Seafood of the Week – Oysters

November 26, 2013 at 10:24 AM | Posted in seafood, Seafood of the Week | Leave a comment
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Oyster

Oyster

The word oyster is used as a common name for a number of distinct groups of bivalve molluscs that live in marine or brackish habitats. The valves are highly calcified.
Some kinds of oysters are commonly consumed, cooked or raw, by humans as a delicacy. Other kinds, such as pearl oysters, generally not eaten by humans, are harvested for the pearl produced within the mantle.

 

 

 

Almost all shell-bearing mollusks can secrete pearls, yet most are not very valuable.
Pearl oysters are not closely related to true oysters, being members of a distinct family, the feathered oysters (Pteriidae). Both cultured pearls and natural pearls can be obtained from pearl oysters, though other molluscs, such as the freshwater mussels, also yield pearls of commercial value.
The largest pearl-bearing oyster is the marine Pinctada maxima, which is roughly the size of a dinner plate. Not all individual oysters produce pearls naturally. In fact, in a harvest of three tons of oysters, only three to four oysters produce perfect pearls.
In nature, pearl oysters produce natural pearls by covering a minute invading parasite with nacre, not by ingesting a grain of sand. Over the years, the irritating object is covered with enough layers of nacre to become a pearl. The many different types, colours and shapes of pearls depend on the natural pigment of the nacre, and the shape of the original irritant.
Pearl farmers can culture a pearl by placing a nucleus, usually a piece of polished mussel shell, inside the oyster. In three to six years, the oyster can produce a perfect pearl. These pearls are not as valuable as natural pearls, but look exactly the same. In fact, since the beginning of the 20th century, when several researchers discovered how to produce artificial pearls, the cultured pearl market has far outgrown the natural pearl market.

 

 

Oyster reef at about mid-tide off fishing pier at Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina

Oyster reef at about mid-tide off fishing pier at Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina

 

The largest oyster-producing body of water in the United States is located in Chesapeake Bay, although these beds have decreased in number due to overfishing and pollution. Willapa Bay in Washington produces more oysters than any other estuary in the US. Other large oyster farming areas in the US include the bays and estuaries along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico from Apalachicola, Florida on the east to Galveston, Texas on the west. Large beds of edible oysters are also found in Japan and Australia. In 2005, China accounted for 80% of the global oyster harvest. Within Europe, France remained the industry leader.
Common oyster predators include crabs, sea birds, starfish, and humans. Some oysters contain live crabs, known as oyster crabs.

 

 

 

As an ecosystem engineer oysters provide “supporting” ecosystem services, along with “provisioning”, “regulating” and “cultural” services. Oysters influence nutrient cycling, water filtration, habitat structure, biodiversity, and food web dynamics. Oyster feeding and nutrient cycling activities could “rebalance” shallow, coastal ecosystems if restoration of historic populations could be achieved. Furthermore, assimilation of nitrogen and phosphorus into shellfish tissues provides an opportunity to remove these nutrients from the environment, but this benefit has only recently been recognized. In California’s Tomales Bay, native oyster presence is associated with higher species diversity of benthic invertebrates but other ecosystem services have not been studied. As the ecological and economic importance of oyster reefs has become more widely acknowledged, creation of oyster reef habitat through restoration efforts has become more important- often with the goal of restoring multiple ecosystem services associated with natural oyster reefs.

 

 

 

Oysters are harvested by simply gathering them from their beds. In very shallow waters, they can be gathered by hand or with small rakes. In somewhat deeper water, long-handled rakes or oyster tongs are used to reach the beds. Patent tongs can be lowered on a line to reach beds that are too deep to reach directly. In all cases, the task is the same: the oysterman scrapes oysters into a pile, and then scoops them up with the rake or tongs.
In some areas, a scallop dredge is used. This is a toothed bar attached to a chain bag. The dredge is towed through an oyster bed by a boat, picking up the oysters in its path. While dredges collect oysters more quickly, they heavily damage the beds, and their use is highly restricted. Until 1965, Maryland limited dredging to sailboats, and even since then motor boats can be used only on certain days of the week. These regulations prompted the development of specialized sailboats (the bugeye and later the skipjack) for dredging.
Similar laws were enacted in Connecticut before World War 1 and lasted until 1969. The laws restricted the harvesting of oysters in state-owned beds to vessels under sail. These laws prompted the construction of the oyster sloop style vessel to last well into the 20th century. Hope, is believed to be the last built Connecticut oyster sloop, completed in 1948.
Oysters can also be collected by divers.
In any case, when the oysters are collected, they are sorted to eliminate dead animals, bycatch (unwanted catch), and debris. Then they are taken to market, where they are either canned or sold live.

 

 

 

Oysters have been cultured for well over a century. The Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas, is presently the most widely grown bivalve around the world. Two methods are commonly used, release and bagging. In both cases, oysters are cultivated onshore to the size of spat, when they can attach themselves to a substrate. They may be allowed to mature further to form ‘seed oysters’. In either case, they are then placed in the water to mature. The release technique involves distributing the spat throughout existing oyster beds, allowing them to mature naturally to be collected like wild oysters. Bagging has the cultivator putting spat in racks or bags and keeping them above the bottom. Harvesting involves simply lifting the bags or rack to the surface and removing the mature oysters. The latter method prevents losses to some predators, but is more expensive.
The Pacific or Japanese oyster, Crassostrea gigas, has been grown in the outflow of mariculture ponds. When fish or prawns are grown in ponds, it takes, typically 10 kg (22 lb) of feed to produce 1 kg (2.2 lb) of product (dry-dry basis). The other 9 kg (20 lb) goes into the pond and after mineralization, provides food for phytoplankton, which in turn feeds the oyster.
To prevent spawning, sterile oysters are now cultured by crossbreeding tetraploid and diploid oysters. The resulting triploid oyster cannot propagate, which prevents introduced oysters from spreading into unwanted habitats.

