Produce Pointers – Corn

Produce Pointers – Corn

Strictly speaking, corn is not a vegetable, but a grain native to the Americas. The sweet, or sugar, corn we enjoy today is a mutation of Indian field corn. Nothing is as American as corn-on-the-cob, and sweet corn has plenty of complex carbohydrates and fiber.

Use & Preparation

Boil:  Remove husks and cook 8 to 10 minutes in rapidly boiling unsalted water.

Sweet corn is a favorite among home gardeners. As long as the space is available, it’s not difficult to grow. Photo source: UF/IFAS

Microwave (on High):

1 ear – 3 to 5 minutes

2 ears – 4 to 9 minutes

3 ears – 9 to 12 minutes

4 ears – 12 to 17 minutes.

Rinse and dry corn with husk pulled back. Pull husks up to cover corn, then rinse with husks on. Do not dry. Arrange like spokes on paper towel; cover with wax paper; cook. Let corn stand for 5 to 10 minutes after cooking. Carefully remove husks, using heavy toweling to avoid burns.

Selection

Look for healthy green husks, plump kernels, and silks that are moist and light golden, not brown and brittle.

Storage

Use fresh corn as soon as possible. Refrigerate unhusked in plastic bag for up to 2 days.

Herbed Corn on the Cob

6 ears fresh corn

2 tablespoons margarine

1 teaspoon dried salad herbs (available in stores, optional)

Prepare corn for microwaving according to directions above. Microwave on high for 16 to 18 minutes, turning corn around/over after about 8 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then remove husks. Combine softened margarine and salad herbs. Spread 1 teaspoon of margarine mixture over each ear of corn.

Corn Chowder

1 tablespoon margarine, plus

3 tablespoons margarine

1 onion, chopped fine

4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

3 cups water

2 cups corn kernels

3 cups milk

Salt and pepper

Brown onion in margarine, cook for 5 minutes. Add potatoes and water, cover and cook until potatoes are just tender. Add corn and milk and cook 5 minutes more.  Before serving, add the margarine and salt and pepper to taste, and reheat.

Nutrition Information

Low fat & cholesterol free. High in fiber. Very low in sodium. Good source of vitamin C and carbohydrates.

Available Fresh

June – September

To learn about fresh Florida corn, please read our fact sheet: Panhandle Produce_Corn.

For more delicious produce preparation tips, please visit: http://www.panhandleproducepointers.com.

 

Is “Cooler Corn” Safe?

Is “Cooler Corn” Safe?

A friend of mine recently shared with me a few recipes for what is known as “cooler corn.” As the name implies, it’s a way of cooking a large amount of corn on the cob all at once inside a cooler, thereby saving time and grill and/or stove space.

At first I was intrigued. I had never heard of this cooking method before and my own personal curiosity was piqued. However, as a certified food safety instructor, I was also immediately horrified. As I reviewed several recipes for this “perfect way to make corn for a crowd,” I became increasingly alarmed. There were so many proper food safety practices violated, it nearly turned my stomach.

Cooking food in a cooler is an unsafe cooking method. Coolers are not designed to withstand the high temperatures required for cooking and cannot adequately hold foods at safe temperatures for prolonged periods of time.

For the record: Cooking corn in a cooler is UNSAFE. The safest ways to cook corn are in a stockpot on the stove, in the oven, or on a grill.

Here are the top four reasons this cooking method is not a good food safety practice:

empty cooler

Cooking food in a cooler is an unsafe cooking method. Coolers are not designed to withstand the high temperatures required for cooking and cannot adequately hold foods at safe temperatures for prolonged periods of time. (Photo source: Samantha Kennedy, UF/IFAS Extension)

1. Coolers are not designed to be used for cooking. The plastic used in coolers is not meant to withstand continued exposure to boiling water and will start to degrade over time. The plastic can also be easily scratched or gouged, providing the perfect place for foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella and E.coli to hide and grow. Think of the other things coolers are used for: storing fish or game after fishing or hunting, keeping drinks cold, storing raw meat or poultry for a picnic, etc. There are so many other opportunities to contaminate the cooler before it is used for cooking corn, even thorough cleaning and sanitation may not be enough to eliminate pathogens. Always keep cooking utensils and tools CLEAN to reduce your risk of foodborne illness.

