large raw apple contains about 95 calories.  Apples provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  Apples are low in calories and high in antioxidants.

Selection

Each apple variety has its own distinctive flavor and texture.  When purchasing apples choose a variety suitable for your intended use.  Best apples for eating cooking baking  The surface of the apple should be smooth, firm, unbroken, and free from bruises.

Preparation

Apples are delicious eaten raw.  Simply rinse, cut into quarters and remove core from each section and slice.  Use a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife to peel apples for cooking.  To core apples for cooking push an apple corer through center of fruit from top to bottom, pull out core and stem.  Coat peeled or sliced apples with lemon juice to prevent darkening.  A bag of medium sized apples yields about 3 cups diced fruit or 2 ½ cups sliced fruit.

Cooking with Apples

Apples are the most versatile of all fruits.  They are suitable for a variety of cooking techniques and can be used in a variety of recipes.  Apples can be baked, grilled, poached, and even sautéed.  Add diced apples to salads or dried and added to granola cereal.  Sauté to accompany meat dishes and add to pancakes or waffle batter.  For desserts, pair apples with a variety of cheeses.

Storage

Apples ripen faster at room temperature than in the refrigerator.  Store apples in the refrigerator in a plastic bag to help retain moisture.

Celebrate the bounty of Fall with apples at their peak of flavor.

 

What is an Instant Pot Pressure Cooker?

What is an Instant Pot Pressure Cooker?

Instant Pot settings display. Photo source: Wendy Meredith

An Instant Pot Pressure Cooker is a small electronic multi-cooker appliance that can function as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, warmer, and more. It is often referred to as an Instant Pot.  It is currently the hottest trend in home cooking.

An Instant Pot Cooker can prepare just about any type of food you can imagine. Poultry, beef, and pork recipes, soups, stews, bread, and even desserts.

Considering today’s fast paced lifestyle the Instant Pot is a time saving kitchen helper. Spend a few minutes preparing the recipe ingredients, program the Instant Pot and relax.  The Instant Pot cooking method takes the stress out of long cooking times and of meal preparation.

Instant Pot cookers are available in a variety of sizes, styles, and functions. The function of an Instant Pot is based on the model purchased.  Many brands are available.  Basic functions present in most models consist of slow cooker, pressure canner, steamer, rice cooker, yogurt maker, egg cooker, sauté or browner, and warmer.

When purchasing a multi-cooker consider the usage and quantity of food to be prepared. A 3-quart cooker is just the right size for single servings.  Family sizes are available as  6-quart (4-6 servings) or 8 -quart (6-8 servings).

The benefits of an Instant Pot cooker are numerous. No need for constant or frequent stirring, no worry about overcooking or burning, saves energy based on quick cooking times required for recipes and less small kitchen appliances needed for preparation.

Traditionally beef stew and less tender cuts of meat take hours of cooking to render tender.  The Instant Pot Cooker dishes up these delicious dishes in under an hour.

 

Corned Beef Cabbage*

2 pounds corned beef

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

3 bay leaves

8 peppercorns

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

8 medium red or white potatoes

8 cups coarsely sliced cabbage

 

Place beef in cooker. Add stock, water, bay leaves, peppercorns, and vinegar in cooker.  Cook for 90 on meat/stew setting.  Remove corned beef.  Add vegetables; cook on high pressure for 4-5 minutes.

*Follow directions listed on Instant Pot instruction manual for programming cooker.

 

Instant Pot cooking is easy, economical and quick.

Recipe adapted from Cooks’ Essentials.

 

 

Summer Canning Methods with Your Children

Youth learn food preservation skills. Photo source: Melanie Taylor

At this point in the summer, many parents are at a loss for what to do to keep their children engaged and “off the couch.” How about a focus on healthy eating and food preservation? If you have a backyard garden be sure to pick the fruits and vegetables at their peak readiness. If you do not have a garden make a family trip to the local farmers market and/or a local u-pick farm.

Of course, fresh fruits and vegetables are full of nutrition and taste, but if you have or buy more than your family can eat in a few days’ time, be sure to make preparations to teach your children how to preserve those foods to eat later in the year. There is nothing more enjoyable than having fruit jam on biscuits or summer vegetables in your soup during the cold depths of winter.