 

 

 

Jonathan Swift is quoted as having said, “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster”, but evidence of oyster consumption goes back into prehistory, evidenced by oyster middens found worldwide. Oysters were an important food source in all coastal areas where they could be found, and oyster fisheries were an important industry where they were plentiful. Overfishing and pressure from diseases and pollution have sharply reduced supplies, but they remain a popular treat celebrated in oyster festivals in many cities and towns.
It was once assumed that oysters were only safe to eat in months with the letter ‘r’ in their English and French names. This myth is based in truth, in that in the Northern Hemisphere, oysters are much more likely to spoil in May, June, July, and August.

 

 

 

Fresh oysters

Fresh oysters

Oysters are an excellent source of zinc, iron, calcium, and selenium, as well as vitamin A and vitamin B12. Oysters are low in food energy; one dozen raw oysters contains 110 kilocalories (460 kJ). Oysters are considered most nutritious when eaten raw.
Traditionally, oysters are considered to be an aphrodisiac, partially because they resemble female sex organs. A team of American and Italian researchers analyzed bivalves and found they were rich in amino acids that trigger increased levels of sex hormones. Their high zinc content aids the production of testosterone.
Dietary supplements may contain calcium carbonate from oyster shells, though no evidence shows this offers any benefits beyond what calcium may offer.

 

 

 

Fried oyster with egg and flour

Fried oyster with egg and flour

Unlike most shellfish, oysters can have a fairly long shelf life of up to four weeks. However, their taste becomes less pleasant as they age. Oysters should be refrigerated out of water, not frozen, and in 100% humidity. Oysters stored in water under refrigeration will open, consume available oxygen, and die.

Oysters must be eaten alive, or cooked alive. The shells of live oysters are normally tightly closed or snap shut given a slight tap. If the shell is open, the oyster is dead, and cannot be eaten safely. Cooking oysters in the shell kills the oysters and causes them to open by themselves. Traditionally, oysters that do not open have been assumed to be dead before cooking and therefore unsafe. However, according to at least one marine biologist, Nick Ruello, this advice may have arisen from an old, poorly researched cookbook’s advice regarding mussels, which has now become an assumed truism for all shellfish. Ruello found 11.5% of all mussels failed to open during cooking, but when forced open, 100% were “both adequately cooked and safe to eat.

Oysters can be eaten on the half shell, raw, smoked, boiled, baked, fried, roasted, stewed, canned, pickled, steamed, or broiled, or used in a variety of drinks. Eating can be as simple as opening the shell and eating the contents, including juice. Butter and salt are often added. In the case of oysters Rockefeller, preparation can be very elaborate. They are sometimes served on edible seaweed, such as brown algae.
Care should be taken when consuming oysters. Purists insist on eating them raw, with no dressing save perhaps lemon juice, vinegar (most commonly shallot vinegar), or cocktail sauce. Upscale restaurants pair raw oysters with a home-made Mignonette sauce, which consists primarily of fresh chopped shallot, mixed peppercorn, dry white wine and lemon juice or sherry vinegar. Like fine wine, raw oysters have complex flavors that vary greatly among varieties and regions: sweet, salty, earthy, or even melon. The texture is soft and fleshy, but crisp on the palate. North American varieties include: Kumamoto and Yaquina Bay from Oregon, Malpeque from Prince Edward Island, Canada, Blue Point from Long Island, New York, and Cape May oysters from New Jersey. Salinity, mineral, and nutrient variations in the water that nurtures them influence their flavor profile.
Oysters can contain harmful bacteria. Oysters are filter feeders, so will naturally concentrate anything present in the surrounding water. Oysters from the Gulf Coast of the United States, for example, contain high bacterial loads of human pathogens in the warm months, most notably Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus. In these cases, the main danger is for immunocompromised individuals, who are unable to fight off infection and can succumb to septicemia, leading to death. Vibrio vulnificus is the most deadly seafood-borne pathogen, with a higher case-to-death ratio than even Salmonella enterica.

 

 

 

Special knives for opening live oysters, such as this one, have short and stout blades and the best have a downward curve at the tip.

Special knives for opening live oysters, such as this one, have short and stout blades and the best have a downward curve at the tip.

Fresh oysters must be alive just before consumption or cooking. There is only one criterion: the oyster must be capable of tightly closing its shell. Open oysters should be tapped on the shell; a live oyster will close up and is safe to eat. Oysters which are open and unresponsive are dead and must be discarded. Some dead oysters, or oyster shells which are full of sand may be closed. These make a distinctive noise when tapped, and are known as ‘clackers’.

Opening oysters requires skill. The preferred method is to use a special knife (called an oyster knife, a variant of a shucking knife), with a short and thick blade about 5 cm (2.0 in) long.