But what about the boiling water? Won’t that kill any pathogens? Well, yes and no. See #4 below.

And NO, having a cooler dedicated only to cooking corn will not solve all the problems stated above. The bottom line is COOLERS ARE NOT SAFE TO COOK FOOD IN.

2. One of the conveniences of this method, as celebrated in the various recipes, is that people can just reach into the cooler and grab a perfectly cooked ear or two whenever the mood strikes. Allowing people to reach in and grab food like this – especially with their bare hands – is a very unsafe practice. People may forget to wash their hands properly before reaching in, thereby adding dirt and bacteria to the water and thus the food. This type of “germ-sharing” is called cross-contamination and is one of the leading causes of foodborne illness. Always keep things SEPARATE. This includes keeping raw food separate from cooked food, using separate utensils for each food, and reducing or eliminating bare hand contact with food.

3. Stacking dozens of ears of corn in a container and submerging them in boiling water does not ensure that all of the corn will be cooked evenly. The ones in the middle may not be cooked all the way through and there may also be temperature fluctuations in different areas of the cooler because of the way the food is stacked. There may be hot, warm, and cool spots, which can lower the overall temperature to an unsafe level and promote the growth of pathogens. Always COOK foods to the proper minimum internal temperature. In the case of corn, this is 135 degrees F. This can be measured by inserting a properly calibrated food thermometer between two cooked ears of corn and waiting until the needle stops moving.

4. One blog post about the wonders of Cooler Corn stated, “You can leave the corn in there for quite a while after it’s done cooking to keep the ears warm. Since the temperature naturally drops over time, the corn doesn’t get mushy.” When I read this, my mind screamed, “DANGER!” in flashing red letters.

Boiling water is a good sanitizer. However, a lot of what makes it effective for killing pathogens has to do with proper contact time with surfaces AT THE APPROPRIATE TEMPERATURE. Most coolers are not designed to keep boiling water that hot (212 degrees F) for any significant period of time. Even quality coolers will not hold the temperature long enough to ensure proper sanitation and elimination of pathogens.

One of the most important food safety principles is keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot. To ensure the safety of food, it is important to keep cold foods below 41 degrees F and hot foods above 135 degrees F.

Now think about ears of corn submerged in water for a prolonged period of time, as the water slowly cools. After a while, that water will no longer be able to keep those ears of corn above 135 degrees F. They will basically be sitting in a soup of tepid water at the most favorable temperature for pathogens to grow. The longer the corn sits in that water, the higher the risk of foodborne illness. Always properly CHILL foods to keep them at a safe temperature, below 41 degrees F. The flip side of this coin is to also ensure hot food stays hot, above 135 degrees F.

Cooking for large groups can be a challenge, especially when kitchen space is limited. (Check out the UF/IFAS Extension fact sheet “Food Safety at Tailgating” for more food safety tips when cooking out.) However, it is never a good idea to sacrifice food safety for convenience. Always follow proper food safety practices, no matter the situation, and remember the 4 principles of safe food: CLEAN. SEPARATE. COOK. CHILL.

UF/IFAS in an Equal Opportunity Institution.

Produce Pointers – Melons

Produce Pointers – Melons

The taste and fragrance of a cool, juicy slice of fresh melon in the summer just can’t be beat.  Melons have been a favorite fruit for many centuries.  They appear in Egyptian tomb paintings dated to 2400 B.C., and they are mentioned in the writings of the early Greeks and Romans.  Mark Twain called watermelon “the food that angels eat.”

Uses & Preparation

Watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe are excellent cut up in salads, as a dessert, or alone as a cool, refreshing snack anytime. To save space and cooling time in the refrigerator, cut up the melon and cover tightly with plastic wrap.

UF/IFAS Photo

Selection

Thumping watermelon to judge ripeness is not always accurate, because you can’t tell if it is ripe or overripe. Instead, look for a well-proportioned melon with full ends, a dull outer skin, and the bottom a yellowish color, or turning from white to pale green.

