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Pickles Pickles Pickles

The pungent aroma of vinegar mixed with spices such as dill, cinnamon, cloves, mustard seed indicate that something is being pickled in the kitchen.  This aroma brings to mind the wonderful sweet lime pickles that my grandmother made, which have always been one of my favorite pickles.

Some of you may think that making pickles is too difficult or takes too long, but there are several different ways to make pickled foods including a process called “quick-pack” that anyone who does home food preservation can get done in a few hours.

In fact, there are four basic types of pickles:  brined or fermented, fresh pack or quick process, fruit pickles, and relishes.  Almost any food can be pickled if that’s your preferred method of preservation!

The brined or fermented pickles are those that take a longer time because the product is brined or cured over a 3 to 6 week period of time in a high salt solution (brine).  These pickles are those where the cucumber has color changes – the green goes to an olive or yellow-green and the inside changes from white to translucent.

Fresh-pack or quick process pickles are not fermented.  There are two ways to make this type of pickle:  one method requires soaking the vegetables in a low-salt solution for several hours or overnight to draw some of the salt from the cells; the vegetables are then drained and processed with vinegar, spices, and seasonings.

The second type of fresh-pack pickle calls for cooking the vegetable with vinegar and spices, then packaging and processing the product immediately.  Beet pickles, bread and butter pickles, and pickled asparagus or green beans use the fresh-pack method.

Fruit pickles are just what the name implies – fruits simmered in spicy syrup then packed and processed.  Watermelon rind pickles fall into this category.

Finally, relishes are mixtures of fruits and/or vegetables that are chopped, seasoned and cooked in a vinegar and spice solution then packed and processed.

All types of pickles are better when allowed to stand for several weeks after processing.  This allows the flavors to develop to their fullest.

 SECRETs FOR CRUNCHY PICKLES

  1. Use small, firm cucumbers. This is, hands-down, the most important! If you start with a big soft cucumber, you’ll end up with big soft pickles. Always, always select the smallest, most firm cucumbers and leave the big soft ones out of the pickle jar. It’s a natural law of sorts– if you are using ginormous, overgrown cucumbers for your pickles, nothing is going turn them crunchy… No matter how creative you get.
  2. Jar them immediately after picking, or as soon as possible. Going straight from the vine to the jar is the best, and I always try to plan room in my schedule to can up a batch right away on pickle-picking day. However, I’ve still had good results using farmer’s market cucumbers– providing they are firm when I buy them, and I don’t leave them on the counter for days and days.
  3. Soak cucumbers in an ice water bath for a couple hours. If I can’t get to work canning my cucumbers immediately after picking them (or when I get home from the farmer’s market), submerging them in an icy bowl of water in the fridge will help them firm up/stay firm.
  4. Cut off the blossom end of cucumber. The blossom-end of a cucumber is said to contain enzymes which can cause mushy pickles. Cutting it off is your best bet.
  5. Low-Temperature Pasteurization Treatment  The following treatment results in a better product texture but must be carefully managed to avoid possible spoilage. Place jars in a canner filled half way with warm (120º to 140º F) water. Then, add hot water to a level 1 inch above jars. Heat the water enough to maintain 180º to 185º F water temperature for 30 minutes. Check with a candy or jelly thermometer to be certain that the water temperature is at least 180ºF during the entire 30 minutes. Temperatures higher than 185ºF may cause unnecessary softening of pickles. Caution: Use only when recipe indicates.

What about Alum? Back in the day, it was recommended to add alum or food-grade lime to pickle recipes to help with crispness. It’s not recommended anymore, due to safety considerations.

What if I STILL get mushy pickles? Well, then you might as well just quit this whole canning thing and go back to buying everything from the store…., not really.  Sometimes mushiness still happens, even if you do everything in your power to prevent it.  Mushy pickles are still quite edible, and if I get super-duper mushiness going on, you can use those for chopping up to add to potato salad, etc. Just keep experimenting– you’ll get into your crispy-pickle groove eventually.