While different methods are used to open an oyster (which sometimes depend on the type), the following is one commonly accepted oyster-shucking method.

Insert the blade, with moderate force and vibration if necessary, at the hinge between the two valves.
Twist the blade until there is a slight pop.
Slide the blade upward to cut the adductor muscle which holds the shell closed.
Inexperienced shuckers can apply too much force, which can result in injury if the blade slips. Heavy gloves are necessary; apart from the knife, the shell itself can be razor sharp. Professional shuckers require less than three seconds to open the shell.
If the oyster has a particularly soft shell, the knife can be inserted instead in the ‘sidedoor’, about halfway along one side where the oyster lips widen with a slight indentation.
Opening or “shucking” oysters has become a competitive sport. Oyster-shucking competitions are staged around the world. Widely acknowledged to be the premiere event, the Guinness World Oyster Opening Championship is held in September at the Galway Oyster Festival. The annual Clarenbridge Oyster Festival ‘Oyster Opening Competition’ is also held in Galway, Ireland.

 

Seafood of the Week – Mussels

November 19, 2013 at 9:57 AM | Posted in seafood, Seafood of the Week | 4 Comments
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A bed of blue mussels

A bed of blue mussels

Mussel is the common name used for members of several families of clams or bivalvia mollusca, from saltwater and freshwater habitats. These groups have in common a shell whose outline is elongated and asymmetrical compared with other edible clams, which are often more or less rounded or oval.
The word “mussel” is most frequently used to mean the edible bivalves of the marine family Mytilidae, most of which live on exposed shores in the intertidal zone, attached by means of their strong byssal threads (“beard”) to a firm substrate. A few species (in the genus Bathymodiolus) have colonised hydrothermal vents associated with deep ocean ridges.
In most marine mussels the shell is longer than it is wide, being wedge-shaped or asymmetrical. The external colour of the shell is often dark blue, blackish, or brown, while the interior is silvery and somewhat nacreous.
The common name “mussel” is also used for many freshwater bivalves, including the freshwater pearl mussels. Freshwater mussel species inhabit lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks, canals, and they are classified in a different subclass of bivalves, despite some very superficial similarities in appearance.
Freshwater Zebra mussels and their relatives in the family Dreissenidae are not related to previously mentioned groups, even though they resemble many Mytilus species in shape, and live attached to rocks and other hard surfaces in a similar manner, using a byssus. They are classified with the Heterodonta, the taxonomic group which includes most of the bivalves commonly referred to as “clams”.

 

The Asian green mussel

The Asian green mussel

 

The mussel’s external shell is composed of two hinged halves or “valves”. The valves are joined together on the outside by a ligament, and are closed when necessary by strong internal muscles. Mussel shells carry out a variety of functions, including support for soft tissues, protection from predators and protection against desiccation.
The shell has three layers. In the pearly mussels there is an inner iridescent layer of nacre (mother-of-pearl) composed of calcium carbonate, which is continuously secreted by the mantle; the prismatic layer, a middle layer of chalky white crystals of calcium carbonate in a protein matrix; and the periostracum, an outer pigmented layer resembling a skin. The periostracum is composed of a protein called conchin, and its function is to protect the prismatic layer from abrasion and dissolution by acids (especially important in freshwater forms where the decay of leaf materials produces acids).
Like most bivalves, mussels have a large organ called a foot. In freshwater mussels, the foot is large, muscular, and generally hatchet-shaped. It is used to pull the animal through the substrate (typically sand, gravel, or silt) in which it lies partially buried. It does this by repeatedly advancing the foot through the substrate, expanding the end so it serves as an anchor, and then pulling the rest of the animal with its shell forward. It also serves as a fleshy anchor when the animal is stationary.
In marine mussels, the foot is smaller, tongue-like in shape, with a groove on the ventral surface which is continuous with the byssus pit. In this pit, a viscous secretion is exuded, entering the groove and hardening gradually upon contact with sea water. This forms extremely tough, strong, elastic, byssus threads that secure the mussel to its substrate. The byssus thread is also sometimes used by mussels as a defensive measure, to tether predatory molluscs, such as dog whelks, that invade mussel beds, immobilising them and thus starving them to death.
In cooking, the byssus of the mussel is known as the “beard” and is removed before the mussels are prepared.

 

 

Bouchots are marine pilings for growing mussels.

Bouchots are marine pilings for growing mussels.

Marine mussels are abundant in the low and mid intertidal zone in temperate seas globally. Other species of marine mussel live in tropical intertidal areas, but not in the same huge numbers as in temperate zones.
Certain species of marine mussels prefer salt marshes or quiet bays, while others thrive in pounding surf, completely covering wave-washed rocks. Some species have colonized abyssal depths near hydrothermal vents. The South African white mussel exceptionally doesn’t bind itself to rocks but burrows into sandy beaches extending two tubes above the sand surface for ingestion of food and water and exhausting wastes.
Freshwater mussels inhabit permanent lakes, rivers, canals and streams throughout the world except in the polar regions. They require a constant source of cool, clean water. They prefer water with a substantial mineral content, using calcium carbonate to build their shells.