There are six different methods of food preservation to teach your children. They are boiling water/water bath canning, making jam, pickling, freezing, drying, and pressure canning. The easiest method being freezing and the most complex and time consuming being pressure canning. No matter which ones you choose to teach your children be sure to follow valid recipes and procedures. Family and Consumer Science Extension Agents always recommend using the most current recipes and procedures from The National Center for Home Food Preservation, which are maintained at https://nchfp.uga.edu/. The National Center for Home Food Preservation is your source for current research-based recommendations for most methods of home food preservation. The Center was established with funding from the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (CSREES-USDA) to address food safety concerns for those who practice and teach home food preservation and processing methods. Many of the recipes are available for free on the website, or you can order the 6th edition of the “So Easy to Preserve” food preservation book at https://setp.uga.edu/.

Specific to children, there is also a Put It Up! Food Preservation for Youth curriculum through the University of Georgia, which is a series of informal educational lessons that guide youth to explore and understand the science of safe food preservation. This free curriculum can be found online at https://ugeorgia.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_a5Y4IfBZ2Vh0EIt after a quick questionnaire of how you plan to use the curriculum.

Teaching these food preservation skills to your children will be a fun-filled and very educational opportunity. Be sure to use the above resources to assist you in the food safety methods to be certain your products are safe for consumption. Enjoy this special time in the garden and kitchen with your children this summer.

Resources:

National Center for Home Food Preservation https://nchfp.uga.edu/

“So Easy to Preserve” https://setp.uga.edu/

Put It Up! Food Preservation for Youth https://ugeorgia.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_a5Y4IfBZ2Vh0EIt

 

 

 

Freezing: Nature’s Pause Button – March is National Frozen Food Month

Freezing: Nature’s Pause Button – March is National Frozen Food Month

Based on information provided by the American Frozen Food Institute, on average, 40% of all food in the United States goes uneaten and wasted, which is an annual loss of $165 million. Fresh fruit and vegetable waste makes up nearly one-third of this number. With these discouraging numbers and financial losses, how can the frozen food industry help to solve this problem?  Frozen food and beverage companies work hard to create the safest and best freezing techniques to keep food safe by preventing microorganisms from growing and by slowing down the enzyme activity that causes food to spoil. Modern freezing techniques have been designed to preserve food at its peak freshness and nutrient content. Frozen food makers continue to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to keep America’s food supply the safest in the world.

Freezing means less wasted food and easier access to well-balanced, portion-controlled nutritious foods during every season and in every community. Many times, frozen foods cost less per serving, but most importantly, they have a longer shelf life than fresh or refrigerated foods.

How do frozen foods play such an integral part in the well-balanced, nutritious diets of Americans?  The frozen food aisle offers a large variety of vegetables, fruits, and other prepared foods at reasonable prices year ’round. Freezing reduces the need for additives and preservatives. Frozen foods also provide nutritious options that fit into all of the food groups suggested by Choose MyPlate.gov (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and dairy). They also are a sensible choice when trying to control calories and fat, sugar, saturated fat, and sodium intake. In addition, unused products can be placed back in the freezer for later use.

If you have concerns about frozen foods, it’s time to rethink them. Let’s BUST those crazy frozen food myths swirling around out there!!!

FROZEN FOOD MYTHS VS. FACTS

MYTH: FROZEN FRUITS AND VEGGIES AREN’T AS NUTRITIOUS AS FRESH

FACT: Recent studies found there is no difference in nutrition between frozen and fresh produce.

MYTH: FROZEN FOODS ARE READY TO EAT
FACT: Frozen foods are ready to cook, not ready to eat. As their name suggests, ready-to-cook foods must be cooked or baked according to package instructions.

MYTH: FROZEN MEALS DON’T USE REAL INGREDIENTS
FACT: The freezer aisles of your supermarket are filled with meals made with the highest quality ingredients and prepared the way you would prepare them (if you had the time).

MYTH: FROZEN MEALS AREN’T ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY
FACT: Actually, frozen foods minimize the amount of spoiled food we throw away because they are already portioned out, so we can take what we need and save the rest.

