Five New Ways To Aged Balsamic Vinegar

The culinary world is one fraught with pitfalls due in part to the ever-changing palate of the public. Moreover, it is the same public that also tends to be swayed by a pendulum of sorts when it comes to food trends, and right now, one of the most interesting trends is the rise of aged balsamic vinegar.

In passing, it is featured in quick cooking segments on television, and on occasion, it earns a little press because it is different than some traditional food flavorings. However, if you talk to true aficionados of aged balsamic vinegar, one begins to understand how many of our popular opinions about this product are simply misconceptions.

Aged balsamic vinegar is not acrid or bitter (the word ‘vinegar’ makes most people salivate immediately to help cleanse their palate). It is sweet & sumptuous, and it elevates foods to new levels of deliciousness. The process of making aged balsamic vinegar is labor-intensive & requires great attention to everything from choosing the right ingredients to how it is aged. In many respects, it’s best to think of it being very similar to the production and aging of a fine wine. But where wine can be paired with a meal to make it complete, good aged balsamic vinegar can transform a meal.

For those who are just now stepping into this exotic world of flavor, you may be wondering how best to use this elixir. Rather than scour the internet looking for just the right application, here are five new, unique ways to use this beautiful product:

Reductions – Chefs know that when you want to ‘amp’ up the flavor of a liquid, you can reduce it over heat so that it concentrates all of the flavor notes. This reduction all creates an even greater syrupy consistency.

Marinades – Adding a touch of aged balsamic can make a traditional marinade for any meat or fish have depth & complexity.

Palate Enhancement – Because of its high quality & specific flavor notes, even an aperitif/digestif approach is quite doable.

Soda Alternative – Combining a shot of aged balsamic with some soda water makes for a very unique alternative to soda or pop.

Desserts – Since you’re buying a top-quality product already, pair your aged balsamic with some top-tier vanilla ice cream. It’s a simple dessert that will pack a massive punch in flavor for you & your guests.

Now, it must be noted that foodies the world over will tell you that using true aged balsamic vinegar in any format where the flavor is either being cooked down, out, or amplified is akin to blasphemy. In their minds, there was no reason to improve on the flavor because the process, with a history dating back at least 1,000 years, has been perfected to impart all you need in terms of flavor. But when you’ve got such a great weapon in your culinary arsenal, why wouldn’t you want to shake things up a bit to get the most out of it?

Vinegar – The Acid We Love

Vinegar has been in use for thousands of years and traces its heritage to China, as do many other condiments and staples of the modern diet. Going back to 2000 B.C. vinegar was disdained as a beverage due to its harsh acidic taste, but was soon incorporated into a myriad of foods and other uses, taking its place on the ships of the spice traders.

But perhaps getting a jump on the Chinese were the Babylonians, as recordings start about 5000 BC, when the Babylonians were using fruits to make wine and vinegar, most likely the date palm. (Let’s face it, apples were pretty scarce in Egypt.) Residues have been found in ancient Egyptian urns as far back as 3000 B.C. and, like the Chinese, it was a popular pickling agent. Centuries later, Cleopatra used vinegar daily for her many personal beauty treatments.

The Bible frequently refers to vinegar being used for bathing and embalming, and it was offered to Jesus Christ when he was crucified on the cross. In the Islam traditions, it is thought to have been a favorite of the Prophet Mohammed. Of course the European royalty were not to be left out, using it primarily in food preparation. (They weren’t big on bathing.)

Hippocrates, the father of medicine, prescribed apple cider vinegar to be mixed with honey for a variety of health complaints, including lung congestion and coughs. He theorized that vinegar could remove infection by applying it to the wounded area,which was vital for the armies of ancient Greece.

In 218 B.C. the Carthaginian general Hannibal pressed vinegar into service when he crossed the Alps. His troops discovered that heating vinegar then pouring it over large stones would dissolve them, making passage easier for their animals.

The army of King Louis XIII of France, in the early 1600’s, used vinegar to cool off the cannons of his army in their many battles. When applied to the hot iron cannons, it not only had a cooling effect, but cleaned the surface metal, thus inhibiting rust.

Not to be outdone, many armies of the Middle Ages, when some country was always waging war, found that vinegar mixed with sand formed an abrasive material that was great for cleaning armor. (The forerunner of SOS pads?)

European alchemists in the Middle Ages poured it over lead, which created a sweet tasting substance they called “sugar of lead.” It was used into the nineteenth century to sweeten bitter ciders. As we now know, lead is highly poisonous, which resulted in the early death of many cider aficionados. They also learned the hard way not to store lead in metal containers.