 

 

Freshwater mussels are used as host animals for the cultivation of freshwater pearls. Some species of marine mussel, including the Blue Mussel (Mytilus edulis) and the New Zealand green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus), are also cultivated as a source of food.
In some areas of the world, mussel farmers collect naturally occurring marine mussel seed for transfer to more appropriate growing areas, however, most North American mussel farmers rely on hatchery-produced seed. Growers typically purchase seed after it has set (about 1mm in size) or after it has been nursed in upwellers for 3-6 additional weeks and is 2-3mm. The seed is then typically reared in a nursery environment, where it is transferred to a material with a suitable surface for later relocation to the growing area. After about three months in the nursery, mussel seed is “socked” (placed in a tube-like mesh material) and hung on longlines or rafts for grow-out. Within a few days, the mussels migrate to the outside of the sock for better access food sources in the water column. Mussels grow quickly and are usually ready for harvest in less than two years. Unlike other cultured bivalves, mussels use byssus threads (beard) to attach themselves to any firm substrate, which makes them suitable for a number of culture methods. There are a variety of techniques for growing mussels.

In roughly 12-15 months, mussels reach marketable size (40mm) and are ready for harvest (FAO). Harvesting methods depend on the grow-out area and the rearing method being used. Dredges are currently used for on-bottom culture. Mussels grown on wooden poles can be harvested by hand or with a hydraulic powered system (FAO). For raft and longline culture, a platform is typically lowered under the mussel lines, which are then cut from the system and brought to the surface and dumped into containers on a nearby vessel. After harvest, mussels are typically placed in seawater tanks for depuration before marketing.

 

 

Mussel Stew

Mussel Stew

Humans have used mussels as food for thousands of years and continue to do so. About 17 species are edible, of which the most commonly eaten are Mytilus edulis, M. galloprovincialis, M. trossellus and Perna canaliculus.
Freshwater mussels nowadays are generally considered to be unpalatable, though the native peoples in North America ate them extensively. During the second World War in the United States, mussels were commonly served in diners. This was due to the unavailability of red meat related to wartime rationing.
In Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, mussels are consumed with french fries (“mosselen met friet” or “moules-frites”) or bread. In Belgium, mussels are sometimes served with fresh herbs and flavorful vegetables in a stock of butter and white wine. Frites/Frieten and Belgian beer sometimes are accompaniments. In the Netherlands, mussels are sometimes served fried in batter or breadcrumbs, particularly at take-out food outlets or informal settings. In France, the Éclade des Moules is a mussel bake that can be found along the beaches of the Bay of Biscay.
In Italy, mussels are mixed with other sea food, they are consumed often steam cooked (most popular), sometimes with white wine, herbs, and served with the remaining water and some lemon. In Spain, they are consumed mostly steam cooked, sometimes boiling white wine, onion and herbs, and served with the remaining water and some lemon. They can also be eaten as “tigres”, a sort of croquette using the mussel meat, shrimps and other pieces of fish in a thick bechamel then breaded and fried in the clean mussel shell. They are used in other sort of dishes such as rices or soups or commonly eaten canned in a pickling brine made of oil, vinegar, peppercorns, bay leaves and paprika. In Turkey, mussels are either covered with flour and fried on shishs (‘midye tava’), or filled with rice and served cold (‘midye dolma’) and are usually consumed after alcohol (mostly raki or beer). They are used in Ireland boiled and seasoned with vinegar, with the “bray” or boiling water as a supplementary hot drink. In Cantonese cuisine, mussels are cooked in a broth of garlic and fermented black bean. In New Zealand, they are served in a chili or garlic-based vinaigrette, processed into fritters and fried, or used as the base for a chowder. In India, mussels are popular in Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka-Bhatkal, and Goa. They are either prepared with drumsticks, breadfruit or other vegetables, or filled with rice and coconut paste with spices and served hot. Fried mussels (‘Kadukka’ in Malayalam) of north Kerala are a spicy, favored delicacy.

 

 

Mussel Dish

Mussel Dish

Mussels can be smoked, boiled, steamed, roasted, barbecued or fried in butter or vegetable oil. As with all shellfish, except shrimp, mussels should be checked to ensure they are still alive just before they are cooked; enzymes quickly break down the meat and make them unpalatable or poisonous after dying or un cooked.[citation needed]Some mussels might contain toxins. A simple criterion is that live mussels, when in the air, will shut tightly when disturbed. Open, unresponsive mussels are dead, and must be discarded. Unusually heavy, wild caught, closed mussels may be discarded as they may contain only mud or sand. (They can be tested by slightly opening the shell halves.) A thorough rinse in water and removal of “the beard” is suggested. Mussel shells usually open when cooked, revealing the cooked soft parts.
Although mussels are valued as food, mussel poisoning due to toxic planktonic organisms can be a danger along some coastlines. For instance, mussels should be avoided along the west coast of the United States during the warmer months. This poisoning is usually due to a bloom of dinoflagellates (red tides), which contain toxins. The dinoflagellates and their toxin are harmless to mussels, even when concentrated by the mussel’s filter feeding, but if the mussels are consumed by humans, the concentrated toxins cause serious illness, such as paralytic shellfish poisoning.

 

Step Up Your Tailgating Game with These 10 Recipes

November 17, 2013 at 10:35 AM | Posted in Delish | Leave a comment
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Here’s some recipes and ideas to Step Up Your Tailgating Game with 10 Recipes! Another good one on the Delish web site. The link is at the bottom of the post.

