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FareShare Educational Segment
To the best of our knowledge, information
contained in our "FareShare
Educational Segment" at
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Other FareShare Facts and Information about Cooking and Food:
So, you think you know how to boil water?
Well, when it comes to cooking it may be more complicated than you thought.
Recently a TV cook explained that it doesn't matter how high you turn up the heat under a pot of water it will never get hotter than the boiling point therefore, it makes no sense to cook vegetables with the heat turned to maximum so the water bubbles furiously. Your food will cook just as fast at a simmer so once your veggies are heated to the point where the water continues to boil you may as well conserve your fuel and lower the heat to the point where the water is just boiling.
It is easy to see when water reaches the boiling point but just how hot IS that? This is where we delve into the realm of basic physics (now don't you wish you had paid more attention in school). At sea level the boiling point is 212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius/Centigrade. Air pressure is an important factor and at 1000 feet (305 meters) ABOVE sea level the boiling point lowers to 210F (99C) so boiling water is cooler by 2F (1C) for every 1000 feet (305 meters) in altitude above sea level. This is why it takes longer to boil an egg when you're camping in the mountains than it does when you are camping on the beach at the ocean. Of course the reverse happens if you are camping in Death Valley which is below sea level which brings us to another interesting point - using a pressure cooker. A pressure cooker traps the steam that rises from the boiling water, thereby increasing the pressure on the water which raises the boiling point. A maximum temperature of 250F (120C) can be obtained in this manner. You can get the same result by doing your cooking in an open pot about 19,000 feet or 5,800 meters BELOW sea level (not tried by me <G>).
OK, let's add another piece to the puzzle. If you add a water-soluble substance, such as salt or sugar, to the water you will raise the boiling point and lower the freezing point, not of the water itself but of the solution. Now isn't this fun! However, don't despair, in the amounts we use in normal cooking the effect is minor enough not to be particularly important. One ounce of salt in a quart of water (about the same as sea water) will only raise the boiling point one degree Fahrenheit so I don't think we need to stay up nights worrying about it but I felt it was worth mentioning. Speaking of the salinity of sea water, you might want to keep in mind that because of the salt it is a really, really bad idea to fall off a cruise ship in the vicinity of either the north or south poles because the water can be several degrees BELOW freezing and still be in liquid form (just a little travel tip <G>). Many people insist that you shouldn't add salt to water before you heat it as it will take longer to reach the boil, however, while this is true and may be important in a laboratory because it does raise the boiling point, the amount of salt you are likely to add to cooking water is so small that any difference in the time it takes a pot of water to reach the boil is insignificant; therefore you can add the salt as soon as you put the water into the pot without worrying about being "salt correct". On the other hand, when you are making candy you DO add a lot of sugar to the water and this solution can become very much hotter than the temperature of boiling water alone which is why people have experienced some very nasty burns. A sugar syrup that is 20 percent sugar by weight boils at about 212F (100C) while a sugar syrup that is 90 percent sugar by weight boils at 250F (125C) at sea level; as you cook the solution it becomes more concentrated so the temperature goes up.
Some foods cook better below the boiling point. Some fish and meats are best cooked at temperatures about 140F (60C) in order to obtain the best texture. If they are cooked at higher temperatures the outside cooks first to the point of overcooking sufficiently to become tough before the inside is cooked. Food will need to be cooked longer at the lower temperature, however. A good temperature in order to cook things gently as well as efficiently, is 180F or 80C (use a thermometer for accuracy), which is a compromise between boiling and cooking at the lower temperature mentioned above.
We haven't discussed the different effects of water hardness (or softness) which are very important factors to every cook but I think we should leave that for another time as I can see your eyes are beginning to glaze over.
FareShare Educational/Household Hints - Microwaving Water Warning.
Simply Sourdough by Joan Ross
Cooking at High Altitudes
I live at 9200 ft. We like to say it's
9200 ft ASL (above stress level). My experience is that for
"thicker" items, like biscuits, even muffins, I just use a heavier
flour (Bread flour for AP or a mix of AP and whole wheat).