Quick Fresh-Pack Dill Pickles

  • 8 lbs of 3- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers
  • 2 gals water
  • 1¼ cups canning or pickling salt
  • 1½ qts vinegar (5 percent)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 tbsp whole mixed pickling spice
  • about 3 tbsp whole mustard seed (2 tsp to 1 tsp per pint jar)
  • about 14 heads of fresh dill (1½ heads per pint jar)
    or 4 ½ tbsp dill seed (1½ tsp per pint jar)

Yield: 7 to 9 pints

Procedure: Wash cucumbers. Cut 1/16-inch slice off blossom end and discard, but leave ¼-inch of stem attached. Dissolve ¾ cup salt in 2 gals ice water. Pour over cucumbers and let stand 12 hours. Drain. Combine vinegar, ½ cup salt, sugar and 2 quarts water. Add mixed pickling spices tied in a clean white cloth. Heat to boiling. Fill jars with cucumbers. Add 1 tsp mustard seed and 1½ heads fresh dill per pint. Cover with boiling pickling solution, leaving ½-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process or use the low- temperature pasteurization treatment.  If you want to process without low-temp pasteurization you will process in a waterbath canner pints 10 minutes and quarts 15 minutes.

A great place to get more recipes is the National Center for Home Food Preservation which is operated by the University Georgia Extension Service or any state Cooperative Extension Website all of their information is researched and the safest recipes you can get.

Angela Treadaway (REA-Food Safety & Quality)

Office: #205-669-6763

Cell: #205-410-3696

Email: treadas@aces.edu

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

 

 

 

Freezing Foods as a method of Preserving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freezing has many advantages over other methods of food preservation. Frozen foods are often more like fresh, because they often retain their color, flavor and nutritive value. Freezing is also one of the easiest, less labor-intensive food preservation methods.

Foods naturally contain enzymes which cause chemical changes which lead to deterioration. In most cases, vegetables are blanched and fruits are treated to retard enzyme activity, prior to freezing.

When freezing most vegetables, you want to heat-treat them for a short period of time to reduce the enzyme activity. This process is called blanching. Blanching is placing the vegetables into rapidly boiling water, or sometimes steam, for a short period of time. This step stops or slows down the enzymes that cause undesirable changes.. Refer to a reliable freezing reference for recommended blanching times for particular vegetable.

After blanching, it is recommended to immediately immerse the vegetables in ice water to stop the cooking process. Blanching is not intended to cook the vegetables, simply to inactivate the enzyme activity. You generally chill the foods for the same amount of time as is recommended for blanching. Now drain and I prefer to dry the foods before packing. Draining/drying reduces the formation of ice crystals which will affect the quality of the product. Finally, place the cooled, dried vegetable in an air-tight, vapor resistant container, designed for freezing. Remove as much air as possible, from the container. Label and store in a freezer, that is 0 degrees or colder.

Some prefer to completely cook certain vegetables before freezing, which is also acceptable. A couple of vegetables that are often prepared this way are, cream-style corn and greens. After cooking the food to the desired doneness, they also need to be cooled before freezing. These foods are generally placed in a large bowl or pot that is set in ice water and stirred until the food is cool.

Blanching softens the texture of fruits, so controlling enzyme activity in fruits is best accomplished by adding sugar and antioxidants. Darkening of fruit is caused by oxidation, when the fruit is exposed to air. Ascorbic acid, vitamin C, citric acid, or sugar syrup helps to prevent discoloration. Steaming fruit just until hot before packing will also control darkening. Steaming works best for fruit that will be cooked before use.

Three methods are generally used to pack fruit for freezing: syrup pack, sugar pack, and unsweetened pack. The syrup or sugar pack, help the fruit retain better texture, color and flavor. But, for those watching their weight or needing to limit their sugar consumption, dry pack is acceptable.

Some foods such as berries, and chopped onions and peppers are especially easy to freeze. After rinsing and drying, spread on a cookie sheet and freeze. Then quickly place in a freezer container, remove as much air from the container as possible and return to the freezer. By freezing this way, the desired portion is easily removed, and the rest can remain frozen for future use.