 

Delish
Step Up Your Tailgating Game with These 10 Recipes
The game is on and you need crowd-pleasing tailgating grub. Look no further. Food & Wine has lined up 10 winning bites that will score a taste touchdown by going just a bit more gourmet than the standard pre-game fare.

For more game-day snacks try these cheesy nachos, wicked wings, or brilliant burgers.

 

 
Double Cheeseburgers, Los-Angeles Style

Roy Choi‘s burgers look like the American classic, but get an Asian twist with toasted sesame seeds in the mayo and fresh shiso leaves on top of the lettuce…..

 

 
Bacon-and-Egg Pizza

This over-the-top breakfast pizza features crisp bacon, custardy scrambled eggs, and two cheeses — Brie and mozzarella. It’s a perfect snack for the first game of the day….

 

 
* Click the link below to get all the recipes. *

 

http://www.delish.com/entertaining-ideas/party-ideas/step-up-your-tailgating-game?src=nl&mag=del&list=nl_dnl_fot_non_110613_tailgating-game#slide-1

Kitchen Hint of the Day!

November 14, 2013 at 8:30 AM | Posted in Kitchen Hints | Leave a comment
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The odor from cooking fish and other pungent foods can linger over your kitchen for hours. To make it quickly disappear, place a bowl of white vinegar on the counter near the stove while cooking. The vinegar will absorb the smell

One of America’s Favorites – Milkshakes

November 11, 2013 at 10:10 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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A strawberry milkshake topped with whipped cream and strawberry syrup

A strawberry milkshake topped with whipped cream and strawberry syrup

A milkshake is a sweet, cold beverage which is usually made from milk, ice cream or iced milk, and flavorings or sweeteners such as fruit syrup or chocolate sauce. Outside the United States, the drink is sometimes called a thickshake or a thick milkshake or in New England, a frappe, to differentiate it from other less-viscous forms of flavored milk.
Full-service restaurants, soda fountains, and diners usually prepare and mix the shake “by hand” from scoops of ice cream and milk in a blender or drink mixer using a stainless steel cup. Many fast food outlets do not make shakes by hand with ice cream. Instead, they make shakes in automatic milkshake machines which freeze and serve a premade milkshake mixture consisting of milk, a sweetened flavoring agent, and a thickening agent. However, some fast food outlets still follow the traditional method, and some serve milkshakes which are prepared by blending soft-serve ice cream (or ice milk) with flavoring or syrups. A milkshake can also be made by adding powder into fresh milk, and stirring the powder into the milk. Milkshakes made in this way can come in a variety of flavors, including chocolate, strawberry and banana.

 

 
Hand-blended milkshakes can be made from any flavor of ice cream, and additional flavorings, such as chocolate syrup and/or malt syrup or malt powder, can be added prior to mixing. This allows a greater variety than is available in machine-made shakes. Some unusual milkshake recipes exclude ice cream.
Milkshake-like recipes which use yogurt, crushed ice, and fresh fruit and which are made without ice cream are usually called smoothies. When malted milk is added, a milkshake is called a malted milkshake, a malt shake (or maltshake), a malted, or simply a malt. Milkshakes are also called thick milkshakes in the United Kingdom, a frappe (pronounced “frap”) in parts of New England and Canada. In Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts, coffee syrup or coffee-flavored ice cream is used to make the local “coffee frappe” shake. Milkshakes with added fruit called batido are popular in Latin America and in Miami’s Cuban expatriate community. In Nicaragua, milkshakes are called leche malteada.
Some U.S. restaurants serve milkshakes with crumbled cookies, candy bar pieces, or alcoholic beverages. The grasshopper milkshake, for example, includes crumbled chocolate cookies, creme de menthe liqueur, and chocolate mint ice cream.

 

A soda jerker throws a scoop of ice cream into a steel mixing cup while making a milkshake

A soda jerker throws a scoop of ice cream into a steel mixing cup while making a milkshake

 
Restaurants with the highest volume of traffic, such as McDonald’s, often opt to use pre-made milkshake mixtures that are prepared in automatic milkshake machines. These machines are stainless steel cylinders with beaters that use refrigeration coils to freeze pre-made milkshake mixtures into a drinkable texture. The number of different flavors that restaurants with automatic milkshake machines can serve is limited by the number of different tanks in their milkshake machines, and fast food restaurants usually offer fewer flavors of milkshakes.
The smallest automatic milkshake machines are counter-mounted appliances that can make a single milkshake flavor using a five liter stainless steel tank. Large restaurants that wish to offer multiple flavors can either use floor-mounted multi-flavor machines with multiple five liter stainless steel barrels or use carbon dioxide-based machines that mix the flavors during dispensing. Some fast-food restaurants use “thick milkshake” machines, which are single-flavor machines with a (12 liter) stainless steel tank.

 

 
Some fast-food restaurants such as Dairy Queen serve milkshakes which are prepared by blending soft-serve ice cream (or ice milk) with sweetened, flavored syrups such as chocolate syrup and fruit-flavored syrup and milk.

 

 
Pre-made milkshakes are sold in grocery stores in North America and the UK. These drinks are made from milk mixed with sweetened flavored powder, artificial syrup or concentrate, which would otherwise be called “flavored milk”, thickened with carrageenan or other products. Bottled milkshakes are usually sold in 330ml, 500ml or 1 liter bottles.

