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.

 

Grill It Up!

Grill It Up!

Grill Out Safely This Summer

Perhaps it’s the gentle climate with temperatures conducive to outdoor cooking for much of the year. Or it might be that an outdoor get-together with family, friends, and good food is a great way to celebrate the summer. Whatever the reasons, outdoor cookery is firmly established as a tradition in the South.

Outdoor cookery has given rise to many unique and flavor-filled recipes for foods that can be prepared on even the simplest grill. If long days of summer have you longing to fire up the grill, the following tips, delicious recipes, and helpful grilling charts will help make your outdoor cooking experience easy, safe, and rewarding.

Grilling
Photo Credit: Dorothy Lee

Safety is an important consideration when operating a grill. Improper use can cause a fire or explosion. Keep the area around a lighted grill clear of combustible materials, and never use a grill in an enclosed area such as a sheltered patio or a garage. Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing that may catch fire. The cooking grids should be cleaned after every cookout. The last thing you want to do is cause someone to become ill due to improper cleaning or unsafe food preparation practices.

Wash your hands with hot soapy water for at least 20 seconds before starting to prepare any foods and wash your hands again if you do anything else—change a diaper, pet an animal, or blow your nose, for example. Cover any cuts or sores on your hands with a bandage or use plastic gloves. If you sneeze or cough while preparing foods, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue and turn your face away, or cough into your sleeve. Always wash your hands afterwards.

Bacteria multiply rapidly at room temperature. Most food-borne illness-causing bacteria cannot grow well at temperatures below 40°F or above 140°F. Thaw foods in the refrigerator or in the microwave. Never leave foods out at room temperature.

Keep everything that touches food clean. Bacteria can hitch rides around your kitchen on all sorts of things—plates and cutting boards, dirty utensils, dish rags and sponges, unwashed hands.

Never chop fresh vegetables or salad ingredients on a cutting board that was used for raw meat without properly cleaning it first. If possible, keep a separate cutting board just for the preparation of raw meat, poultry, and fish.

Wash cutting boards thoroughly with hot soapy water, and then sanitize with a solution of household bleach and water.

The most popular meat for outdoor grilling is beef, particularly ground beef. If ground beef burgers are to be the feature of your next cookout select freshly ground meat that has fat content of about 15%. Form the meat into loose patties. Cook hamburger patties to an internal temperature of 160°F.

Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, and their juices from coming into contact with other foods during preparation, especially foods that will not be cooked. Wash all utensils and your hands with hot soapy water after contact with raw meat.

Marinate meat, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator in a covered, non-metal container. Throw away any leftover marinade.

Grill food to a safe internal temperature. Use a meat thermometer to assure correct doneness of the food being grilled.

Safe minimum internal temperatures:

  • Poultry (whole, ground, and breasts): 165°F
  • Hamburgers, beef: 160°F
  • Beef, veal, and lamb (steaks, roasts & chops):
    • Medium rare: 145°F
    • Medium: 160°F.
  • All cuts of pork:   145°F.

Hold meat at 140°F until served. Use a clean platter for transferring cooked meat from grill to serving table.

Summer is the time for getting together with friends and family and cooking outdoors. Make your outdoor grilling experience safe and enjoyable.

Safe Food Handling Fact Sheet, USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Series, https://www.foodsafety.gov/

 

When we think of foods to prepare outdoors we almost immediately think meat.  However, grilled vegetables and grilled fruits make a delicious accompaniment to grilled meats.

Corn on the Cob Kabob

  • 2 medium red onions, cut into 8 wedges each
  • 4 fresh ears sweet corn, husked, silks removed, and cut crosswise into 4 pieces each
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed

On each of eight 12-inch wooden skewers, alternately thread 2 onion wedges and 2 pieces of corn, leaving about ¼ inch between each vegetable. Lightly coat vegetables with nonstick spray.

For a charcoal grill, grill kabobs on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 15 to 18 minutes or until vegetables are tender and brown, turning occasionally to brown evenly. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place kabobs on grill rack over heat. Cover, grill as above.)