Cantaloupe should have no sign of a stem, be nicely rounded, and the netting should be evenly distributed. Golden-colored melons with a mild melon odor are the peak of ripeness, while green ones will ripen in a few days if kept at room temperature.

A ripe honeydew melon has a creamy yellow rind that is soft and velvety. The best – tasting honeydew smells slightly fruity. Hold a honeydew at room temperature for a few days for even tastier fruit.

 

Melon Salad

Arrange balls or slices of watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew melon, alone or in combination, on lettuce.  Serve with French dressing. Diced apples, diced pears, nuts, and chopped celery may be added for variety.

Chicken & Watermelon Salad

5 chicken breast, boned, skinned, cooked and cubed

3 cups watermelon, cubed

3 cups pears, cored and cubed

1/2 pound sliced mushrooms

1/2 pint low-calorie Italian dressing

Combine all ingredients, toss gently. Refrigerate on hour, stirring occasionally. Serve on a bed of lettuce.

Nutrition Information

Low in sodium.  Low in calories. Good source of vitamin A.

Available Fresh

June – August

To learn about fresh Florida melons, please read our fact sheet: Panhandle Produce Pointers – Melons

For more delicious produce preparation tips, please visit: http://www.panhandleproducepointers.com.

 

Produce Pointers – Blueberries

Produce Pointers – Blueberries

Once known as star berries because of the pointy flower calyxes on top, blueberries have grown wild in North America for thousands of years. They were a staple among Native Americans, who dried and smoked the berries, and pounded them into venison to flavor the meat.

Berries such as blueberries are rich in vitamin, minerals, and antioxidants and can be delicious additions to yogurt, salads, and smoothies. (Photo source: UF/IFAS file photo)

Uses & Preparation
Wash blueberries just before using.  Add to yogurt or cottage cheese or any fruit and mild cheese platter.  For color and great taste, add to salads; or sweeten pancakes, cakes, and muffins.

Selection
Look for firm, dry, plump, smooth-skinned berries with a light grayish bloom.  Ripe berries should be deep-purple blue to blue-black.

Storage
Cover and refrigerate fresh berries for up to 10 days.  Blueberries are easily frozen for later use.  Freeze unwashed blueberries in airtight, resealable plastic bags.  If thawed, keep refrigerated and use within 3 days.

Blueberry Pancake Stacks

Vegetable Oil for cooking
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup  all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
Dash of nutmeg

In a mixing bowl, stir together the milk, oil, and egg.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.  Add dry ingredients to the milk, and stir just until mixed (batter should be slightly lumpy).  Gently fold in the berries.  Spoon the batter onto a griddle or pan greased with vegetable oil and heated to medium-hot (dollops should be about the size of a silver dollar).  Let the batter cook until the tops of the pancakes begin to bubble, then flip and cook until done.  Stack and serve immediately with softened margarine and warm syrup.  Makes about eighteen 2 1/2″ pancakes.

Blueberry Syrup

Combine 1 pint of blueberries and 1 cup of maple syrup in a saucepan.  Heat to boiling, then lower the heat and simmer until most of the fruit has burst.  Remove from heat and use a fork to mash the berries.  The syrup will thicken as it cools.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Nutrition Information:  Good source of vitamin C.  High in fiber.  Low in calories.

Available Fresh:  April – June

To learn about fresh Florida strawberries, please read our fact sheet: Panhandle Produce Pointers – Blueberries.

.For more delicious produce preparation tips, please visit: http://www.panhandleproducepointers.com.

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

Produce Pointers – Strawberries

Produce Pointers – Strawberries

Strawberries

Strawberries from Fresh off the Farm event. Taken 04-12-2019 (Photo Source: UF/IFAS Camila Guillen)

Choose locally- grown strawberries during the harvesting season; they will be the freshest and the most flavorful. When picking strawberries, try to pick early in the morning or later in the day when the fruit is cool.  Strawberries are best used within 2-3 days of picking.

