Rss

Archives for : General

Food Drying Methods

There’s nothing quite like a crunchy apple chip. They’re fun and easy to make and can easily be made in any number of ways. In fact, just about any food can be dried and eaten in this fashion. It’s a fun healthy way to snack and it’s a great way to preserve food for future use. Many doomsday preppers favor drying foods over other methods due to the portability of dried foods.

Sun dried

One of the first methods used to dry foods was the sun. Foods were cut thinly and draped over drying racks outside in the full sun. Depending upon the foods some where lightly covered with a cloth to prevent birds or bugs from landing upon them. Sun dried foods are a great addition to any pantry, however, they do take longer to dry in the sun than foods dried by other methods. Sun dried foods can take from one to several days to dry. The thinner the food is sliced and the hotter the day the quicker the foods will dry.

Oven drying

Many choose to use the oven drying method to dry foods. This method works well for most foods and is fairly easy. Simply turn the oven on to a low setting between 200 Fahrenheit and 225 Fahrenheit and place the foods on a baking sheet. Check foods at least every hour and as they are drying check them more frequently. Be sure to turn foods as they dry so that they will dry evenly. Foods must be watched very carefully using the oven. If the oven is too hot they will burn and if it’s too cool the foods won’t dry properly. Foods dried using this method can take anywhere from 7 hours to 36 hours.

Dehydrators

There are many commercial dehydrators available on the market today. Some are simple without a fan and the user simply places the foods on a tray and stacks the next tray on top. Most of this sort of dryer doesn’t have a fan and the drying can take a bit longer. Foods dried using this method usually take 24 to 36 hours to completely dry.

The other version of dryer has a fan that is usually in the back of the drying unit. The dehydrators with a fan seem to work the quickest and most efficiently for drying a lot of foods at one time. Additionally, most of the units with a fan also have a temperature gauge that can be set for specific foods. The types of foods are usually listed on the gauge and a temperature is easy to set to follow these guidelines. Food can usually be dried within 7 to 24 hours (depending upon the type of food) in this sort of dehydrator.

Foods that are dehydrated are lightweight and easily portable in case of an emergency. They retain their nutrients and are easily rehydrated for cooking or eating purposes. Some foods are absolutely delicious when eaten in their dried state such as apple chips and other fruits or jerkies. Dehydrating food is quick and easy and a great way to preserve an over abundant harvest.

Three different Methods by which Chicken can Safely be Defrosted

Raw chicken that has been frozen must always be fully and properly defrosted before it is cooked. This is essential in order to reduce the risk of contracting food poisoning from meat that has been insufficiently or improperly cooked.

While defrosting a chicken does not require any special techniques, there are some methods that are safe and others that should be avoided. It is important to know these safe methods in advance so that sufficient time may be allocated for the chicken to fully defrost.

Refrigerator

The best way by far to defrost a frozen chicken is in the refrigerator. This will take a minimum of 24 hours and up to 48 hours, depending upon the size of the bird. The chicken should be removed from any packaging and set in a deep dish. It should be loosely covered with some plastic wrap or a plastic bag. The dish must be placed on the very bottom shelf of the refrigerator to eliminate the risk of cross-contamination by the defrosting juices of other foods in the fridge. When the chicken is fully defrosted, it should be washed thoroughly in cold water and patted dry with kitchen paper before finally being prepared for cooking.

Cold water

It is possible where time is short to speed up the chicken thawing process by submerging the chicken completely, still wrapped, in cold water. This will cut the defrosting time approximately in half, compared to the refrigerator method. The water should be changed frequently and care taken to ensure the chicken remains fully submerged at all times. Warm or hot water must never be used as this will start the cooking process and significantly increase any risk of food poisoning. The chicken must again be washed thoroughly prior to being cooked.

Microwave oven

It should only be used as a last resort, but chicken can be defrosted in the microwave. The settings and time required should be determined by referring to the manufacturer?s instructions. When a chicken is defrosted in the microwave, it must be cooked immediately after the process is complete. This is due to the cooking process having likely begun and any delay leading to a risk of food poisoning.