Freezer bags, rigid plastic containers and freezer jars are all suitable for freezing. Freezer bags are better suited for dry packed foods, while rigid containers and glass are especially recommended for liquid packs but also suitable for dry packs. If you use glass containers, make sure the jars are designed for freezing.

Keep these following tips, in mind, when freezing:
1. For optimal quality and storage life, your freezer should be keep at 0 degrees F. or lower.
2. Do not overload your freezer with unfrozen food – no more than 2-3 lbs. of unfrozen food per cubic foot of freezer space.
3. Leave space between unfrozen packages to allow air circulation. After the food is frozen, packages can then be stacked.
4. Be sure to label each package with the name of the product and the packaging date. Use freezer tape or pens and labels that are especially made for freezer use.

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Protect Pastures from Fire Ants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the field to the pasture, fire ants cause issues for producers on many levels. Surprisingly, the biggest issue they cause is damage to equipment. This not only cost farmers time but there is also the cost of the labor and repair.

Dr. Fudd Graham, an Alabama Extension entomologist, said the first step to treatment is determining the level of infestation and how to treat it.

“First determine if it is necessary to treat the pasture,” Graham said, who is also a researcher in the Auburn University Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. “Unless it is a calving pasture, it may not be economical to treat. Hayfields are another story since the mounds can damage equipment.”

Extension professionals have developed a worksheet to help farmers decide if fire ant treatment would benefit their pasture systems.

Choosing Fire Ant Bait

If it is determined that treatment is necessary, producers must learn how to properly treat fire ants in order to get the most fire ant control for the lowest cost. For pasture and hayfield situations, a fire ant bait is the proper choice.

Farmers need to pick a fire ant bait registered for their use site. The Alabama Cooperative Extension IPM guide for pastures and forages has a list of baits safe for pasture use.

Equipment for Spreading

For medium and large sized pastures, Graham said it is best to apply bait using a GT-77 Herd Seeder. More than 40 of these seeders are available for producers to borrow through the Alabama Extension.

Because of the small amount of bait applied, fertilizer spreaders do not work as they apply too much material. Seeders with rotating agitators tend to turn the bait into an oily mush that clogs the seeder. The Herd seeder has a vibrating agitator, which allows the bait to exit the seeder without clogging.

Treatment Recommendations

“Bait begins to break down as soon as it is applied,” Graham said. “Therefore, we recommend applications only when ants are actively foraging, from spring to fall.”

Make summer applications in the morning or evening hours using only fresh bait, because ants do not forage in extreme heat. If the bait is rancid, ants won’t be attracted to it.

Graham said one to two pasture treatments per year should be enough to keep the fire ant population in check.

“Treat pastures once a year in September, preferably with a bait containing an insect growth regulator,” he said. “When applying two treatments per year, apply in June and September. Insect growth regulator baits provide a longer fire ant free period than do the fast acting baits.”

For more information on fire ant treatment and control, visit Alabama Extension online at www.aces.edu. There is also more information on fire ants that  can be found here www.eXtension.org/fire_ants.

In Text Image: Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Grilling: Safely for the Summer

Man grilling meat on garden barbecue party, in the background friends eating and drinking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With news stories about food contamination and harmful chemicals appearing almost weekly, it is not surprising that many would-be chefs are taking food preparation more seriously, particularly food safety: Grilling, in fact, is one area of food preparation that needs particular scrutiny.

Is Grilling Safe?

Grilling gets a bad reputation because more people are likely to feel ill after a summer barbeque than after an indoor meal. In reality, however, many cases of food poisoning and upset stomachs are not caused by grilling at all, but may be the result of overindulgence at a picnic, spoiled diary products such as mayonnaise in potato salad, or overexertion (hiking, flag football, etc.) too soon after a meal. Yet with proper preparation and attention to hygiene, grilling is a safe and delicious way to cook meats and vegetables.

Tips for Food Safety: Grilling

Proper food safety has many steps, from buying the food to disposing of leftovers.