In 1721, once again the Bubonic Plague reared its deadly head in many French cities. The French used imprisoned convicts to bury the dead, and the tale goes that four convicted thieves survived exposure to the infected bodies by drinking large amounts of vinegar daily, infused with garlic. Today, Four Thieve’s Vinegar is still sold in parts of France.

Not merely content to invent the pasteurization process for milk, scientist Louis Pasteur also experimented with a natural fermentation process to make vinegar, around the year 1864. It became popular for pickling vegetables and fruits, as well as a meat tenderizer. Vinegar promptly found its way into the first recipe for ketchup by the Henry J. Heinz Company and forever changed the popular condiment.

Imagine a kitchen without at least one bottle of vinegar, but more likely several varieties, including apple cider, red wine and balsamic. As many flavored vinegars continue to flourish, its popularity extends to thousands of other uses, including cleaning agents, pickling, salad dressings and a myriad of others. Regardless of who created it, Vinegar is clearly a staple of the world.

Snow Formation – One of the Greatest Challenges for IQF Processors

Snow formation inside IQF freezers is strongly linked to the process of dehydration, which occurs during freezing and is represented by water loss through the product’s membrane when it meets the cold air flow inside the IQF tunnel freezer.

During the process of dehydration, the products will also suffer a loss of weight. The humidity that is transferred from the product into the air will saturate it, and at the maximum point of air humidity (100% saturated), snow is created. This phenomenon is called precipitation and it is the same as when rain or snow is created out in the atmosphere.

The major factor responsible for the occurrence of precipitation during the IQF process is the large quantity of wet and warm product that makes contact with the cold temperatures inside the IQF freezer. After precipitation, the level of saturation decreases and even more moisture can be transferred from the product to the air, leading to more weight loss for the product transported on the bedplate inside the freezer.

Therefore, if snow formation inside IQF freezers is an indicator of product loss and dehydration, how can we minimize the level of dehydration?

First of all, the process of precipitation and thus sublimation needs to be kept under a specific level, with the help of optimal aerodynamics which ensures less disruption of the air flow and better air speed.

In order to minimize dehydration you need to avoid precipitation and thus sublimation, have better aerodynamics (less disruption of the air flow) and better air speed.

Considering that temperature variations inside an IQF freezer are a common thing, snow formation cannot be completely prevented but, thanks to its advanced design features, the IQF tunnel freezer can successfully minimize snow formation, increasing the yield of the overall production.

The IQF tunnel freezer benefits of unique fans, which can be individually adjusted in order to ensure the optimal speed for the perfect air velocity and air pressure. Thanks to the good control over the aerodynamics inside the IQF tunnel freezer, the level of air humidity remains constant and the process of precipitation is significantly prevented, ensuring a level of product dehydration between 0,1% and 1%.

The fact is that the snow building up inside your freezer is product loss, and that is because an IQF freezer is a closed system and the humidity creating the precipitation doesn’t have anywhere else to come from than from the products you are freezing.

How a Pleasant Shopping Experience Can Make Your Day

Would anyone in this world be jubilant about spending at least 2.5 hours in a grocery store? Well, I can honestly say, “I would not.” However, my shopping experience today was a very satisfying.

To begin, to put this experience into context, let me describe for you our new, enormous marketplace grocery store that recently opened in our neighborhood. This store has almost everything that one might desire. First and foremost, for me, there is a coffee shop, not to mention a wine bar, where you can stop and have a drink of wine and socialize before or after your shopping experience. Once you have tackled your grocery list, if there is just a little left over in your budget, you can treat yourself to a piece of clothing or a pair of shoes.

Now that I have set the tone of my experience, let me move on to the gist of my article, why in the world did this shopping experience last 2.5 hours. Well, to begin, I had just returned from an early morning medical appointment and I had not had my morning cup of java and anyone that knows me, can understand why that would be a problem. So, my first stop was the coffee shop. Once, I had my first sip, I was good to go. However, my stomach alerted me that the shopping experience would not be good, if my hunger was not satisfied. Just in the nick of time, while at the food deli, I was greeted by one of the store employees and I questioned her about breakfast foods. She immediately pointed me into the direction of a rack where there was one large Meat Lover’s Burrito left. Without hesitation, I grabbed the burrito, returned to the coffee area to eat it.