Chicken should never be defrosted at room temperature. This would allow harmful bacteria to form and represent an unacceptable risk. Equally, it must never be cooked where any part of the bird is still frozen or even contains ice crystals. If, for any reason, a chicken can not be defrosted fully in time to be cooked for when it is required, alternative eating arrangements should be made and no unacceptable risks taken.

A Step by Step Guide to Opening Oysters Safely

Oysters are one of the tastiest of all shellfish. There are many people who are put off purchasing them fresh, however, due to the perceived difficulties in properly opening their shells. There are precise techniques, however, for opening oysters which can be learned and very effectively put in to practice by most people, which does make the process moderately simple. These techniques are important both for safety reasons and to ensure that the oysters are served at their delicious, succulent best.

Safety is paramount when opening oysters. It is always possible for a knife to slip, even for those greatly experienced in opening oyster shells, and it is important that protection is thus afforded to the hand holding the oyster shell. There is a metal based, mesh glove which can be purchased for this purpose but using a thick cloth or towel serves equally well in most cases.

A clear, flat surface should be used on which to open oysters. This should ideally be a fixed surface, as opposed to a chopping board, to minimise the risk of unexpected movement. The thick towel or cloth should then be folded to the extent that affords proper protection from a slipping knife and laid flat on this surface. The oyster should be laid on one half of the cloth, the flatter part of the shell uppermost, and the other half of the cloth folded on top. The narrow or sharp end of the oyster should be pointing outwards from the folds of the cloth. The oyster should be held firm by placing one hand on top of the cloth, clear from the point and as far away from the blade of the knife as possible.

Shucking is the technical term given to opening oyster shells. It is possible to buy a purpose made shucking knife but any sturdy, fairly short bladed knife with a sharp point should do the job. The point of the knife should be used to find a gap in the shell, just to one side of the pointed end of the oyster. Practice will assist in finding this point of entry with ease. It is important not to saw at the shell with the knife, as this will cause it to crumble and fragments of shell to fall in to the juice of the oyster. When the knife has been carefully eased about half an inch in to the shell, the knife should be twisted with slow but steady pressure in order to break the hold of the muscle which holds the shell in place.

In order to free the oyster from the top part of the shell with as little sustained damage as possible, the knife should then be carefully slid along the inside, top part of the shell. A gentle sawing motion at this stage will free the top part of the oyster from the shell with ease.

When the top part of the oyster shell has thus been removed, the oyster will be revealed. The process of shelling the oyster is not complete, however, as there is still a muscle holding it in place in the bottom part of the shell. This muscle is small, white and roughly circular in shape. It is located on the side of the shell, towards the blunter end. The knife should be used to cut through this muscle, taking care to spill as little of the water in which the oyster sits as possible.

There are many ways in which oysters are eaten. There is no way more delicious, however, than eating it straight from the shell, immediately after it has been opened. A very small squeeze of fresh lemon juice may be added but there is no requirement for any other seasoning. The oyster should be eaten by tipping it from the blunt end of the shell straight in to the mouth, water and all, and swallowing it whole. The oyster should not be chewed and the delicious taste will come from the taste buds located in the back of the mouth and top of the throat.

How to Cook Salt Water Muscles

Salt water mussels are a wonderful treat in my family. Of course, this is because if I am eating them, it means that I’m home in New England for a visit to where I grew up and will always feel like home to me. The New England states that lie along the coastline are some of the most wonderful places to eat seafood for two reasons. First, a New Englander knows how to prepare seafood because it is a common fare in these states and second, seafood tends to be less expensive in these states because it is in high supply for the most part. Right beside lobster, for me, comes salt water mussels due to the richness of the flavors.

Preparing salt water mussels is really quite easy, especially if you are like me and prefer them plain, right out of the shell, rather than in a fancy recipe. Small mussels are the best ones for eating this way, as the larger ones are typically placed in an assortment of different dishes. To clean the mussels, all you need to do is run a sink full of cold water and set them in it for a couple of minutes and then use a strainer to get them out. This will get rid of some of the sand and other things that may be stuck to the mussel.