 

 
When the term “milkshake” was first used in print in 1885, milkshakes were an alcoholic whiskey drink that has been described as a “sturdy, healthful eggnog type of drink, with eggs, whiskey, etc., served as a tonic as well as a treat”. However, by 1900, the term referred to “wholesome drinks made with chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla syrups.” By the “early 1900s people were asking for the new treat, often with ice cream.” By the 1930s, milkshakes were a popular drink at malt shops, which were the “typical soda fountain of the period… used by students as a meeting place or hangout.”
The history of the electric blender, malted milk drinks and milkshakes are interconnected. Before the widespread availability of electric blenders, milkshake-type drinks were more like eggnog, or they were a hand-shaken mixture of crushed ice and milk, sugar, and flavorings. Hamilton Beach’s drink mixers began being used at soda fountains in 1911 and the electric blender or drink mixer was invented by Steven Poplawski in 1922. With the invention of the blender, milkshakes began to take their modern, whipped, aerated, and frothy form. Malted milk drinks are made with malted milk powder, which contains dried milk, malted barley and wheat flour. Malted milk powder was invented in 1897 by William Horlick as an easily digested restorative health drink for disabled people and children, and as an infant’s food.
The use of malted milk powder in milkshakes was popularized in the USA by the Chicago drugstore chain Walgreens. In 1922, Walgreens’ employee Ivar “Pop” Coulson made a milkshake by adding two scoops of vanilla ice cream to the standard malted milk drink recipe (milk, chocolate syrup and malt powder). This item, under the name “Horlick’s Malted Milk,” was featured by the Walgreen drugstore chain as part of a chocolate milk shake, which itself became known as a “malted” or “malt” and became one of the most popular soda-fountain drinks.
The automation of milkshakes developed in the 1930s, after the invention of freon-cooled refrigerators provided a safe, reliable way of automatically making and dispensing ice cream. In 1936, inventor Earl Prince used the basic concept behind the freon-cooled automated ice cream machine to develop the Multimixer, a “five-spindled mixer that could produce five milkshakes at once, all automatically, and dispense them at the pull of a lever into awaiting paper cups.”
In the late 1930s, several newspaper articles show that the term “frosted” was used to refer to milkshakes made with ice cream. In 1937, the Denton Journal in Maryland stated that “For a ‘frosted’ shake, add a dash of your favorite ice cream.” In 1939, the Mansfield News in Ohio stated that “A frosted beverage, in the vernacular, is something good to which ice cream has been added. Example par excellence is frosted coffee—that hot, tasty beverage made chilly with ice and frosty with ice cream.”

 

 
By the 1950s, popular places to drink milkshakes were Woolworth’s “5 & 10” lunch counters, diners, burger joints, and drugstore soda fountains. These establishments often prominently displayed a shining chrome or stainless steel milkshake mixing machine.
These establishments made milkshakes in Hamilton Beach or similar styles of drink mixers, which had spindles and agitators that folded air into the drinks for “smooth, fluffy results” and served them in 12½-ounce tall, “y”-shaped glasses. Soda fountain staff had their own jargon, such as “Burn One All the Way” (chocolate malted with chocolate ice cream), “Twist It, Choke It, and Make It Cackle” (chocolate malted with an egg) “Shake One in the Hay” (a strawberry shake) and a “White Cow” (a vanilla milkshake). In the 1950s, a milkshake machine salesman named Ray Kroc bought exclusive rights to the 1930s-era Multimixer milkshake maker from inventor Earl Prince, and went on to use automated milkshake machines to speed up production at McDonald’s restaurants.

 

 
In the 1950s, milkshakes were called “frappes”, “velvets,” “frosted [drinks]”, or “cabinets” in different parts of the U.S. A specialty style of milkshake, the “concrete,” was “…a milk shake so thick that the server hands it out the order window upside down, demonstrating that not a drop will drip.” In 1952, the Newport Daily News in Rhode Island contained a “Guide For Top Quality ICE CREAM SODAS CABINETS MILK SHAKES”, which shows the use of the term “cabinet” in print. An article from 1953 in the Salisbury Times (in the state of Maryland) suggests that shakes can be made in a jar by shaking well. The article states that by adding four large tablespoons of ice cream, the drink becomes a “frosted shake.” Currently, in New England, and especially the Greater Boston area, the ice-cream and milk dessert known as a “milkshake” in other parts of the country is referred to as a “frappe”. In these locales, “milkshake” refers to a lighter drink, usually made of shaken or blended milk with flavoring of some sort. The term “milkshake,” however, is widely used in Connecticut.

 

 

This milkshake was made using liquid nitrogen. Vapor can still be seen drifting from the top.

This milkshake was made using liquid nitrogen. Vapor can still be seen drifting from the top.