Now that my hunger had been satisfied, I moved on to the vegetable and fruit area. While picking out my vegetables, there was another shopper who had on nautical clothing. So, I kindly mentioned to her that her attire would be the perfect outfit for me, as I am planning to go on a cruise in a few weeks. She responded and we socialized for just a little bit. I noticed that she was removing her earrings and without hesitation, she gave them to me and went on to explain her reasoning. She thought they would go very well with my cruising experience, as the theme was, of course, nautical. I stated that I could not accept her earrings; however, she insisted because she indicated she had another pair exactly like this pair. Remembering what my mother taught me, “to always be humble and graciously, thankful for any gift that I receive.” So, I thanked her for the gift and mentioned that I would tuck them away in a safe place until my trip.

Moving on, my next area would be the gourmet cheese section and there I met another shopper where her and I discussed the various cheeses that was displayed in the counter. She, pleasantly, began to share with me her experience with cheese and she sounded like a “cheese expert” to me. I should have mentioned early in the article that my family deemed a “social butterfly” early in life and I have lived up to that reputation since then. So, our conversation continued for well over 15 minutes, of course, drifting off to several other topics. After a while, we shared what area of the community that we lived in and would you believe that she turned out to be my neighbor, whom I had met approximately four years ago. We both moved into the community around the same time. Subsequently, we shared our contact information, once again, and both of us decided that we needed to get back to shopping and agreed to stay in touch.

Finally, my grocery shopping was all done and I proceeded on to the check-out counter. In conclusion, my hope is that by sharing my experience, it will challenge others to take the time to reach out to others. Extend a friendly compliment to someone, or pay it forward; and, hopefully, the positive experience will help set a tone for the rest of your day, as well as the other individual with whom you interacted.

Pile on the Pasta

Those Chinese did it again. While we think of pasta as a culturally Italian food, it likely originates from ancient Asian noodles. No one knows for sure, but credit is often given to merchant and explorer Marco Polo as responsible for bringing pasta back to Italy during the 13th century. Noodles had been a staple in China for over 2000 years. They likely were made with rice, but once Italians embraced the noodles, they began to use plentiful wheat flour to produce their famous spaghetti.

However, historical references may indeed dispute pasta’s Asian origin, as various pasta-type foods are mentioned in earlier centuries. Enter the Greeks, who originally occupied Naples, a southern region of Italy and are thought to have introduced a pasta- like food to the Neapolitans. Since Italy’s major grain producers and processors were in the south, it’s highly likely that long, thin pasta made its way north to Rome and other cities. Long before Marco Polo, first century Roman poet Horace described thin sheets of dough called lagana and served fried as an everyday food. Several centuries later, this dough was stuffed with meat and perhaps made way for present day lasagna.

By the sixteenth century, the dried version made storage easy, and who knows, perhaps Columbus carried the food on his voyage to discover America, as did many ships who made expeditions into parts unknown. The availability of pasta and its versatility made it a hit throughout Europe, and cooks found it easy to create new dishes. Originally eaten by hand, once sauces were introduced as an accompaniment, utensils took a prominent place on dining tables.

So when did the U.S. get its first taste of pasta? While it originally adorned the tables of the wealthy, in the late 1800’s our modern version of spaghetti caught on, first in the restaurants of Italian immigrants, then across the nation as a filling and economical meal for families. While some cooks did not serve it with tomato sauce, the different forms of pasta could be added to soups or mixed with vegetables.

Believe it or not, Thomas Jefferson is said to have brought back a pasta machine from his European travels, and his daughter, who was the lady of the house, served pasta dishes with Parmesan cheese. (Imagine her horror to learn that mass-produced boxes of mac and cheese would eventually populate grocery store shelves.) Later on, other fans substituted Cheddar, and it became a crowd pleaser and favorite of the American diet. What would childhood be without mac and cheese?

In the mid-twentieth century, packaged dry pastas, canned pasta products and sauces began to adorn the shelves of supermarkets, and pasta became a staple of American life. Chef Boyardee introduced children to pasta and turned off adults to his mushy ravioli and Spaghettios.

Pasta lives on in all its glory, its unending possibilities and its delicious varieties. So while the historians continue to debate, whoever created its humble beginnings, we are thankful. Pile on the pasta, any way you like.

Underated Garium Sulphate

The Underated garium sulphate!

Over the years I have heard a lot of people condemn the intake of soaked Garri (also known as Garium Sulphate, cassava flakes) and have reduced it to a poor man’s meal. Take your time to read through this article, you will understand the nutritional benefits of taking soaked Garri as a normal meal.

Garri is a popular West African food made from cassava tuber. The soaked garri is a popular fast food for majority of people in Nigeria. Moreover, it could simply be taken as regular flakes and mostly taken when the weather is hot (in the afternoon or at night).

