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Turkey Tips

Thanksgiving dinner. Roasted turkey with pumpkins and sunflowers on wooden table

Are you planning on preparing a Turkey for Thanksgiving?  Planning ahead can make the traditional Thanksgiving meal safer and less stressful.  Here are some tips from your local County Extension Office to help make this year’s holiday meal a success.

Before purchasing your turkey, make sure you have ample space in your refrigerator.  Turkeys look smaller at the grocery store, so be careful not to underestimate the size of your bird.  Think about using a cooler to thaw and store your turkey.  The turkey should be kept on ice and should stay 40°F or below to prevent bacteria from growing.  Storing the turkey in a cooler will free up space in your refrigerator and will help keep the raw turkey juices from contaminating other items in your refrigerator.

Thawing and handling

Never defrost turkey on the counter! Turkey can be thawed in the refrigerator or in cold water. The refrigerator method is the safest and will result in the best finished product. Leave the bird in the original packaging and place in a shallow pan and allow refrigerator thawing time at a rate of 4 to 5 pounds per 24 hours. To thaw in cold water, keep turkey in the original packaging, place in a clean and sanitized sink or pan and submerge in cold water. Change the cold water every 30 minutes. The turkey will take about 30 minutes per pound to thaw. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze. If buying a fresh turkey, purchase it only 1 to 2 days before the meal and keep it refrigerated or on ice.  Once thawed, remove neck and giblets from the body cavities and keep bird and parts refrigerated at 40 °F or below until it is ready to be cooked.

Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling the turkey.

Cooking and stuffing

The single most important thing to know about cooking a turkey, no matter the cooking method, is that the turkey must be cooked to the proper internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer. An unstuffed turkey will generally take 14 to 20 minutes per pound to cook and a stuffed turkey will take additional time.

Stuffing should be prepared and stuffed into the turkey immediately before it’s placed in the oven at 325°F. Mix the wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing separately and combine just before using. Stuff the turkey loosely, about 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey. Bake any extra stuffing in a greased casserole dish. Cooked inside or outside the bird, all stuffing and dressing recipes must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 °F. (For optimum safety and more even cooking, it’s recommended to cook your stuffing in a casserole dish.)

Take the temperature!  Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching bone. Cook to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.  If the turkey is done and the stuffing is not yet 165 °F, remove the stuffing from the turkey and place it in a greased casserole dish to continue cooking to temperature.

APPROXIMATE COOKING TIMES

Size of Turkey Cooking Time Size of Turkey Cooking Time
Unstuffed  Stuffed
8 to 12 pounds 2 ¾ to 3 hours 8 to 12 pounds 3 to 3 ½ hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3¾ hours 12 to 14 pounds 3 ½ to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 3 ¾ to 4 ¼ hours 14 to 18 pounds 4 to 4 ¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds 4 ¼ to 4 ½ hours 18 to 20 pounds 4 ¼ to 4 ¾ hours
20 to 24 pounds 4 ½ to 5 hours 20 to 24 pounds 4 ¾ to 5 ¼ hours

Safe carving and serving

It’s best to let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to set, so the turkey will carve more easily. Use a clean cutting board that has a well to catch juices. Remove all stuffing from the turkey cavity. Make sure your knife is sharp before you start carving. Do not leave any extra turkey, stuffing or other leftovers out for more than two hours.

Storing leftovers safely

Remove the stuffing and carve the extra turkey meat from the bones. Within two hours, store leftover turkey in shallow containers and put in the refrigerator or the freezer. Use cooked leftover turkey, stuffing and gravy within 3-4 days. Cooked turkey keeps for 3-4 months in the freezer. When using leftovers, reheat the foods thoroughly to 165 °F or until hot and steaming; bring gravy to a boil before serving.

For more information:  you can reach USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline toll-free at: 1-800-535-4555, Monday through Friday, from 10 am to 4 pm Eastern Time. It also will be open from 8 am to 2 pm ET on Thanksgiving Day.   Additional food safety information is available on the Web at http://www.fsis.usda.gov  You can also contact Angela Treadaway your Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety/Preservation/Preparation from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System  at #205-410-3696.

Happy Holidays from your County Extension staff!  We hope you have a safe and joyous season.