While you are rinsing the mussels, get a large pot of water boiling. Add one 24 ounce can of your favorite beer to the water. When your water is at a full, rolling boil, place the mussels into the pot turn down the heat to low. Place a cover on your pan and let the mussels cook for between twelve and fifteen minutes. You will know that your mussels are done cooking when the shells have opened up.

You may opt to shell them or serve them in the shells, which I would highly suggest, as it is much easier and looks pretty neat, too. Be sure that each person who will be eating them is provided with plenty of napkins, a small ramekin of melted butter or margarine to dip in(you may want to add a bit of garlic seasoning, as well), and a knife for cutting the “beard” off of the mussels. The ease of cooking saltwater mussels is amazing and the flavor is practically irresistable, so make sure that you cook up plenty!

The Health Benefits of Oily Fish

Fish should be a part of our weekly diet. It contains lots of protein, is low in fat and has many other health benefits that people should take advantage of. Unfortunately, fish is one of those meats that people reach for last instead they consume red meat. Fish is the better option as it’s leaner, is easier to digest and provides the body with essential vitamins and fats which help fight diseases and keep the body and mind in top shape.

1 – Omega 3 and omega 6 are essential fatty acids that our bodies require. Most people don’t consume enough EFA’s because their diet misses out on fish, nuts and other food that contains omega-3 and omega-6 oils. These are required to help your repair damaged cells and improve your cardiovascular health. Other benefits of omega oils include the ability to lower bad cholesterol levels, protects against circulatory problems and can alleviate inflammatory diseases.

2 – Eating oily fish improves brain function. EFA’s, protein and other nutrients work together to provide the mind with the nutrients it requires to stay young, healthy and functioning correctly. Adequate amounts of EFA’s can help develop proper brain function and reduce the risk of brain diseases like dementia and Alzeihmer’s, as well as reduce the symptoms of depression. That’s a lot of benefits for the brain just from eating a few pieces of oily fish each week.

3 – People who are trying to lose weight and are cutting out saturated fat can benefit greatly from eating a few servings of oily fish every week. Omega 3 essential fatty acids have been found to help with weight loss. They provide the body with good fats which are required for proper functioning of the body and also needed when you are trying to lose a few pounds.

4 – Improve the quality of your skin by consuming fish every week. The oils in fish act as a natural moisturizer for your skin. Eating fish regularly will make your skin shinier and more glowing naturally.

The recommended intake of oily fish is up to four servings a week. With the majority of people getting no where near this amount each week is a cause for concern as eating oily fish regularly can prevent heart disease which kills hundreds of thousands people each year. Choose from salmon, tuna, mackerel, cod and herring as they are the best sources of EFA’s and other vitamins and minerals. Make fish a regular part of your diet and your heart, body, mind and skin will benefit.

The best Quality for a Healthy Lifestyle

Many people have experienced food poisoning at one time or another. The consequences of food poisoning can be relatively mild or else can be quite critical, therefore as seafood can be a source for causing food poisoning, it is vital that the utmost attention is given to buy a fresh product when buying seafood. By buying fresh seafood you would be ensuring that you are getting top quality product and the best taste experience you can get. It is not hard to buy fresh fish once you follow some indications which show how fresh the seafood actually is. 

Any fresh fish on sale should be surrounded by ice and should be partially covered by it. Try to buy fish from trusted sellers only or from the finest fish markets, for it is not always possible to know how long the fish has been caught, however there are indications which show whether the fish is fresh or not. 

Fish should have a fresh sea smell or else no smell at all. If a bad odor is emanating from it, that means that the fish is rotten and should not be bought.

Look at the eyes and see if they are clear, shiny and slightly bulging. If the fish has opaque, cloudy eyes, it is a clear indication that it has been caught for quite a long time and it is starting to rot. 

Fish skin should be shiny and the scales must not be missing and should be firmly attached to the skin. The tail of a fresh fish should be stiff and whole.

The gills should be bright pink or red and wet. If you see that the gills have lost their color or are discolored, and are slimy and dry, that is not an indication of freshness. 