Best ways to soak garri

Garri is basically associated to poor people because it’s sold very cheap (measured in cups), easy to prepare and can be prepared with nothing but only water. Therefore, those that can’t afford a decent meal would rather go for it. Hey! That’s for poor people, left to me garri is for rich dudes but have been abused by the poor. I have met a lot of rich people who really enjoy taking garri as a meal. An average Nigerian in one way or the other must have taken garri. I was amazed when T-boss (from Big Brother Naija, BBN) opened her mouth to say she had never taken garri. I don’t really want to talk about that now.

Nevertheless, there are special ways of preparing your lovely soaked cassava flakes. This is how a normal garri looks like without adding anything:

Things you need to prepare it:

a. Cassava flakes
b. Water
c. Cubes of sugar
d. Groundnuts or kuli kuli
e. A tin of milk
f. Ice blocks or cold water
g. Fried/grilled fish or Pkomo (also known as Canda)
h. Coconut

Adding these things properly together makes up a decent soaked garium sulphate and can cost about N700, which is far above an average Nigerian’s meal. Moreover, there are nutritional benefits of soaked garri. Garium sulphate is rich in fiber, magnesium, Vitamin A (for yellow cassava) and copper. This directly implies that garri made from yellow cassava can improve your eye sight and when taken according to my prescription above will give you a balanced diet. Therefore you have no worries, because a plate of soaked garri can make your day (especially if your day was hectic).

Be proud of Africa and its wonderful heritage. I love My Africa!

Hold the Mayo

The first time it dawned on me there were two distinct camps regarding mayonnaise was one afternoon at a restaurant. I was having lunch with a good friend, and she was interrogating the waitress about the chicken salad plate, asking her, “This doesn’t have any of that horrible Miracle Whip, does it?” The waitress assured her it was pure mayo that held those little morsels together. My friend seemed relieved and ordered it, but I ordered something else. I am in the Miracle Whip camp, and I make no apologies.

I admit I come by it honestly. I grew up in a Miracle Whip household, and I inherited my mother’s dislike for mayonnaise. early. To this day, I buy only MW and so does my sister. But mayo holds top honors in the condiment world, at least in the U.S., tied only with ketchup in popularity, and a must-have on millions of sandwiches daily, as well as in salads and sauces. Some fanatics even put it on french fries.

As a child, I frequently asked my mother why some sandwiches or salads tasted “gross” until I understood that MW had a distinctly different flavor than traditional mayo, which, in my opinion, has no flavor at all. (Please, no hate mail). When it finally clicked in my young mind, and I understood the difference, it was MW all the way from then on.

But let’s travel back in time to learn about mayo, and the French passion that started it all. The creation of mayonnaise is credited to the chef of Duke de Richelieu in 1756. While the Duke was defeating the British at Port Mahon in Menorca, Spain, his chef was whipping up a special victory feast that included a unique sauce made with eggs and cream, staples of French cuisine. Some food historians insist that the Spanish pioneered the rich spread, but it seems more likely that the French did the honors. Word of mouth (and taste buds) traveled across the pond, and Americans quickly embraced the creamy madness. Many residents of French heritage, not to mention chefs searching for new frontiers, introduced it in New York City, and we know that by 1838, the popular restaurant Delmonico’s in Manhattan offered mayonnaise in a variety of dishes. Gourmets were hooked.

Soon chefs were dreaming up different ways to use the wildly popular spread, especially in salads. In 1896, the famous Waldorf salad, made its debut to rave reviews at a charity ball at the Waldorf Hotel, chock full of apple pieces, celery, walnuts and grapes, all held together by that creamy mayo, and diners couldn’t get enough.

As refrigeration blossomed at the turn of the century, hundreds of food manufacturers raced to get their version of mayo in the shops. One such manufacturer was Hellmann’s, a New York City brand which designed wide mouth jars that could accommodate large spoons and scoops, and they soon began to dominate the sector. Mayonnaise, which had heretofore been considered a luxury, was fast becoming a household staple and taking its place at the dinner tables in millions of homes. Many professional chefs and homemakers made their own versions, but jars of the popular condiment were featured prominently on grocery store shelves.

Enter Miracle Whip, created in 1933 by the Chicago-based Kraft Foods Company. It made its debut during the Depression as a cheaper alternative to mayo, and while it does contain the key ingredients of mayonnaise (egg, soybean oil, vinegar, water), it deviates from the standard of mayo with a sweet, spicy flavor that many folks preferred and still do, but is required to label itself as “salad dressing” rather than mayo.