 

Turkey and Broccoli Quiche

Ingredients

2 (9 inch) ready-made piecrusts

4 eggs

1 cup low-fat or skim milk

¾ cup low-fat cheddar cheese

¾ cup cooked, chopped turkey

1 (10 ounce) package frozen, chopped broccoli

¼ cup carrots, shredded

¼ cup finely chopped onion

¾ cup teaspoon garlic salt

Pepper to taste

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake piecrust according to package directions.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well.
  3. Cook broccoli according to package directions. Pour off liquid.  Let broccoli cool; squeeze broccoli to remove some more water.  Make sure broccoli is well drained.
  4. Layer the turkey, vegetables and cheese into baked piecrust. Pour the egg mixture over the ingredients.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 30-40 minutes or until top is brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

Makes 12 servings | calories 270 | total fat 16 g | saturated fat 6 g | protein 16 g | carbohydrates 17 g | fiber 2 g | sodium 450 mg

 

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

 

Catfish Recipes – More Than One Way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When people think of catfish they automatically think of fried catfish. Delicious, fried catfish can become tiring after eating it over and over again. These catfish recipes put a new spin on catfish and give you a variety of options to choose from.

Catfish Gumbo

Ingredients

1 pound skinned catfish fillets, fresh or frozen

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

½ cup chopped green pepper

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 beef bouillon cubes

2 cups boiling water

1 1 pound can tomato

1 10 ounce package frozen okra, sliced

2 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper ¼ teaspoon thyme

1 whole bay leaf

Hot red pepper sauce, to taste

1 ½ cups hot cooked rice

Directions

Thaw fillets if frozen. Cut into 1 inch pieces. Cook celery, green pepper, onion and garlic in oil until tender. Dissolve bouillon cubes in water. Add bouillon, tomatoes, okra and seasonings. Cover and simmer 15 minutes longer or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Remove bay leaf. Place ¼ cup cooked rice in each of six soup bowls. Fill with gumbo. Serves 6.

Lemon Pepper Catfish  

Ingredients

1 ½ pound catfish fillets

2 tablespoons melted margarine or butter

1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning

Salt, to taste

Directions

Clean, wash and dry fish. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place fish in a single layer in an oiled baking dish. Drizzle butter over the fillets and sprinkle with lemon pepper. Bake 16 to 18 minutes. Fillets are done when a fork slices through the thickest part of the fillet with little resistance and the fish flakes easily

Comment: Lemon Pepper Catfish cooks well in a microwave oven. Use a microwave-safe dish. Very thin ends of fillets can be turned under to lessen the chance of overcooking. Cover with waxed paper and cook on high for 5 to 7 minutes per pound. Rotate the dish a quarter turn during cooking.

Grilled Catfish

Ingredients

6 or 8 whole catfish (about ½ pound each, dressed)

1.4 cup oil or melted margarine

Barbecue sauce for the Catfish

½ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup ketchup

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon garlic salt

½ teaspoon dry mustard

Directions

Rinse catfish in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place on oiled grill rack four inches above hot coals. Cook 6 to 8 minutes on each side, basting regularly with oil. Larger fish will require longer time. Fish flakes easily when done. Season with salt, pepper and lemon or use the following barbecue sauce. Serve immediately.

Variation: For barbecued catfish, combine ingredients for barbecue sauce and pour over catfish in a shallow glass dish. Cover and marinate in refrigerator and cook as above, basting frequently with marinade sauce. Serve with additional sauce, if desired.

 

Featured Image: msaandy033/shutterstock.com

 

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

Cooking with Pumpkin

 

Right now the pumpkins and winter squash are ripe and ready. Pumpkin and winter squash are a rich source of Vitamin A as well as fiber. Other nutrients you get from pumpkin include potassium, folic acid, copper, iron, and riboflavin. One cup of cooked solidly packed pumpkin/squash has only about 80 calories!

While it is much easier to use canned pumpkin, you can use fresh pumpkin and squash that you have cooked and pureed for your favorite recipes. There are several varieties of winter squash available including butternut, Hubbard, turban, buttercup, acorn, banana, mammoth, sweet dumpling, and the pumpkin.