Fish meat should be firm and should not separate from itself. The skin should not have a slimy consistency or be able to maintain an indentation when releasing finger pressure. 

If you are buying fish fillets or steaks, make sure that they are moist and not discolored. The flesh should not be ragged or gaping. If you are buying a white fish fillet, it should have a white translucent color with no discoloration, for that is a sure indication that it is going bad. 

Seafood such as shellfish including mussels, clams and oysters should be placed in a moist place, although they do not have to be placed under continuous running water.  The shells of fresh shellfish should not be cracked or open, however if any of the shellfish remains closed when cooking, it should be discarded.

Prawns should have a healthy color, should have some weight and should have all their limbs intact. They should not smell fishy, but should smell more like the sea. 

Fresh shellfish can be a part of a healthy diet and if you buy a fresh product, you will be ensuring that you are getting the best quality for a healthy lifestyle.

Pick Baltimore Blue Crabs

Chesapeake Bay blue crabs are one of the most delicious foods in Maryland. They’re what makes Baltimore, well, Baltimore. However, to the person trying this Maryland delicacy for the first time, picking apart crabs can be a daunting experience. Here are a few steps to make eating crabs more enjoyable. There are a few things you’ll need, though. Crab knives, mallets, newspaper for covering the table and a bucket are a must. As is a cold beer. More crab seasoning and melted butter or cocktail sauce are optional.

The first step is fairly easy – make sure you get the biggest crab. It’s as simple as that.

Once you have selected your crab, flip it over and look towards the back of the body (the side opposite the claws) The small key on the bottom will tell you whether it is a male or female crab. The male will have a long, thin key, while the female has a wider, rounder key. In D.C, we say the male has the Washington Monument and the female has the Capital building. The male usually has more meat and larger lump meat than the female, but many say that the female meat is a little sweeter. One also has to take into account that the female crab will have eggs in it which should be removed. The female crab should also not be eaten as much as they are needed to repopulate.

Use your crab knife to pick apart the key from the rest of the crab. Remove the key and toss it in the bucket. With your crab knife still in hand, use the point of the knife to shove in between the top and bottom half of the shell. Pry the top half off and toss this in the bucket as well.

Flip the crab over and you should be able to see the lungs. Scrape these off using your knife. The thick, yellow sauce is called crab mustard, and is basically crab digestive fluid. It is edible and many people eat it along with the meat. However, it is now advised not to eat it, as it absorbs a lot of the toxins of the beautiful Chesapeake. Grab the crab with both hands, holding each side and split it in half. You may want to gently crush the top and bottom to loosen the meat, but be careful as to not to crush it so hard that the shell splinters into the meat.

Take the legs and twist them out of the crab. This should bring a lot of the meat out as well. Remove the claws and set them aside. Toss the legs into the bucket.

You should see some shell that curls upwards in the back of the crab. Take your knife and slice this part of the shell off. You should be able to simply pull out the crab meat. This is where the majority of the meat is and is referred to as lump crab meat. You can also rub the meat in seasoning, melted butter, or cocktail sauce. Be sure to finish it off with a sip of ice -cold beer. Most of the meat is located along the underside of the crab near the back, some is under the lungs and a small amount is up near the front of the crab. Be sure to explore the crab carefully before discarding.

Repeat this on the other side of the crab. Or you can take an intermission with the claws. It’s your call.

Should you choose to go for the claws, you need to grab your mallet or knife. Or the person’s sitting next to you if they are closest.. Hands get messy and sharing tools is important. However, you are not required to share crabs, unless you are with a small child who is unable to handle sharp objects. The mallet is used to crack the claws open. You can let your frustrations out with nice whack on both halves of the claw. Pull the claw apart and usully you can just bite the meat straight off the claws but watch out for the tendon. This is not edible. Although smashing the claws is quite enjoyable, it tends to shatter the claw and make it hard to get the meat out cleanly. I prefer to take the knife and put the serrated edge halfway down the claw and with the heel of my palm give the top of the knife a nice, quick hit. This tends to give the claw a much cleaner break, though again, not as fun as smashing. You can either rub the crab in seasoning or dip in cocktail sauce or melted butter if you choose but remember to finish it off with a sip of cold beer.