So whether you are a straight mayonnaise user, a renegade Miracle Whip aficionado, or you are frequently heard to state “hold the mayo”, there’s no getting around this wildly popular condiment, and we can thank the French gourmands once again for this creation.

Picnics & Pointers

Picnics have been around for as long as people have been eating meals (even if they didn’t realize it at the time). Over the years, the “dictionary definition” of picnic has changed; however, the original relaxed setting associated with a picnic still resonates today. The mention of a “picnic” versus a “cookout” or “BBQ” tends to take one down a slower, nostalgic path. Taking food out of the kitchen and moving to a less formal setting has been enjoyed throughout the ages.

Whether in a park, at a festival, on a hike in the woods, or in your own living room, having an informal meal in a setting other than your normal meal setting will put one in a frame of mind that alters significantly from what is commonly referred to as breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Formality is no longer at the forefront of the meal. The lack of formality tends to lead to more open, fun communication with those you choose to have at your picnic.

It’s best to keep the food simple. One should not over-complicate a picnic meal. Keeping the items simple and light will lend to the change being incurred with the change of scenery. Items such as finger sandwiches, crackers and cheese, meat and cheese wraps, fruits, nuts and/or vegetables are all simple foods that provide sustenance and variety when planning a picnic.

The foods and location you choose will dictate whether or not you require to keep the food cold or if it requires heating once you arrive. There are cool packs, small grills and solar warmers that can be used almost anywhere these days. Be sure to keep your food stuffs at the appropriate temperatures to prevent food born illnesses.

Whenever there’s a meal, drinks should definitely a consideration. Water, wine, soda, coffee and tea are all popular. Small coolers of ice and reusable cups are always a good idea. Should you decide on wine, be sure to pack a corkscrew or you’ll be very sorry come mealtime.

Your location will dictate some of the supplies you will need to have available and carry with you on your route. If you’re in your living room with the furniture pushed back to create a space, the weather is likely not going to have an impact on your event. However, if you choose an outdoor setting, weather is a definite consideration – from what to wear to what you might bring with you. Umbrellas are great for beaches and unpredictable weather while backpacks and outdoor gear are more suitable for true outdoor enthusiasts that may be hiking to their final destination.

As you are considering what to eat and drink and where to have your picnic, there are other items highly recommended to have on-hand. Other items that come in handy when picnicking are:

  • Plates & Utensils
  • Napkins and/or Paper Towels
  • Salt & pepper
  • Blanket (in the event there are no picnic tables where you end up)
  • Sanitizing Wipes
  • Garbage Bag(s)

If you’ve never been on a picnic or it’s simply been a long time since your last one, please make a plan and take a moment to relax and enjoy the smaller things in life; starting with a picnic.

Store Your Nuts The Right Way To Keep Them Fresh And Tasty

Nuts like Almonds, Cashew, Walnuts are very much good of our health, as they are loaded with a number of Vitamins, Minerals, Proteins, and other nutrients your body requires. Choosing the best of its quality is important to reap their real benefits for your good health and not only buying, but preserving them for a longer period is also important. Storing them is the main concern most of the people face and if you also don’t know how to preserve it the right way, so, here we are with some of our tips. Take a look and store your nuts the right way without affecting their freshness and taste.

  • Keep It In Cool And Dry Condition: One of the important things you need to keep in mind to store the nuts right way is, always keep them in cool and dry conditions. They get damaged when easily get in touch with the moisture, so, always keep them in an air-tight container in cool and dry conditions to ensure their long shelf life and preserve their taste.
  • Never Leave Them Open: If you leave your nuts open, so, they easily absorb the odor of the material around them and get damaged in most of the conditions, therefore, it is important to store them in air-tight containers.
  • Keep Them In Freezer: Whether you accept it or not, but is a true fact that nuts, especially almonds if stored in the freezer or refrigerator, so they can remain as it is up to a year. Freezing won’t let them lose their taste and keep them fresh for a longer period.
  • Keep Them Away From Humid Conditions: Humidity is the true killer of nuts; they affect not only their life but taste as well. Therefore, you shouldn’t keep them in a humid atmosphere to preserve their freshness and delightful taste.
  • Seal The Bag: If you buy roasted nuts, so, you have to keep them away from coming in contact with the oxygen, therefore, it is advisable to keep them in vacuum bags or seal them properly to secure their shelf life.

These are some of the easy and common tips that help you store nuts in a better way that too for a longer period. So, the next time, don’t panic if you buy nuts in bulk quantity, as now you know the right way to store them correctly. You can even ask the dry fruits manufacturers from where you buy the nuts; they may surely provide such suggestion to you.