 

 

 

 

Follow these tips for easy and safe pumpkin cooking:

  • Choose pumpkin or squash that has a bright colored skin, is firm and heavy for its size, with no damaged areas. Smaller pumpkins/squash may produce better products.
  • To use, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Place it cut side down in a baking dish and bake in a moderate (350 degree) oven until the pulp is soft. Let it cool slightly and then scoop the flesh out of the shell. You can puree it in a blender or food processor to make a smoother product and it is ready for pies, pumpkin bread, cookies or other product made with pumpkin puree.
  • To freeze pumpkin, first rinse the outer rind with cold water. Then cut into cooking-size sections and remove seeds. Cook until soft in boiling water, in steam, in a pressure cooker or in an oven. Remove pulp from rind and mash. To cool, place pan containing pumpkin in cold water and stir occasionally. Package, leaving ½-inch headspace. Seal, label container and freeze. Freeze in quantities that can be used at one time, for example, enough for one or two pumpkin pies.
  • Thaw pumpkin and squash in the refrigerator – not on the counter- before using.
  • To can pumpkin, you must can the pumpkin in chunks. Wash the pumpkin and remove seeds. Cut into 1-inch slices and peel then cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes. Add the cubes to a saucepot of boiling water and boil for 2 minutes, do not mash or puree. Pack the hot cubes into hot jars leaving 1-inch of headspace. Fill the jar to within 1-inch of the top with boiling hot cooling liquid. Remove air bubbles, wipe the jar rims, adjust the lids and process in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure – 55 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.
  • When you are ready to use the pumpkin, drain off most of the liquid and mash or puree and use as you would commercially canned pumpkin.
  • Check stored pumpkins occasionally and discard any that become soft or moldy

Orange Date Pumpkin Muffins

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 cup al-purpose flour

2 tsp backing powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 large seedless orange, scrubbed and cut into 8 sections(peel left on)

1 large egg

1 large egg white

2/3 cup fresh unseasoned pumpkin puree

½ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup honey

3 Tbsp canola oil

¾ cup pitted dates, chopped

3 Tbsp chopped walnuts or pecans

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat 12 standard muffin cups with cooking spray.

Whisk flours, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon in a large bowl.  Puree orange sections in a food processor or blender.  Add egg, egg white, pumpkin, sugar, honey and oil and process until mixed good.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients: add the wet ingredients and dates.  Stir with a rubber spatula until just combined.  Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with nuts.  Bake the muffins until the tops spring back when touched lightly approx. 18-20 minutes.  Let cool in pan for 5 min and empty out onto wire rack to cool before serving.

 

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

 

Community Gardens Workshop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting and Sustaining a Garden in Your Community

How Does Your Garden Grow?

This workshop is intended for groups in the initial steps of development as well as seasoned gardeners who would like practical “best practices” for achieving optimum gardening results.  The speakers will address a wide range of issues  from legal considerations in obtaining and using garden property to planning and maintaining a garden over time.

When:  Thursday, October 25th, 2018 9:00 AM-3:00 PM

Where:  2612 Lane Park Road Birmingham, AL.

More Information: 

The day-long workshop will cost $20 per person or $15 per person for two or more individuals from the same organization.  Seating is limited, so please register ASAP.

To register online: https://www.smore.com/cersj-community-gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9:00-9:15 Welcome

9:15-10:00 Land Ownership, Funding and Liability

10:00- 10:45 Garden Oversight: Leadership and Succession

10:45-11:00 Break

11:00-11:45 Siting the Garden & Choosing Crops

11:45-12:45 Lunch and Lessons Learned (panel discussion)

12:45-1:00 Break

1:00-1:45 Resources & Stakeholders

1:45-2:30 Trouble-Shooting

2:30-3:00 Questions & Feedback

 

More Information please contact:

Sallie Lee, leesall@aces.edu 205-879-6964 x 11

Bethany O’Rear, bethany@aces.edu 205-612-9524

 

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

 

 

A New Twist on Apple Recipes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apples are considered one of the most popular ingredients to cook with during Fall. While the traditional ways to cook apples are delicious, this season you might want to try mixing things up a little bit. These recipes are sure to bring a new twist to this fall favorite ingredient.

Apple Walnut Cake

Ingredients

Nonstick vegetable cooking spray

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 ¾ cups sugar

3 egg whites

¾ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon butter flavoring

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground allspice

3 cups chopped, peeled apples

¾ cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Cut wax paper to fit bottom of a 10 inch tube pan, allowing ½ inch to extend up side of pan and center tube. Coat bottom of pan with cooking spray. Fit paper in bottom and coat bottom, tube and side with spray. Dust lightly with 2 tablespoons flour. Put oil in a small mixing bowl. Gradually add sugar, beating thoroughly after each addition. Continue beating until mixture looks creamy. Add egg whites, on at a time beat thoroughly after each addition. Continue beating until creamy Do not overbeat. Put egg mixture into a large bowl, being careful to remove it all.