Grocery Shopping

Safely grilled food begins with safe grocery shopping. When buying food for the grill, remember these safety tips:

  • Buy meats last when picking up groceries so they are out of refrigeration for the shortest time.
  • If possible, buy meats that are still frozen.
  • Place meats in a plastic grocery bag away from other foods so juice does not drip on other items.
  • If necessary, transport food home in a cooler to keep it cold.
  • Freeze meat immediately if it will not be used within one or two days.

 

Getting Ready for the Grill

Before firing up the grill, food must be properly prepared so it can be safely cooked.

  • Thaw meats completely before grilling so they will cook more evenly.
  • Never thaw meat on the counter – thaw in the refrigerator or in the sink with cool not hot water running.
  • If using a marinade, reserve some for basting or flavoring instead of reusing the sauce that has been in contact with the raw meat. If a marinade must be reused, boil it first to kill any bacteria.
  • Consider precooking meats by boiling or microwaving to lower the amount of grilling time and ensure doneness especially items like large chicken breasts that will take longer cooking times.
  • Wash vegetables to be grilled thoroughly before cooking.
  • If grilling at home, keep meats refrigerated until time to grill.
  • If food needs to be transported to a park or campsite, store it in a cooler in the shade. Do not open the cooler frequently and do not store other foods or drinks in the same cooler.
  • Use clean utensils and platters when handling food.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before handling food or placing it on the grill and after placing raw meat on the grill if you handled it with your bare hands.

On The Grill

While grilling, it is vital to follow certain precautions to ensure food safety:

Meat should reach a healthy internal temperature to be thoroughly cooked: poultry should reach 165 degrees, burgers 155 degrees, pork 145 degrees, and steaks 145 degrees for medium rare cuts and 160 degrees for medium cuts.

  • Browning and char is not an accurate indicator of thorough cooking; use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
  • If grilling meat and vegetables on the same surface, use separate utensils to handle each type of food and do not allow meat drippings to fall onto vegetables.
  • Use a clean platter for cooked meat; do not place it on the same platter that was used for raw cuts.
  • Keep meat hot until served by moving it away from the fire but keeping it on the heated grill.

Serving

Proper grilling safety should also include serving precautions to ensure that cooked food does not accidentally become contaminated before it is eaten.

  • Wash hands thoroughly before eating or handling food; if restrooms are not available, use anti-bacterial gels or wipes.
  • Discard burned or charred portions before eating; several studies have indicated that soot from char may contain carcinogens and other dangerous chemicals.
  • Cover food on the table to prevent flies or other insects from enjoying a free meal and spreading germs.
  • Do not use insect repellents or other harsh chemicals near food, and choose a table away from restrooms or other insect-attracting locations.

 

Leftovers

Grilling safety precautions should not end when the meal is over. Leftovers need to be treated carefully to ensure they are still safe.

  • Try to gauge portions properly to avoid leftovers if possible.
  • Store leftovers in the cooler immediately and refrigerate as soon as possible.
  • Food left out for more than two hours should be discarded.
  • Leftovers must be reheated to safe internal temperatures before being eaten

 

More Grill Safety

There is more to grilling safety than just safe, thoroughly cooked food. Both charcoal and propane grills can be dangerous if used improperly, and even delicious food can be unappetizing after a grill accident. To prevent problems:

  • Use proper grilling equipment and fuel.
  • Keep children away from the grill area.
  • Do not leave the grill unattended.
  • Trim excess fat from meats to prevent flare-ups from drippings.
  • Use barbeque utensils and heat-resistant mitts to protect hands.
  • Only use a grill in a well ventilated, open area.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby while grilling.

 

In Conclusion

The majority of food bacteria grows between 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit, and keeping food at proper hot or cold temperatures is critical for food safety: grilling can also be dangerous, however, if the food is not handled appropriately. From the grocery store the leftover storage container, following proper grilling safety tips can help make summer barbeques a tasty tradition without fear of accidents or illnesses.