 

Uses & Preparation

Freezing Whole Strawberries;  Spread a single layer of prepared fruit on shallow trays and freeze.  When frozen, promptly package (to avoid freezer burn) and return to freezer.  The fruit pieces remain loose and can be used as needed.

Freezing Sliced or Crushed Strawberries;  Prepare berries: Using ripe berries, wash gently and remove caps.  Slice or crush partially or completely.  To 1 quart berries add 3/4 cup sugar.  Mix thoroughly.  Stir until most of the sugar is dissolved or let stand 15 minutes.  Pack into containers, leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Seal and freeze.

Storage

Sort and remove any bruised or damaged berries as soon as possible and use in sauces, purees or jams. Place the berries in cool, well-ventilated containers.  The moisture content of fresh strawberries is high, so store them unwashed and uncovered, or loosely covered.

Quantities

1 pint = about 3 1/4 cups whole berries (12-36 depending on size of berries) or about 2 1/4 cups sliced berries.  1 cup sliced fresh berries = One 10-oz. pkg frozen, sweetened berries.

MERRY FRESH STRAWBERRY PIE

1 9- inch pie crust, baked

1 cup white sugar

3 tablespoons strawberry flavored gelatin mix

2 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ teaspoon salt

1cup boiling water

2 pints strawberries, cleaned and stemmed

2 cups whipped topping (optional)

Combine sugar, gelatin, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan.  Stir in boiling water. Boil mixture for 3 minutes over high heat, stirring constantly. Cool completely.

Arrange whole strawberries in pastry shell. Pour gelatin mixture over berries.  Chill before serving. Top with whipped topping, if desired.

Nutrition Information:  Low in calories – High in Vitamin C – Good source of folate, potassium & fiber
Available Fresh:  April – May

To learn about fresh Florida strawberries, please read our fact sheet: Panhandle Produce Pointers – Strawberries.

.For more delicious produce preparation tips, please visit: http://www.panhandleproducepointers.com.

 

Produce Pointers – Greens

Produce Pointers – Greens

Spring showers not only bring flowers, but beautiful fresh produce from the garden.

March in National Nutrition Month. Celebrate with nutritious delicious GREENS.

 

washing kale in the sink

Be sure to carefully wash greens before preparing to ensure a safe and delicious product. (Photo source: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS)

The dark leafy vegetable we refer to as “greens” range from earthy to peppery in flavor. Collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, and kale are often grouped together because of their texture, pronounced flavor, and general uses. They actually come from several vegetable families. In general, these tart greens are cooked before eating. The season for some varieties peak November through March.

Choose leafy greens with fresh full leaves. Avoid greens that are brown, yellow spotted, wilted, or have slimy leaves.  Wash greens before use. Cut stems from leafy greens before cooking.  Sauté collard greens with garlic, onions, and tomatoes a little bit of olive oil. Simmer greens in low-sodium chicken broth until greens are wilted and tender. Store greens in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for two to five days.

NUTRITION TIPS: A 1/4 cup of cooked greens is about the size of one cupped handful.

 

 Beans and Greens

 1 can white kidney beans or cannellini beans rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds fresh kale, stemmed and chopped into large pieces
Salt and pepper to taste

  Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil.  Add greens to the skillet. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoon of water. Cook, tossing often, until greens are bright green and slightly wilted. Remove from heat.   Drain and heat beans and add to green mixture. Toss mixture, season and serve. Serves four; 1 cup serving

 

Savory Greens

3 cups water
1/4 pound skinless turkey breast
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 green ground ginger
2 pounds mixed greens (collards, turnips, mustard, and kale)

Place all ingredients except greens into large pot and bring to a boil. Wash greens and remove stems. Chop greens into small pieces and add to stock. Cook 20 to 30 minutes until tender. Serves six; 1 cup serving

 

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Cooked greens are excellent sources of Vitamins A, C, K, and Calcium.

AVAILABLE FRESH: March – June & October – December

 

To learn about fresh Florida greens, please read our fact sheet: Panhandle Produce Pointers – Greens.

For more delicious produce preparation tips, please visit: http://www.panhandleproducepointers.com.