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Strawberry Hot Flash: The End IS the Beginning

As promised, this is total immersion in Strawberry goodness and THE number one question (and actually, this is the gateway to all others) is:

What do you want to end up with?

This determines everything else. Opens the road or closes it. The first fork in the ‘decision tree’ (for the geeks out there).

Because strawberries are like – well, in their own fruity way, they are like potatoes: They can be baked, boiled, frozen, eaten fresh. All can be done to the same bucket of strawberries you pick, if you pick the right ones.

But if you ‘choose poorly’ (as the monk from that Indiana Jones movie put it), then your opportunities with the fruit become increasingly limited. (more…)

Getting the Best Out of Grass Fed Meats

Well, I lied. Or, I think I did. I think I said, or at least intimated that I’d delved into farmers markets and wouldn’t darken that door again.

Well, Aunt Toby realized that she missed out on an entire section of stuff that gets sold at farmers markets (and increasingly gets sold, I might add), which is meat.

Honest to gosh, shrink wrapped (though usually not on a slab of Styrofoam, in my experience), frozen, labeled with weights on ‘em, meat. And many times, they are labeled with words such as ‘free range’, ‘pasture raised’, ‘grass fed’ and so on. This is to differentiate them from what’s in your butcher or supermarché, which generally is ‘conventionally raised meat’ which means “grain raised”.

And when you see ‘grain raised’, the little voice of reason in your head should be saying, “and that means, ‘corn fed’.” (more…)

The Exploding Pressure Canner and Other Kitchen Myths

Well, I certainly opened up the floodgates for folks with the ‘my grandmother told me about the time she just left the kitchen ‘for a moment’ and her pressure canner exploded and cousin CindyLou got burned and the windows blew out and she never used a pressure canner ever again’ stories.

The business end of these tales usually involve the fact that it’s someone’s grandmother – who was canning in 1925, using the dial canner technology of the time…was not watching the damn canner (and did not ‘leave for a moment’ – but actually went outside to yell at one of the other kids – and had to chase the dog out of the garden and then decided to pick some corn for supper and so on)…and Cousin CindyLou got burned – because she opened the top or took the weight off the vent tube before things were cold inside. As for the windows blowing out – well, Aunt Toby suspects that there is a little bit of dramatic license being taken there to justify the fact that they never used the pressure canner again.

I think there is also this tremendous number of people out there who would like to can but who are terrified that they will blow up the house. Folks – it ain’t 1925. (more…)

Introduction to Canning

So, you want to get started with canning. When the DH and I were first married, we lived in a house that did not have a freezer and the freezer in the fridge was teeny. How could we put food by? We got a book, bought some equipment and got into the ‘pick yer own/ can yer own’ thing. Someplace in the house is a photograph of our kitchen table, so overburdened with jars of canned stuff that it was bowed down in the middle. We didn’t have a lot of cupboard space, either so we used to store all the boxes of the canned goods under the bed. There is truly no feeling so secure as lying in bed while there is a blizzard going on outside and you know that you have at least enough food to probably last you until spring.

So, what can you put into a jar and process vs. what doesn’t work really well processed in a jar? (more…)

Be Prepared! Introduction to Anxiety Reduction, Part One

This is the time of the year when all sorts of wonderful things pop up: plants in the garden, farmers markets, bugs. This is also the time of the year when some not so wonderful things pop up: thunderstorms, major weather systems with wind, hail, tornadoes and hurricanes. And when your area gets hit with one of these (and we can almost always bet money on that one, no matter where you live), there is a chance, even if remote, that your living unit is going to either suffer damage or lose power or both.

Aunt Toby, the DH and all the little Chez Siberians(who are not longer so little, nor are they in residence), have experienced this. Thunderstorms that knocked power out for hours. Ice storms in the winter that have snapped trees in half on top of power lines and left us without power to run the blower on the furnace for days at a time. Gentlemen at the control of backhoes who..well, we won’t talk about the whole ‘call before you dig’ from people who won’t.

The results are the same. No power. (more…)

Is cheap, confinement raised meat lighting the fuse on the next flu pandemic?

Lest we start to play ‘Healthy Days are Here Again”, Aunt Toby would like to remind readers that the so-called Swine Flu (H1N1) is still with us.
“Just as many New Yorkers were beginning to forget the threat of swine flu, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said at a hastily called news conference Thursday evening that swine flu had been confirmed in the sick man, whom colleagues identified as Mitchell Wiener, the assistant principal of Intermediate School 238 in Hollis. He was being treated at Flushing Hospital Medical Center, where he was on a ventilator.” Latest on Swine Flu in NYC Schools

Update: Mr. Weiner, the gentleman mentioned above, succumbed to H1N1 and died Sunday evening.first swine flu death in New York City

For current updates on H1N1, see US CDC: Swine Flu Update

What Aunt Toby wants to talk about is this: Where the hell did this thing come from? (more…)

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