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

 

 

Whats for Dinner? Getting Kids to try new things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just did a cooking camp with kids from ages 10-14 called “Whats for Dinner” and found that they really liked asparagus and cauliflower with it fixed this way.  See recipes below.  Most of them did not like asparagus in ways they had tried it before and only liked cauliflower raw.   I had recently tried cooking it this way at my house with my husband (who did not care for asparagus nor did my son) until I tried it this way.  Roasting any vegetables in the oven or on the grill makes them taste sweeter.  I have tried many new things this way and my family absolutely loves any vegetable roasted in the oven now.

 

Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan

Ingredients

  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, tough ends trimmed
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Spray the inside of a 9×13 casserole dish with olive oil cooking spray. Place asparagus in the dish and lightly spray spears with cooking spray.
  3. Sprinkle asparagus with Parmesan cheese, sea salt, and garlic powder.
  4. Roast in preheated oven until fork easily punctures thickest part of stem, about 12 minutes.

Roasted Cauliflower Snowflakes

Ingredients:

  1. head cauliflower (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  2. 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  3. Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  4. 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  5. 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°.
  2. Remove the leaves and trim the stem of the cauliflower, but leave the core intact. With a sharp knife, cut the whole cauliflower in large (1/2-inch-thick) slices. Don’t worry if the slices fall apart; they’ll look like snowflakes.
  3. Place the cauliflower on a sheet pan, drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Roast the cauliflower for 15 minutes.
  4. Toss the panko with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle on the cauliflower, and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes, until tender and browned. Sprinkle with the parmesan and roast for another minute or two. Immediately, scrape the pan with a metal spatula and toss the cauliflower and parmesan. Serve hot or at room temperature.

This can be done with any vegetable you like too.

 

Another recipe I recently tried that incorporates vegetables into our daily foods is this wonderful Carrot Apple and Zucchini Bread recipe I found on pinterest too.  The only thing I am not crazy about in the recipe is that it contains 2 cups of sugar but you could cut back to 1 ½ cup and use a half cup of applesauce to cut down on sugar some and the cream cheese frosting is not needed but it sure does taste good with it too.

 

Carrot Apple and Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup diced, peeled apple (Granny Smith, Fuji, whatever you have on hand)
  • ½ cup pecans, chopped

Cream Cheese Glaze/Frosting

  • ½ cup cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 2 – 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-3 tbsp orange juice as needed

 

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour two 8×4 inch loaf pans. Line with parchment paper and set aside. (I use the baking spray with flour in it.)
  3. Place zucchini in a large kitchen towel. Bring up the four corners and twist. Squeeze the towel to extract all the liquid from the zucchini, or as much as you can. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg together. Set aside.
  5. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar.
  6. Add eggs, orange juice, and vanilla and whisk until combined.
  7. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients along with the shredded carrots, shredded zucchini, apples, and pecans.
  8. Pour into prepared pans.
  9. Bake until golden brown, 55 to 60 minutes, or until loaves spring back when gently pressed with fingers.
  10. Let cool completely before icing.

Cream Cheese Glaze/Frosting

  1. Cream together cream cheese and butter with a hand mixer.
  2. Add in 2 cups of powdered sugar and continue mixing. Drizzle in orange juice until desired consistency is achieved.
  3. Frost bread and enjoy!

Notes

The carrots and zucchini in this recipe are interchangeable. Feel free to use less or more of each. You just want three cups total.

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Low Sugar Alternatives for Jams and Jellies

 

Strawberry Jam time is here and soon behind it will be blueberry, blackberry and then peach jam time. This year when you consider making jams and jellies think about using a low sugar alternative.  Don’t you want to taste the fruit more than the sugar? Jams and jellies are one of the simplest and most rewarding ways to preserve summer fruits and berries.  Even though most jams and jellies are very sweet, there are some excellent low- and no-sugar alternatives. “Regular” pectin recipes required the amount of sugar listed with them in order to obtain a satisfactory gel, but there are four methods to produce low- and no-sugar jams and jellies:
The first method is to use specially modified pectins. These pectins are labeled as “light,” “less sugar needed,” or “no sugar needed.” The box of packaged pectins will come with recipes that give options for using no sugar, less sugar, or sugar substitutes. Using these pectin-added methods allows you to store your reduced-sugar product at room temperature.