Add applesauce, vanilla and butter flavoring; stir until evenly blended. In another bowl, combine 3 cups flour, soda, baking powder, salt and allspice; stir until evenly blended. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, adding about one-third of the flour at a time. Blend well after each addition. Add apples and walnuts. Stir until evenly blended. Pour into pan; spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 60 minutes or until done. Cool pan on rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan; finish cooling on rack. To serve cut into wedges about 1 inch thick.

 

Apple Punch

Ingredients

1 6 ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate

1 6 ounce can frozen unsweetened orange juice concentrate

2 quarts unsweetened apple juice

2 quarts ginger ale, chilled

Directions

Thaw lemonade and orange juice concentrates. Combine and add apple juice; mix well. Chill thoroughly. When ready to serve, combine juice mixture with ginger ale. Serve over ice.

 

Scalloped Apples

Ingredients

2 cups dry bread crumbs

¼ cup melted corn-oil margarine

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

3 tablespoons lemon juice

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Butter-flavor cooking spray

4 cups sliced unpeeled apples

½ cup hot water

Directions

Combine the bread crumbs, margarine, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, lemon rind and juice and mix until well blended. Put ½ cup of mixture aside for topping. Coat a 1 ½ quart baking dish with cooking spray. Sprinkle enough of the crumb mixture in the dish to cover the bottom. Add a layer of apples. Sprinkle crumbs over apples. Continue until all of the crumbs and apples are used. Add water. Cover top with ½ cup of crumb topping. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes. Serve warm. You can add sugar and cream if desired.

These recipes and more can be found in The Auburn Cookbook, a publication of Alabama Extension.

 

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

 

A Safe Tailgate Is A Happy Tailgate

Group of fans having tailgating cook out at football stadium

It is September in the South, and everyone has one thing on his or her mind: football. People from all over come together to spend time together and cheer on their favorite team.

For some of these people, the pre-game festivities are just as big as the football game itself.

Tailgating is an activity that has grown so much in recent years. At Auburn University, the green space outside Jordan-Hare turns into a sea of white tents; full of friends and families, games, grills, and even televisions for those not attending the game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

With all the fun wrapped up in a tailgate, it is important for tailgaters to keep safety in mind.

Here are three points consider while tailgating:

  1. How to properly prepare and cook food at a tailgate.

Tailgaters should thaw foods the night before at home in the refrigerator, then store in a cooler at all times until the meat is ready to be cooked. Leaving foods outside at room temperature to thaw allows bacteria to start growing on the outside edges, since they thaw first.

While grilling, it is important to pay attention to the temperatures meats need to reach when they are finished cooking in order to avoid foodborne illnesses.

“Salmonella and E-Coli are the most common foodborne illnesses because of either cross contamination of uncooked meats or not cooked to the proper temperature,” said Angela Treadaway, Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

  1. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

There is a “temperature danger zone” from 41-135 degrees. Cold foods need to be kept at 41 degrees or below, and hot foods need to be kept at 135 degrees or above.

“Bacteria grow the most rapidly when food that is supposed to be kept cool is left out at temperatures between 70-125 degrees,” said Treadaway.

Temperatures normally reach above 70 degrees on a typical Saturday afternoon in the fall in the South, especially at the beginning of football season.

This applies to some of your traditional tailgate foods like sandwich meat, hamburger meat, coleslaw, potato salad, etc. Foodborne illnesses can occur when these foods have been left out and reach a temperature above 70 degrees, or meat you cook for lunch has been left out for over four hours and then eaten for dinner.

  1. The proper way to clean up and store leftovers.

In order to keep a clean, safe tailgate, keep moist Clorox wipes, handy wipes, and hand sanitizer available and use them often, according to Treadaway.

While cleaning up, do not reuse containers that held raw meat, and use separate coolers for foods and drinks. Also, never mix cooked foods with raw foods unless they are airtight containers and cannot leak.

When done safely and correctly, tailgating can be one of the most fun parts of a football Saturday, but a careless mistake can cause an exciting afternoon to take a turn for the worst.

Keeping these points in mind while preparing for the first tailgate of the season will lead to a successful and positive tailgate experience.

 

Angela Treadaway

Regional Extension Agent

Food Safety and 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!