Once you have cleaned the crab meat from the shell, discard the shell and grab another. Remember to follow the same rule and go for the biggest crab. Repeat the above steps and enjoy.

Blue crabs are the treat of Maryland. For many, they symbolize the beginning of summer, family feasts, and a fun and enjoyable meal.

Maryland Crab Cakes

  Maryland may be the best place in the world to buy crab cakes.  Although they are sold all over the world and many are very similar to the Maryland crab cake, there is something about the crab cakes from Maryland that make them the best.  Crab cakes, no matter where you go, can be very expensive.  However, the quality varies depending on who is making them and how.  There are several reasons why Maryland crab cakes are the best crab cakes.

The first reason is the amount of filler that is used in a Maryland crab cake.  Most places that prepare and sell crab cakes load them up with filler like onion, parsley, peppers and many other small items.  What these restaurants don’t realize is they are taking away from the main ingredient: crab.  When you add filler, you subtract crab, which is probably a way to save money.  However, the customer is ripped off in price while the company increases their profit and the customer is ripped off in the real, true taste of the crab cake.  A Maryland crab cake is the best crab cake because they do not use any filler when preparing a crab cake.  When you order a Maryland crab cake, you get crab and maybe a few spices.  When you pay $20 for two crab cakes, you will get two big, lumpy crab cakes, full of crab meat.  This is a real crab cake!

The next reason a Maryland crab cake is the best crab cake is after you have eaten it, you are full.  If it takes three or four crab cakes to fill you up, you probably are not eating a Maryland crab cake.  One, normal size, Maryland crab cake and maybe a plate of french fries should do the trick and if you order a platter of two crab cakes, plan on not being able to eat both of the crab cakes in their entirety.  A true crab cake is filling and satisfying.

Chicago, Boston, and many of the big cities have many places that sell crab cakes.  Some even sell Maryland crab cakes, even though they are not in Maryland.  However, there is only one crab cake that is worth the money and that is the Maryland crab cake.

Beginners Guide to Eating a Lobster

Can you imagine, my Uncle Francis used to ask, how hungry the first person to eat a lobster must have been? While the crustaceans may not be the most appealing-looking creatures to ever make it to a dinner plate, they are among the most desirable dinner entrees.

Having spent my youth and early adulthood in Maine, summers always marked the season when out-of-state friends and relatives trekked to our house for a visit. Inevitably, these summer visitors wanted at least one lobster dinner, which meant that our backyard feasts turned into tutorials on lobster eating.

Now, anyone can go to a restaurant in Maine or virtually anywhere else and enjoy a lobster, for a price. Those interested only in the consuming of lobster as opposed to the full experience of cracking one of these red delicacies open and extracting the sweet, succulent meat as God intended can order lobster stew or a lobster roll, baked stuffed lobster or lobster pie. There’s nothing wrong with that up to a point.

But there is nothing that can replicate the enjoyment that comes from brandishing a pair of nutcrackers and a long thin pick of a fork in an effort to leave not a single gram of meat behind.

You’ll need a plate and a bowl, a cup of drawn (melted) butter and a plastic bib if you are as we natives say from away. And, of course, a bright red freshly boiled lobster.

Start by bending the tail backward toward the critter’s back until it separates from the body. Do this over the bowl, and tip both halves to allow the hot water within to drain. Put the tail aside. This is the motherlode of meat and, as such, will be dealt with presently.

Separate the claws and their connecting joints from the body and set them aside. Again, we’re working our way up to the good stuff. Be patient. Pull the back shell apart from the rest of the body. It will divide easily. Inside, you’ll find a wad of green pasty material known as tomalley. This is actually lobster pate, of a sort, consisting of the crawler’s liver and pancreas. It is the subject of fierce debate amongst lobster lovers with some calling it a scrumptious delicacy and others calling it disgusting. Give it a try and make your own call. Your mileage may vary.