In a small bowl, combine butter, garlic powder, onion powder and oregano. Brush over vegetables. Makes 4 servings.

Cinnamon-Grilled Peaches

  • 4 large ripe freestone peaches
  • Eight 3-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 8 fresh mint leaves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup dark rum
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • Peach or vanilla ice cream, for serving

Rinse the peaches and blot them dry with paper towels. Cut each peach in half and discard the pit. Then, cut each peach into quarters. Using a pointed chopstick or metal skewer, make a starter hole in the center of each peach quarter, working from the pit side to the skin side. Skewer 2 peach quarters on each cinnamon stick, placing a mint left between the 2 quarters.

Combine the butter, brown sugar, rum, cinnamon, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Let the glaze boil until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes.

Prepare and preheat the grill to high. Brush and oil the grate. Next, place the skewered peaches on the hot grate and grill until nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side, basting with the rum and butter glaze.  Spoon any remaining glaze over the grilled peaches and serve at once.  Peach or vanilla ice cream make a great accompaniment.

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.

 

An Apple a Day May Keep the Doctor Away

Apples are an ancient fruit, grown for thousands of years, and belong to the Rose family of plants. The Rose family also includes plums, raspberries, cherries, peaches, pears, and almonds.

According to Professor Peter C. Andersen, UF/IFAS Horticultural Sciences Department at the North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, the basics of apple growing haven´t changed much over the centuries. Although many homeowners in north Florida can grow apple trees, there is little potential for establishment of commercial apple orchards in Florida. Andersen says apples are difficult to grow in north Florida due to high rainfall, humidity, and insects during the apple-ripening season, which is late May through August. Apples need a chill period in order to set buds in the spring. Without a sufficient chill period, the apple tree will not cultivate. For more information on Florida apple varieties, check out Low-Chill Apple Cultivars for North Florida and North Central Florida.

Luckily, there are more than 8,000 varieties of apples grown worldwide, so you can still enjoy a selection of apples in north Florida, even if you aren’t able to grow them yourself.

Fun Apple Facts:                                                                                

  • Apples are very nutritious, especially when you eat the whole apple. The majority of the apple’s nutrients are in its skin.
  • Apples are a good source of fiber and vitamin C and do not contain sodium, fat, or cholesterol.
  • Apples ripen much faster at room temperature than if they are refrigerated.
  • It takes about 36 apples to create one gallon of apple cider.

Apple Varieties:

Every type of apple has a distinct color, texture, and taste. There are more than 8,000 variations of apples grown worldwide. Here are some of the more well-known apples that are grown in the United States:

Red Delicious This apple is grown in Iowa and is known for its deep red color and mild sweetness. The Red Delicious apple is finest when eaten whole or chopped up into salads.
Granny Smith This variety has a thick, green exterior with a sour taste. It is firm, crisp, and juicy inside and is best used for baking into pies and other baked goods.
Gala This variety has a waxy red and yellow skin with a golden interior. Its tart taste is ideal for baking or just eating.
McIntosh This apple grows abundantly in New England. McIntosh apples are crisp and juicy at their peak, but tend to soften quickly. This variety can be eaten off the tree or made into apple cider.
Golden Delicious This variety has a soft yellow skin and sweet flavor. This is considered an all-purpose apple that is ideal for snacking and cooking.
Empire: Empire apples are named for its home state of New York and is a mixture of a red delicious and a McIntosh apple. The Empire apple is crunchy and has a sweet taste, however, its texture changes quickly with extended storage, so it’s best eaten at its peak of freshness.

Cooper, Emily. “Apples, a Bushel and a Peak of Flavor.” Food and Nutrition, 2017, pp. 28–29.

There are many other varieties of apples, and all are incredibly good for you. For the greatest benefits, eat the whole fruit — both skin and flesh.

To learn more about apples and their health benefits and healthy eating, please visit UF/IFAS Extension Solutions for Your Life or the USDA SNAP-Ed Connection.