The second method is using regular pectin with special recipes. Some tested recipes are formulated so that the gel forms with regular pectin without needing to add the usual amount of sugar. Keep in mind that there is some sugar in the regular pectin. These recipes often use sugar substitutes for additional sweetening.  Splenda doesn’t need to be used as a sweetner for jams and jellies because it does not have a good shelf life.  To use it you would have to keep it in the refrigerator and usually it will only last about a month even under refrigeration.

The third method is a long-boil method. The fruit pulp is boiled until it thickens and resembles a jam, but these spreads will not be true jams with pectin gels. Sugar substitutes can be added to taste for sweetening these products.

The fourth method is to use gelatin as the thickening agent. This method allows you to control the amount of sugar that is added to the product. These spreads usually have the sugars from fruit juices that are used for the flavoring and sugar substitutes for sweetness. Jellied products thickened with gelatin will require refrigeration.

Jams and jellies made with traditional recipes using lots of sugar or by the first three methods listed above for reduced sugar options will require a short process in a boiling water canner to be kept at room temperature in a sealed jar. Once opened, they all require refrigerated storage.

Additional recipes and canning information can be found at the website of the National Center for Home Food Preservation, hosted by the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia: http://www.homefoodpreservation.com.

While there is an abundance of ways to make jams and jellies, keep in mind that following well tested recipes is your best bet for getting a successful gel. Try making jams and jellies using various methods to determine which you like best.

For more information and recipes for jams and jellies contact Angela Treadaway at 205-410-3696.

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

ServSafe Course in Shelby County

ServSafe Course

Date: May 24 & 29, 2018

Location: Shelby County Extension Office

56 Kelly Lane, Columbiana, AL. 35051

Contact: Angela Treadaway

Office: 205-669-6763

cell: 205-410-3696

email: treadas@aces.edu

Click here to register:https://ssl.acesag.auburn.edu/payment/fscert/registrationForm.php

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Sunn Hemp: Grazing Option for Producers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunn hemp is a warm-season legume that producers are adding to their grazing and pasture management plans. Traditionally, producers do not use sunn hemp because of limited seed availability. Now, newer varieties, such as AU Golden and AU Darbin, are available for producers. These new varieties allow the plant to produce seed in moderate climates.

Characteristics  

Sunn hemp is a drought tolerant annual, and therefore producers would plant it each year. It can grow in soil with moderately low pH levels, ranging from 5.0 to 8.4. While sunn hemp tolerates low soil fertility, fertile soils greatly enhance its productivity. Sunn hemp grows best in sandy, well-drained soils. It is not tolerant of standing water or heavy, clay soils.

Planting Sunn Hemp

Dr. Leanne Dillard, an Alabama Extension forage specialist, said that soil temperatures must be fairly warm to plant sunn hemp.

“Once soil temperatures reach 65°F, producers can plant sunn hemp into a prepared seedbed,” Dillard said. “Producers should plant at a rate of 25 to 30 pounds of pure, live seed per acre, and inoculate with a cowpea type inoculant. Seeding depth is between 1/4 of an inch to 1 inch.”

According to Dillard, because it is a legume and because of its wide tolerance of soil pH levels, adding nitrogen fertilizer and lime is not necessary.

“Because sunn hemp is a legume, it does not require nitrogen fertilizer. While adding lime is not mandatory, it is, however, recommended,” Dillard said. “Producers should add phosphorus and potash based on soil test results.”

After planting, producers will see little above ground biomass production. However, by Day 60, plants can be 6 feet tall. To maximize the length of the grazing season, producers can stagger sunn hemp plantings (May and July). This allows for a higher quality forage throughout the grazing season and into early fall.

Grazing Management

Cattle, goats and sheep are the only livestock that can graze sunn hemp. Livestock can start grazing approximately 45 days after planting, when the plants reach 1 ½ to 3 feet tall.