MYTH: FROZEN MEALS ARE MORE EXPENSIVE THAN RESTAURANT TAKE-OUT MEALS
FACT: Restaurant-inspired entrees like seafood scampi, sesame chicken, and Monterey chicken cost under $4 each. You do the math.

MYTH: FROZEN MEALS ARE NOT A GOOD CHOICE FOR HEALTH-CONSCIOUS CONSUMERS
FACT: “Better-for-you” options are available in the frozen food aisle to make it easier for consumers to control intake of calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium.

For more information on the frozen food and beverage industry, please visit www.affi.org.

For more information on incorporating frozen foods into your healthy lifestyle, please visit: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fs186.

 

Selecting and Cooking the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

Remove the lid or foil for the last 30 to 45 minutes of roasting time to get that gorgeous golden-brown color. Add thick veggies such as carrots, potatoes, and Brussels sprouts to the roasting pan for additional flavor.

Photo credit:
www.Pexels.com (Creative Commons License)

According to the National Turkey Federation, 88% of American families eat turkey on Thanksgiving. That’s over 46 million turkeys! Served as the main dish, it is complemented by a variety of sweet and savory side dishes, many of which are family traditions made from recipes passed down through the generations.

Why do we eat turkey on Thanksgiving, anyway? Well, it’s kind of a funny story. While historians generally agree that turkey wasn’t eaten at the First Thanksgiving in Plymouth in 1621, it was well-documented that settlers often hunted wild turkeys as a source of protein, and subsequent celebrations often included turkey. After President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, turkey became a staple on many Thanksgiving tables.

When choosing a turkey, there are a few decisions to make. How many people will be eating? Will it be roasted, smoked, or deep-fried? Is frozen or fresh preferred?

When it comes to the proper size, a pound per person is a great rule of thumb. This includes the total weight of the bird, not just the meat. Also, the ratio of white meat to dark meat is about 7:3 (70% white meat, 30% dark), so if there are a lot of dark meat lovers around the table, additional thighs and drumsticks may need to be purchased.

Roasting is the most common way to cook a turkey. This method involves placing the turkey in a large roasting pan and cooking it in the oven slowly over several hours. The turkey is usually placed breast-side up in the pan and basted periodically to prevent drying. The lid or foil is also removed the last 30 to 45 minutes of roasting time to brown the skin and give the turkey that gorgeous presentation.

Vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, or Brussels sprouts may be added to the roasting pan to cook concurrently. For best results, roast the turkey at 325˚F for 15 minutes per pound. For example, a 15 pound turkey would take 3 hours and 45 minutes.

Smoked turkeys are usually fully cooked (read the label to be sure) and just need to be reheated. Keep in mind, smoking is done to impart flavor and does not increase the turkey’s shelf life. Follow the instructions on the package to properly reheat the turkey.

Deep-fried turkeys are submerged in very hot oil and cook more quickly than roasted turkeys. Turkeys can be deep fried in a very large stockpot or in a designated turkey fryer. Only use enough oil to cover the turkey. Too much oil can cause a fire or overflow when the turkey is added to the cooker.

To determine the amount of oil, place the turkey in the cooker and add enough water to cover the bird. Then remove the bird. The water line will indicate the level of oil needed to adequately fry the turkey. For best results, let the turkey warm to room temperature before frying, and fry the turkey for 3 minutes per pound plus 5 minutes per bird.

Remember, the size of the cooker will dictate the size of the turkey. The turkey should fit easily without being forced. Wedging a turkey into a cooker that is too small could cause uneven cooking, or worse, a fire.

As for frozen versus fresh, there is no difference in flavor. However, frozen turkeys can be purchased months in advance and kept frozen until needed. Fresh turkeys should be purchased no more than two days in advance for maximum safety and freshness.

The safest way to thaw a frozen turkey is in the refrigerator. This will take pre-planning. The general rule of thumb is 24 hours of refrigerator thawing per 5 pounds. For example, a 15 pound turkey should take 3 full days (72 hours) to thaw completely.

However the turkey is cooked this year, have a Happy Thanksgiving!