In 2005, the traditional home of the milkshake, the family restaurants and 24-hour diner-style restaurants that were the “staples of 1950s and 60s America such as Denny’s, Big Boy and the International House of Pancakes” were supplanted “…in terms of revenue for the first time since the U.S. census started measuring this in the 1970s. The shift means the burger, fries and milkshake ideal evoked by the sitcom Happy Days is losing its hold on the American appetite.” Instead, U.S. consumers are going out to casual dining restaurants.
In 2006, the U.S. Agricultural Research Service developed reduced-sugar, low-fat milk shakes for lunch programs. The shakes have half the sugar and only 10% of the fat of commercial fast-food shakes. Schools need a milk shake machine or soft-serve ice cream machine to serve the milkshakes. The milkshakes also have added fiber and other nutrients, and they have much less lactose, which makes the shakes appropriate for some lactose intolerant people.
The U.S. sales of milkshakes, malts and floats rose 11% in 2006, according to the industry research firm NPD Group. Christopher Muller, the director of the Center for Multi-Unit Restaurant Management at Orlando’s University of Central Florida states that “milkshakes remind us of summer, youth — and indulgence”, and “they’re evocative of a time gone by”. Muller states that milkshakes are an “enormously profitable” item for restaurants, since the fluffy drinks contain so much air. The market research firm Technomic claims that about 75% of the average-priced $3.38 restaurant shake in 2006 was profit. An executive from Sonic Drive-In, a U.S. chain of 1950s-style diner restaurants, calls shakes “…one of our highest-volume, revenue-producing areas”.
Part of the increase in milkshake sales reported in 2006 may be due to the increasing availability of innovative chef-designed milkshakes in high-end restaurants. In 2006, the Los Angeles Times reported that chefs from “hipster hangouts and retro landmarks” are using “macerated farmers market strawberries, Valrhona chocolate and Madagascar Bourbon vanilla” to make new milkshake flavors.
Other novel ideas offered in LA-area restaurants include milkshakes made with toasted pecans, saffron-rose water or orange-blossom ice cream, taro root, vanilla beans steeped in rum, Valrhona chocolate and Grey Goose vodka, and vanilla custard mixed with Russian Imperial stout.

 

 

West Chester Now: Christmas Walk, Parade and Tree Lighting

November 11, 2013 at 9:47 AM | Posted in Festivals | Leave a comment
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November 17, 2012 – November 17, 2012
Location: Olde West Chester
Address: along a stretch of CincinnatiDayton Road, West Chester, OH 45069
Times: From: 2:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Contact: Jan Arents
P:513-755-9241
Handicap Accessible: Yes

West Chester Christmas Walk

 

West Chester Township’s annual holiday parade and tree lighting kick off the holiday season November 16. The parade is held in conjunction with the Olde West Chester Christmas Walk, sponsored by the Merchants of Olde West Chester. The event features live entertainment, crafts, activities and early holiday gift shopping.

 

The theme of the parade this year, “Fire Up the Christmas Spirit,” is focused on the 50th Anniversary of the West Chester Fire Department and thanking firefighters for their service. A Fire Department Open House will be held at Fire Station 71 from 1 to 3 p.m. as part of the Christmas Walk. Those interested in learning and celebrating the history, development and operations of the West Chester Fire Department will find the stop enjoyable.

The annual holiday parade will begin at Union Day School at 7:00 p.m. and will work its way down Cincinnati-Dayton Road to the Township Administration Building, where the community tree will be illuminated directly following the parade, around 8:00 p.m.

The Grand Marshal of this year’s parade will be Lawrence Cox, one of the founding volunteer firefighters of the West Chester Fire Department As in years past, all interested participants are invited to join in the parade. Line-up begins at 6 p.m. at Union Day School.
http://www.westchesteroh.org/eNews.cfm

Kitchen Hint of the Day!

November 10, 2013 at 7:29 AM | Posted in Kitchen Hints | 5 Comments
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There are few kitchen disasters more disheartening than burning a roast. But there’s help! First, remove the roast from the pan and cover it with a towel dampened with hot water for about five minutes, which will stop the cooking. Then remove or scrape off any burnt areas with a sharp knife, and put the roast back in the oven to reheat if necessary.

New kinds of steak hit menus….

November 4, 2013 at 10:58 AM | Posted in BEEF | Leave a comment
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Came across this article, on several different sites, on new cuts of Steaks and thought I would pass it along.

 

 

New kinds of steak hit menus….
By David Pierson

October 26, 2013, 5:00 a.m.

For generations, beef shoulder was a blue-collar cut of cow, fit for the meat grinder or crockpot but not much else.
But where others saw pot roast, Tony Mata saw potential.

Mata is a Dallas meat scientist whose mission is to find hidden gems in rough parts of the steer. He and a team of researchers came up with the industry’s newest steak by mining the muscle under the shoulder blade for a tender pad of flesh.

Unveiled last year at a trade show, the meat is starting to land on restaurant menus. At about $6 a pound, it sells for twice the price of hamburger and has a catchy name to boot: the Vegas Strip Steak.

“People think I’m crazy trying to look for new steaks in an animal we’ve domesticated for thousands of years,” Mata said. “But as an industry, we’ve ignored all these other muscles. I truly believe there’s still two or three more steaks out there.”

Mata’s persistence is a testament to changing fortunes in the beef industry. U.S. per capita beef consumption has been falling for decades as consumers have shifted to lighter fare. Pricey prime rib and filet mignon have vanished from many American tables in a sluggish economy.

That has the beef industry scouring the animal for affordable delicacies — cuts that will fetch higher prices than burger without breaking the bank for shoppers. Now steaks with names like ranch, petite tender, Denver and Sierra are popping up in meat cases alongside familiar names like sirloin and porterhouse.

“Any time you can make something steak-able, you’re bringing more dollars back to the carcass,” said Jake Nelson, a meat processing specialist at Oklahoma State University who worked with Mata on the Vegas Strip Steak.