Cookies continue to defy me. If the recipe was developed for about
5000 ft (Denver) I reduce the sugar by 1/4 cup for each 1 cup in the
recipe; if they're my old recipes, I'm still experimenting. I have
relied on recipes from neighbors and friends.
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Fruit and Vegetable Sprays
It seems all the fresh fruit and veggies we all eat are possibly contaminated with something like waxes, pesticides, bacteria etc. Some green grocer explained to me that the wax covers the pesticides so not only we have to remove wax and then pesticides. Reading I found out strawberries as well as grapes have a huge content of pesticides as well as broccoli and some other similar vegetables. I make my own veggie/fruit wash by mixing water in a spray bottle and adding some vinegar and a bit of dish-washing soap. I place the veggies in a bowl of water and then liberally spray the water, let veggies soak a few minutes and rinse off with running water. Berries have to be sprayed and rinsed (not soaked) otherwise they get mushy. Here are a few formulas and suggestions: Fill a sprayer with 1/2 part vinegar and 1/2 part water. Use to spray then rinse off with running water; Or fill a sprayer bottle with: 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar, 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1 cup water; Or fill a sprayer bottle with some vinegar, water and a dash of liquid dishwashing soap, shake well. Then always wash your hands as well as any food preparation surfaces to avoid contamination. Use the Net to find other such recipes for fruit and vegetable sprays. Contributed to the FareShare Gazette by Joan; 7 June 2008.
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General Rules for Cooking Vegetables
Although there is really no new information here I feel that sometimes, with all the fancy dishes we see on television and in magazines, the basic good cooking procedures that can turn a good dish into a great dish tend to get overlooked.
I have never been particular about salted vs. unsalted butter when I cook.
Although, I must admit I don't bake much so maybe that is why I have been ambivalent about it. However, in a recent response to a note from a reader, Cook's Illustrated Magazine explained the difference:
"We advise against cooking with salted butter for three reasons:
"First, the amount of salt in salted butter varies from brand to brand -- it can range from 1.25 percent to 1.75 percent of the total weight, making it impossible to offer conversion amounts that will work with all brands.
"Second, because salt masks some of the flavor nuances found in butter, salted butter tastes different from unsalted butter.
"Finally, salted butter almost always contains more water than unsalted butter. The water in butter ranges from 10 to 18 percent. In baking, butter with a low water content is preferred, since excess water can interfere with the development of gluten. In fact, when we used the same brand of both salted and unsalted butter to make brownies and drop biscuits, tasters noticed that samples made with salted butter were a little mushy and pasty; they preferred the texture of the baked goods made with unsalted butter."
Upon further research, I found that since salt is a preservative, salted butter can last two to three months longer in the refrigerator than unsalted butter. A good thing, right? Not necessarily so. This actually means that salted butter is often much less fresh than unsalted, and sometimes has been made from cream that is less fresh as well.
Never one to leave things alone, I decided to look around some more.
Then I found this on another website: "Sweet (unsalted) butter and regular salted butter both contain the same amount of butter fat, so unsalted butter has a bit more water, about 1/2 teaspoon per pound, to keep the fat content the same. In general, that amount of water will not make a significant difference."
WHAT? That's not what I found other places on the net! I also found the following nutritional tables:
Bottom line, you are better off with unsalted butter. To keep it fresh longer, you can always store it in the freezer. You will want to replace your butter if it sits in your refrigerator for a long time. Unsalted butter stays fresh for 2-3 months, while the shelf life for salted is about 5 months. You can wrap your butter in plastic and foil and store it in the freezer, as well, which will keep it fresh much longer, up to 6 months.
But which one really contains more water?
I remain yours.... and puzzled!
Hallie's comments on the "Mellow Yellow":
Of course it isn't really yellow until some food colouring, usually annatto, is added but then you all knew that, right, although the milk produced by cows that graze on fresh pasture has more natural colour than that of cows that don't. Interestingly the butter from these 'free range' cows is also usually softer than that from cows whose feed consists mainly of grain and hay which is why the butter from some dairies is often softer in the summer than in the winter because the fresh pasturage is rich in polyunsaturated fats.