 

Satsuma Oranges, North Florida’s Cold Weather Fruit

satsuma-1It’s the fall season, and Satsumas are hitting the shelves at your local grocery store. Satsumas are a seedless variety of the mandarin orange, and are harvested during the fall and early winter. Satsumas are grown in the cool, sub-tropical areas of California, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Because of their thin skin, satsumas are sweet and easy to peel. Whether you are buying satsumas from your local grocery store, farmers market or roadside stand, it is very important to purchase all of your citrus from a reputable vendor.

Satsuma Trees:
Satsuma trees are small to medium in size, and can easily tolerate the cooler fall temperatures that the Florida Panhandle is known for. Satsuma trees are relatively easy to grow and make an attractive addition to your home landscape. Picking fresh fruit off of your own tree provides a much fresher, and cost efficient treat. Satsuma trees are best started in a container and then transferred into the ground. When choosing a spot to plant a satsuma tree, remember that citrus trees need full sun.
sat-2“Before planting any new plants, you should always conduct a soil sample, to determine if there are any issues in the soil where you will plan the satsuma tree” said DJ Wiggin, Small Farms Agent with the Florida A&M University Extension Program in Gadsden County. If you would like to request a soil sample test kit, you should contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.

Fruit Bearing Season:
Satsuma oranges have a relatively brief fruit bearing season, between October and December. This short season give the satsuma oranges their rich flavor. A few nights with temperatures that drop into the 40s, help improve their sweetness. However, the fruit of the satsuma tree should be picked promptly when ripe, because the heavy fruit could cause damage to some weaker limbs of the tree.
According to DJ Wiggins, “When properly stored, satsumas have a shelf life of several weeks”. Satsuma oranges can be juiced, eaten as a snack, or used in recipes, including Orange marmalade.
Recipe Source: Adapted from So Easy to Preserve, from the Cooperative Extension at The University of Georgia.

Orange Marmalade
Yields about 7 half-pint jars
• 4 cups thinly slices Orange Peel (about 6 large oranges or 32 Satsumas)
• 4 cups Orange Pulp, cut up (about 6 large oranges or 32 Satsumas)
• 1 thinly sliced Lemon (about 2 medium)
• 6 cups of Water
• Sugar (about 6 cups)

Directions:
To Prepare the Fruit- Add water and fruit together in a saucepan. Heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Cover and let stand 12 to 18 hours in refrigerator. Heat and cook over medium heat until peel is tender, about 1 hour. (Note: When peeling citrus fruits for marmalades, be sure to include some of the white membrane found just under the skin. This is where most of the pectin is located.)
To Make Marmalade– Sterilize canning jars. Measure fruit and liquid. Add 1 cup sugar for each cup of fruit mixture. Bring slowly to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly to the jellying point (25 minutes), stirring occasionally. Pour hot marmalade into hot, sterile ½ pint jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe jar rims with a dampened clean paper towel and adjust lids. Process 5 minutes in a Boiling Water Canner.

 

Interested in Learning More about Canning Fruits and Vegetables? The Gadsden County Extension Program offers Water Bath Canning Classes throughout the year, to learn more, call us at (850) 875-7255.

Resources:
University of Florida IFAS Extension. The Satsuma Mandarin, Peter C. Andersen and James J. Ferguson, Revised November 2015
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/CH/CH11600.pdf

University of Alabama Extension, Satsuma Season: Enjoying the Christmas Orange, James Miles and Emma Sager, November 10, 2014
http://news.aces.edu/blog/2014/11/10/satsumaseason/

University of Georgia Extension: Citrus Fruit for Southern and Coastal Georgia, Krewer and Powell, Extension Fruit Specialists.
http://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.cfm?number=B804

Recipe: Reynolds, Susan, Paulette Williams, Judy A. Harrison, and Susan J. Reynolds. So Easy to Preserve. Athens: Cooperative Extension Service, U of Georgia, College of Family and Consumer Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, 2006. Page 218

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.

Coauthors:
Laurie Osgood, Family and Consumer Science Agent, UF/IFAS Extension, Gadsden County

DJ Wiggins, Small Farms Agent, Florida A&M University Extension, Gadsden County