Dillard said that the leaves are high in nutrition, and while the stems are of much lower quality, they provide the fiber needed for proper rumen function.

“To maintain forage quality, maximizing the leaf-to-stem ratio is important,” Dillard said. “A field allowed to grow until flowering may lose lower leaves and have reduced forage quality. To ensure forage quality, early grazing is important.”

At first, livestock may not find sunn hemp palatable, but within a few days they will develop a taste for it. Because of the high nutritional value, it works well in limit grazing plans in combination with warm-season perennial pastures. In this instance, producers should allow their livestock to graze one to three hours per day. Once the forage reaches 12 to 18 inches, livestock should rotate out of the field.

Dillard said that there are several things that affect the growth of sunn hemp.

“If sunn hemp is grazed too early, livestock will overgraze, possibly killing it. If plants are grazed too high, the livestock will break the plants and it will not regrow,” Dillard said. “Mowing or grazing sunn hemp to less than 12 inches can also prevent plant regrowth. Cutting it for hay or silage is not recomended.”

Possible Toxicity Concerns

While there is no evidence of the leaves nor the stems being toxic, the seeds could pose a chance for livestock poisoning. Sunn hemp is in the genus Crotalaria, which is characterized by presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in the seeds. It contains only low levels of two to three different alkaloids.

Non ruminants are more susceptible than ruminants to acute toxicity from ingesting seeds. The consumption of a small amount of seeds, however, will not cause toxicity in livestock. Because of weight loss concerns, producers should not incorporate sunn hemp seeds into an animal’s diet.

Alabama Extension created a timely information sheet on sunn hemp. To view this document, click here. For further information, visit Alabama Extension online or contact your county Extension office.

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Bean Dip or Spread

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 cups cooked pinto beans

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup cooked green onions with tops

1/8 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed (optional)

1 or more drops liquid hot sauce, to taste

 

Drain beans and save 2 tablespoons of the liquid.  Mash beans until almost smooth.  Use a pastry blender, fork, electric blender, or food processor.  Add saved bean liquid, oil, lemon juice, garlic, and oinion.  Stir until well blended.  Season with pepper, dill weed, and hot sauce.  Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Makes 8 servings: One serving: 3 tablespoons.*One serving contains: 124 calories; 0 mg cholesterol; 250 mg sodium; 18 g carbohydrates; 5 g protein;  4 g fat or 27% of total calories.

 

To Vary: Use black beans, navy beans, or garbanzo beans (chick peas) in place of the pinto beans.  If using canned beans, pour the beans in a strainer, rinse with cold water, and drain thoroughly.  This will reduce the sodium content in canned beans.

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Egg Safety

Easter eggs in nest on grunge wooden background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter is just a few weeks away, and many children will find colored eggs nestled side by side with chocolate bunnies in cheerful baskets or lurking in hiding places awaiting to be discovered.  Always handle eggs properly to prevent foodborne illness.  Consider the following when planning on buying eggs for dyeing and for keeping a few days before Easter.

 What should you consider when purchasing eggs?

Always buy eggs from a refrigerated case. Choose eggs with clean, uncracked shells. Don’t buy out of date eggs. The USDA grade shield on the carton means that the eggs were graded for quality and checked for weight under the supervision of a trained USDA grader. State agencies monitor compliance for egg packers who do not use the USDA grading service.

What does the date on the egg carton mean?

Egg cartons with the USDA grade mark must display a “Julian date”*, the date the eggs were packed. Although not required, they may also carry an expiration date beyond which the eggs should not be sold, but are still safe to eat. On cartons with the USDA grade mark, this date cannot exceed 30 days after the eggs were packed in the carton. Depending on the retailer, the expiration date may be less than 30 days. Eggs packed in cartons without the USDA grade mark are governed by the laws of their states.

How should eggs be refrigerated?

Refrigerate raw shell eggs in their cartons on the middle or lower inside shelf, not on the door, and away from any meat that might drip juices or any raw produce that might contact eggshells. Cover or wrap well any egg mixtures or leftover cooked egg dishes. For all perishable foods, including eggs and dishes containing eggs, allow no more than 2 hours at room temperature for preparation and serving, 30 minutes to 1 hour when it’s 85°F or hotter without refrigeration.