Pull off the half-dozen little legs, and squeeze the longest segments as you would a tube of toothpaste. There’s tender meat in there. Drop them in the butter and fish them out with a fork when you’ve squeezed them all. That’s a good mouthful of lobster most neophytes miss out on.

Inside the body, you’ll notice a round area encased in cartilage at the point where each of those legs was attached. These are called knuckles and, with a little effort you can pull each one apart to find a choice nugget of clearmeat lobster inside. Into the butter they go, to be pulled out one at a time and savored.

OK, let’s get to the serious stuff. Bend each claw backwards from what can only be described as arms. Use the crackers and the pick, if you need to, to open up these arm segments and pull out the meat inside. Likewise, bend back the smaller of the two claw halves from the larger until they detach. You’ll notice a lot of backward-bending in this process. Like our own joints and limbs, when you force things in the wrong direction, they’ll eventually snap. Be sure that the small half of each claw has a long piece of cartilage attached that came from within the larger half. You wouldn’t want to bite down on one of those. Don’t miss the meat inside the small half a pick will get it out. Use your thumbs or a nutcracker to crush the large half of the claw and feast upon the glorious chunk of meat within. This should take a couple of bites, if you’re smart enough to savor.

And now we come to the crux of the matter the lobster tail.

First, twist off each of the fantail segments at the end of the tail. Each has a thin slice of meat inside that can be sucked out, or squeezed out between your teeth (don’t worry, it’s clean you just boiled the thing, after all). The middle fan should be snapped off as well, and the meat will likely remain attached for that section. Now, slide your finger into the opening created when you pinched those fantails off and pushed the meat through the larger opening at the base of the tail. It should slide out easily.

Sitting on your plate now is the lobster equivalent to the choicest filet mignon the tail. First, wipe away the tomalley that lingers there at the fringy base of the tail meat (or eat it, depending on how you fared in the earlier taste test). Then, grab the thin flap of meat that runs down the outer spine and peel it back the entire length of the tail. Dunk this baby in the melted butter and enjoy it one bite at a time.

In the valley between the two connected halves of the remaining tail meat you’ll see a long dark string-like substance. Wipe it away with your finger. There’s no tomalley-like debate over this substance. It’s what old Uncle Francis used to call the poop cord.

You can now separate the two halves of the tail into long, luscious tenderloins of sweet lobster meat. Dip and eat them like chain restaurant chicken fingers if you must, or take your time and break them apart into bite-sized morsels to be basted in butter and relished slowly.

Eating a lobster can be daunting for beginners. But, as with most things in life, you get better with practice.

Deviled Lobster German Recipe

Deviled Lobster: A German recipe from 1918

This is a recipe I found in a German cookbook from my ancestors who were living in Germany in the early 1900’s. The book has been handed down through my family and I was glad to find some different recipes in it that offer a taste of something that isn’t so common anymore. This is one example.

Ingredients:

2 level tablespoons of butter (or margarine)

1 level tablespoon of dry mustard

1/2 level teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Meat from 1 lobster

1/3 cup of butter (or margarine)

1 tablespoon of Worcestershire (or substitute tomato sauce)

Instructions:

Using a mixer or whisk, beat the 2 tablespoons of butter to a cream consistency. Add the mustard, the salt, the Worcestershire and the lemon juice and mix well.

Cut the lobster into neat small pieces. Saute the lobster meat for about 6 minutes in the remaining 1/3 cup of butter. When lobster is nearly done, add the creamed mixture. Heat the whole thoroughly and serve on toast.

I’m not sure how much this actually makes – obviously just the amount of the one lobster but it would be simple to double or triple the recipe for additional servings.

This was a common practice was for recipes such as this to be served on top of dry toast as a meal. I’ve heard of similar recipes that use a creamy meat mixture and served on toast as a meal. It is actually quite filling though and is a great option for a luncheon.

I believe to simplify this recipe, you can now purchase pre-cut lobster meat at the seafood counter at most grocery stores to skip that step of the recipe. It does make a convenient and different dish! I do hope you enjoy this recipe.