I remember somebody on a television cooking show when commenting about butter said that the main reason they liked to use unsalted butter was so they could control the amount of salt they used in what they were making.
To me that seemed like a pretty good reason but after reading Art's dissertation I decided I would also delve into some of my own reference books to see what else I could find on the subject.
In my copy of 'On Food and Cooking, the science and lore of the kitchen' by Harold McGee, I found a few interesting items about butter that I thought were worth mentioning.
McGee bemoans the fact that so few of us tend to take the time to occasionally make our own butter which is a relatively easy task. Cooks often resorted to making butter when milk or cream started to sour, which in effect produced what is known as cultured butter. However, rather than wait for that to happen we can easily whip some of the cream we have bought for use as a whipped topping for a dessert to the point where it is 'over-whipped' and the fat separates from the liquid. After you strain the liquid off you are left with a lovely product to use to make the flakiest of pastries. Go nuts and try it some time just to see what real basic butter is actually like. If you want to use it as a spread on a fresh bun or croissant you may want to add a little salt but you should try it without first. You might also want to remember this tip if you do sometime accidentally over-whip some cream on a warm day in the kitchen - instead of a disaster you have created something wonderful.
Scientifically speaking (sort of) to make butter you have to get the cream all upset and disturbed to the point where its fat molecules get damaged and all their fat leaks out and globs together. Sounds gross when put like that but what a lucky 'break' for all butter lovers. <G>
There are many kinds of butter, some fairly readily available commercially and some not.
Raw cream butter is rarely available anywhere these days since it is made from unpasteurized cream and for good reasons pertaining to our health this is not easy to find anymore. If you do have a source of it be sure you know personally about the health of the cows and cleanliness of the milking operation. Butter made from raw cream is extremely fragile and won't keep for more than a few days unless it is carefully wrapped and frozen.
Sweet cream butter is readily available in most parts of Europe and North America. It is made from pasteurized fresh cream. U.S. laws state that, as Art's tables show, it must contain at least 80% fat and no more than 16% water.
Salted sweet cream butter contains between 1% and 2% added salt which is the equivalent of 1 to 2 teaspoons per pound or 5 to 10 grams per 500 grams.
Cultured cream butter, which is the most common in Europe, used to be made by fermenting pasteurized cream with a special cream-culture bacteria for 12 to 18 hours before churning it into butter. These days it is more often made commercially by churning the cream into butter before the culture and lactic acid is added. Sometimes lactic acid and flavouring compounds are simply added to sweet cream butter but this is considered to be an artificially flavoured butter and not a cultured butter. In France the minimum fat content of butter is 82%.
European-style butter is an American product. It is a cultured butter with a fat content that is higher than the 80% required for regular sweet cream butter; sometimes the fat content is as high as 85%. As a result these butters can contain much less water, as much as 20% less in some cases, which can result in very flaky pastries.
Whipped butter is regular butter that has been injected with about 1/3 of its volume of nitrogen gas to make it more spreadable because this weakens the structure of the butter. Air can't be used for this because it would cause oxidization and the butter would go rancid.
There are also specialty butters that are made for professional pastry chefs and bakers which are almost pure butterfat.
By the way, don't wrap your butter so that the foil is touching any part of it or it will oxidize, discolour and start to go rancid; make sure to have either parchment or plastic wrap of some sort between the butter and the foil.
As for the water content, Art, those figures do look confusing and to muddy the waters a little more (sorry, couldn't help myself) I notice the difference in the ash contents of the two types seems to be equal to the difference in the water content.
And after all this, guess what - between us, Art and I have only scratched the surface of the world of butter. <G>
Contributed to the FareShare Gazette informational and educational segment by Art and Hallie; 27 March 2009.
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Eggplant Information and Recipe
Contributed to the FareShare Gazette informational and educational segment by Art; April 18, 2009.
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Here is a tip
from America's Test Kitchen (Cook's):
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Lima Bean Information
Here are a couple of interesting tidbits of information about lima beans which I thought I would share with you (in case you're interested and besides, as you all know, I never could keep my mouth shut at times like this <G> ).
Contributed to the FareShare Gazette informational and educational segment by Hallie; 27 August 2009.
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