 

 

 

 

 

USDA Releases Farmer Trade Assistance Package Information

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent changes in U.S. trade policies have sparked the need for farmer financial aid in the United States. The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released details about a financial aid package to help farmers Aug. 27. The farmer trade assistance package’s goal is to help farmers as they navigate uncharted territory in dealing with tariffs related to trade wars with Canada, China and Mexico.

Alabama Cooperative Extension System economist Max Runge said the hardest hit agricultural commodities—soybeans, cotton, pork, dairy, sorghum, wheat and corn—will share part of approximately $4.7 billion in the Market Facilitation Program (MFP).

“This is only one part of the three-part $12 billion trade assistance announced in July,” Runge said. “The payment rate for each commodity differs depending on how severely the commodity is affected by trade sanctions. USDA will determine payments based on a percentage of 2018 production.”

Trade Assistance Payments and Purchases

The first payment period begins on Sept. 4, 2018. If necessary, the USDA will determine a second payment period. The USDA’s Farm Service Agency will distribute these finances. Producers can apply after their 2018 harvest is 100 percent complete. Restrictions apply, however, producers can find more information by visiting https://www.farmers.gov/manage/trm.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service will also oversee a food purchase and distribution program, which will purchase up to $1.2 billion in commodities for distribution via the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services and child nutrition programs.

“The third part of the assistance to U.S. farmers is through the Foreign Agricultural Service’s Agricultural Trade Promotion Program,” Runge said. “This will help develop additional foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products.”

The $200 million available through this program will help exporters of U.S. agricultural products access new markets.

New NAFTA Agreement

A new North American Free Trade Agreement—now called the U.S. Mexico Free Trade Agreement—was also announced by the White House Aug. 27. Details are currently limited, but the agreement is expected to be signed before the end of the year.

Good News for Farmers

Runge said the new agreement and trade assistance package are encouraging.

“This news is good news for U.S. and Alabama farmers,” he said. “The payments from the MFP are not only timely, but needed due to low commodity prices and reduced farm income that our farmers are facing.

More Information

Find more information in the USDA’s Aug. 27 release. More information is also available by contacting your local Farm and Agribusiness Management team member. Find the state directory here.

Healthy Whole Grains Cooking Tips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Whole Grains Cooking Tips

You know you should be eating more whole grains instead of refined ones. Whole grains have more fiber, more health-promoting nutrients, and can even help control your weight (by keeping you feeling full longer). But making the switch isn’t always easy. You have to get used to buying and eating new foods. And many people think they don’t know how to cook whole grains.

The truth is that there are some simple ways to add whole grains to your diet, and that most whole grains are simple to cook — you can even prepare them in a slow cooker. Here are tips for working more whole grains into your diet, and cooking them — and some simple whole-grain recipes.

3 Simple Ways to Eat More Whole Grains

Here are three quick and easy ways to get more whole grains and give the fiber and nutrients in your daily diet a big boost:

  1. Use whole-wheat flour in recipes that call for white flour. This is one of the easiest ways to boost your intake of whole grains. It usually works well to substitute whole-wheat flour for half the white flour your recipe calls for (In other words, if the recipe calls for 2 cups of white flour, you’d use 1 cup of whole-wheat flour and 1 cup of unbleached white flour.) Often, you can use 2/3 whole wheat flour and 1/3 unbleached white flour in the recipe and it will still turn out wonderfully.
  2. Use brown rice in place of white rice. You can turn all your favorite rice dishes (from salads and stuffing to stews and casseroles) into servings of whole grains. Choose long-grain brown rice when you want light, dry grains that separate easily. Choose short-grain brown rice when you want starchier rice where the grains stick together when cooked. Quick-cooking brown rice (available in many supermarkets) makes this substitution a snap.
  3. Add barley to your favorite dishes. Barley is a whole grain that contributes super-healthy soluble fiber. Cook barley and add to side dishes and salads, or stir uncooked barley into casseroles, soups, or stews while they’re cooking (let simmer for 60-90 minutes). You can find it in most grocery stores as pearled barley, in which some of the hull, bran, and germ have been removed.

 

How to Cook Whole Grains

Are you new to cooking whole grains? Here are some quick cooking tips you can follow.