How long are eggs that have been refrigerated, safe to eat?

Raw eggs maintain their freshness for 4-5 weeks after purchase if kept refrigerated continuously.

How long are hard cooked eggs that have been refrigerated, safe to eat?

A hard cooked egg, if keep in its shell, can be safely refrigerated for up to one week.

I just realized I left the egg carton on the kitchen counter overnight. Are the eggs safe to use?

Temperature fluctuation is critical to safety. After eggs are refrigerated, it is important that they stay that way. A cold egg left out at room temperature can sweat, facilitating the growth of bacteria. Refrigerated eggs should not be left out more than 2 hours.

COOKING WITH EGGS

What is an adequate temperature to cook an egg?

Eggs you serve immediately at home need to be cooked to 145 degrees and if serving in a serving line in a commercial kitchen they must reach 155 degrees.  Please do not use raw eggs unless they are pasteurized in homemade ice cream because people can become infected with salmonella from raw eggs.  Mix the eggs with a little milk and sugar and heat quickly to 160 degrees to a custard state and then cool down and mix with your other ingredients when making homemade ice cream if you like that rich taste eggs give it.

How does Salmonella infect eggs?

Salmonella bacteria are found in the intestinal tracts of animals, birds, reptiles, insects and humans. Salmonella may be found on the outside of the egg shell before the egg is washed or it may be found inside the egg if the hen was infected. It is estimated that one egg in 20,000 eggs may contain Salmonella  Eggs contain natural antimicrobial substances in the egg white, and all eggs are washed and sanitized before they are packed. Egg recipes properly prepared in individual servings and promptly eaten are rarely a problem. Inadequate refrigeration, improper handling and insufficient cooking are all factors that have contributed to disease outbreaks. Salmonella is destroyed by heat. Eggs that have been handled and cooked properly should not cause human illness.

What usually causes salmonellosis?

Salmonellosis outbreaks are most often associated with animal foods, including chicken, eggs, pork and cheese, but have also been reported related to cantaloupe, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, orange juice and cereal among other foods. Human carriers play a big role in transmitting some types of salmonellosis. Salmonella bacteria can easily spread from one food to another and from  foodhandler to food if improper handwashing  is practiced.

The majority of reported salmonellosis outbreaks involving eggs or egg-containing foods have occurred in food service kitchens and were the result of inadequate refrigeration, improper handling and insufficient cooking. If not properly handled, Salmonella bacteria can double every 20 minutes and a single bacterium can multiply into more than a million in six hours. Properly prepared egg recipes served in individual portions and promptly eaten are rarely a problem. You can ensure that your eggs will maintain their high quality and safety by using good hygiene, cooking, refrigeration and handling practices.

Are eggs the only source of Salmonella bacteria?

No. Salmonella bacteria are widely found in nature and easily spread. The bacteria can be found in the intestinal tracts of animals, birds, reptiles, insects and people. While the egg itself may not be contaminated when you buy it, it can become contaminated from various sources, such as hands, pets, other foods and kitchen equipment, too.

When dyeing eggs for Easter, be careful not to crack them because bacteria can enter the eggs through the cracks.  Use food-grade dyes, such as commercial egg dyes, liquid food coloring or fruit drink powders.  Hard-cooked eggs should not sit out unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours.  Keep eggs refrigerated until you put them into Easter baskets.  Store eggs on a shelf inside the refrigerator rather than on the refrigerator door so they stay fully chilled.

A really good idea, if the kids plan to eat their eggs is not to use the hard cooked eggs for hiding but replace with plastic eggs and save the hard cooked one for them to eat later. If eggs are cracked or broken during the hunt, children may be disappointed when you have to throw them away.  Therefore, it is better to keep the hard cooked eggs refrigerated until the hunt.  Then, all can sit down and enjoy a safe Easter egg feast.

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!