  • Brown Rice. One cup of uncooked brown rice makes about 3 cups of cooked brown rice. Follow the directions below if you are using the stovetop, microwave, or rice cooker. For the stove top: Combine 1 cup dry rice, 2-1/4 cups liquid, 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional), and 2 teaspoons canola or olive oil (optional) in 2- to 3-quart saucepan. Bring to boiling, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the saucepan and cook for about 45 minutes (rice should be tender and water is absorbed). For the microwave: Combine 1 cup rice, 2 1/4 cups liquid, 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional), and 2 teaspoons canola or olive oil (optional) in a 2- to 3-quart microwave-safe dish. Cover dish and cook on HIGH for 5 minutes or until boiling. Reduce setting to MEDIUM (50% power) and cook 30 minutes more or until rice is tender and water is absorbed. For the rice cooker: Most rice cooker manufacturers recommend specific amounts of rice and water. Generally, though, use about 2 cups of water for each cup of dry rice.
  • Use about 3 cups broth or water to 1 cup of dry barley (pearled or hull-less). Cooking times may be a little longer using the hull-less barley and a little shorter if using barley grits. Stove top: Bring the barley-water mixture a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook until tender (about 60 minutes).Oven: If you’re baking your barley in a very liquid casserole mixture, it will take about 75 minutes to cook. (Because barley is best cooked slowly, it doesn’t lend itself to cooking in the microwave.) If barley and brown rice don’t appeal to you, not to worry; there are plenty of whole grains to go around. Not all are suitable for microwave cooking; sometimes it’s not that convenient because you have to be in the kitchen to change the power setting throughout the cooking process, and you also need to stir midway. That said, here’s how to cook some other whole grains:
  • Wild rice: Wild rice adds a nutty flavor and chewy texture to any dish. To make it, use 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of wild rice. Use a saucepan with a tight-fitting cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring at least once. Cover the saucepan; turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook about 50 minutes or until the rice kernels puff open. For the microwave: Combine 1 cup of well-rinsed wild rice with 3 cups of water or broth in a covered 2-quart glass casserole. Cover dish and microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes. Microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) for 30 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes; drain any excess water before using.
  • Bulgur (from hard red wheat): Use 2 cups of water or broth for every 1 cup of dry bulgur. Bring to boil in a medium saucepan, then lower heat to simmer. Cover saucepan; cook about 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. For the microwave: Combine 1 cup bulgur with 1 3/4 cups hot water in a microwave-safe dish. Stir and cover; cook on HIGH for 2 minutes, 15 seconds. Stir again, cover the dish and let stand for 7 minutes.
  • Quinoa: It’s important to rinse quinoa well before cooking to remove a bitter-tasting resin on the outer hull. To cook, combine 1 cup of well-rinsed quinoa with 2 cups water in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer about 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.
  • Amaranth grain: Combine amaranth grain and water in a nonstick saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring mixture to a boil; cover pan and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until grains absorb the water and bind together (about 25 minutes).
  • Whole Grains in a Crockpot
    Most of these whole grains will cook in liquids added to a slow cooker if it’s on for about 8 hours. Just add half a cup or more to your slow-cooker stews and soups. If you’re making a casserole-type dish in the slow cooker, make sure there’s enough liquid for the grain to absorb. You can also cook just the grains in the slow cooker overnight or throughout the day on the LOW setting. If doing in the crockpot overnight be sure to use 4 cups water per cup of whole kernel grains.

 

Whole Grain Recipe

Cream of Chicken & Mushroom Casserole

Ingredients:

2/3 cup pearled barley, dry (or use barley groats, increasing the cooking time to about 90 minutes total)

1/2 cup basmati white rice (or long grain rice)

1 package dry onion soup mix (like Lipton’s)

4 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless (about 1.6 pounds), each cut into 2 strips

1 can cream of mushroom soup, condensed (Healthy Request)

3/4 cup fat-free sour cream (or light sour cream)

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups mushroom slices, raw

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted in nonstick pan until golden brown

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon parsley flakes)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine barley, rice, and onion soup mix in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Place chicken breast strips evenly on top of the mixture.
  2. In medium bowl, combine condensed cream of mushroom soup, fat-free sour cream, chicken broth, and sliced mushrooms. Spread on top of the chicken and barley mixture. Cover pan with foil and bake for 1 hour.
  3. Remove foil, sprinkle almonds and parsley over the top and bake 15 minutes more. Serve hot.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Nutrition Information per serving: 343 calories, 26 g protein, 42 g carbohydrate, 7.8 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 52 mg cholesterol, 5 g fiber, 358 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 21%.

 

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

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!