Such efforts began in earnest more than a decade ago. That’s when the U.S. industry’s promotional arm, known as the Beef Checkoff, funded research to find cuts tasty and tender enough to turn into inexpensive steaks.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida studied more than three dozen muscles, focusing mainly on the shoulder or chuck, as well as the round, which is the back leg. They measured tenderness, trimmed the gristle and spent hours in test kitchens cooking up the results.

Top-quality steaks have traditionally come from the steer’s midsection, which is supple and easy to butcher. Chris Calkins, a University of Nebraska professor who worked on the project, said skepticism abounded among meatpackers that anything valuable would be found in the animal’s ropy front and behind.

But in a portion of the chuck known, unappetizingly, as the shoulder clod they found a large pocket of marbled meat. All it required was some nimble knife skills and suddenly there were the makings of an elegant steak. They dubbed it the flatiron because it resembled an antique steel clothing iron.

Retailing for about $6 a pound, the flatiron is now America’s sixth most popular steak, overtaking the porterhouse last year. And it has changed the economics of beef. Experts estimate that it has helped add $50 to $70 to the value of the average steer — impressive considering that an entire animal goes for about $1,600.

The flatiron has enabled restaurants to serve a hearty steak at relatively affordable prices. The Tender Greens restaurant chain offers a sliced flatiron plate with side dishes for $11.

Although the flatiron is the runaway sales leader among the newer cuts, nothing can beat the recently introduced country-style ribs for sheer imagination. These “ribs” are boneless — and they aren’t found near the animal’s rib cage. Instead this meat is sliced from the chuck.

Erik Oberholtzer, co-founder of Tender Greens, said he slow-cooks these faux ribs for hours over hickory wood, then tops them with a homemade chipotle barbecue sauce.

“They come out soft, juicy and fall apart without the mess of bones,” he said.

Other industry innovations amount to little more than smaller portions. Take the New York strip fillet. It’s essentially a typical 1-pound New York strip steak split in half. That might seem like cheating, but beef marketers defend it as good value for consumers on a budget.

“They’re still enjoying a high-quality steak but at a lower cost,” said Trevor Amen of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn.

Economic conditions have long spurred reinvention when it comes to America’s favorite red meat.

The Great Depression gave rise to the lowly cube steak, a slice of top round or top sirloin so tough that it needs to be pulverized with a mallet to make the meat fit to chew.

Still, getting consumers to embrace new cuts like the petite tender has been anything but a slam-dunk.

“I’ve never heard of them,” Justin Nathaniel, 25, who was grocery shopping recently at a Hollywood Vons, said about the new cuts. “I prefer the porterhouse. I want lots of marbling.”

Some meat experts are dubious too. They say the beef industry is trying to dress up second-tier cuts with fancy names.

“We already know about all the good stuff,” said Lou DeRosa, a third-generation butcher at Marconda’s Meats in Los Angeles. “Those new cuts are pretty rough.”

But other industry veterans say the value steaks are a nice addition to their lineups.

Meat supplier Brandon Lobaugh, president of iQ Foods in Fayetteville, Ark., says the key is preparation and cooking.

To peddle the ranch steak to his customers, he brines the meat in a salt solution to ensure that it stays moist. A petite tender is roasted to a pink center and sliced into medallions like a pricey tenderloin. When pushing the Denver, he says the key is to grill it medium or medium-rare to prevent it from toughening.

Lobaugh said most of his clients happily gobble down the samples. But getting them to order it for their supermarkets and restaurants is another story.

“A lot of these chefs in big chains and accounts are real skeptical,” he said. “They’ve been trained to work with the traditional cuts, and to come in with something new just takes them out of their comfort zone.”

Food scientist Mata promotes his Vegas Strip Steak as a flavorful alternative to the New York strip, but at half to one-third the price. He has trademarked its name and launched a quixotic attempt to patent the butchering process needed to extract the steak from the shoulder blade.

At 63, the native of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, says he’s not done yet. Mata is still exploring the beef shoulder and back in search of the next big thing.

“Get back to me in two years,” Mata said. “I’ll have another steak by then.”

Trick or Treat

October 31, 2013 at 9:26 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,

 

Two children trick-or-treating on Halloween

Two children trick-or-treating on Halloween

Trick-or-treating or guising is a customary practice for children on Halloween in many countries. Children in costumes travel from house to house in order to ask for treats such as candy (or, in some cultures, money) with the question “Trick or treat?“. The “trick” is a (usually idle) threat to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given to them.
In North America, trick-or-treating has been a customary Halloween tradition since the late 1940s, starting in Anoka, Minnesota. It typically happens between 5:30pm and 9:30pm[1] on October 31, although some municipalities choose other dates. Homeowners wishing to participate in it sometimes decorate their private entrances with artificial spider webs, plastic skeletons and jack-o-lanterns. Some rather reluctant homeowners would simply leave the candy in bowls on the porch, others might be more participative and would even ask an effort from the children in order to provide them with candy. In the more recent years, however, the practice has spread to almost any house within a neighborhood being visited by children, including senior residences and condominiums.
The tradition of going from door to door receiving food already existed in Great Britain and Ireland in the form of “souling”, where children and poor people would sing and say prayers for the dead in return for cakes. Guising—children disguised in costumes going from door to door for food and coins—also predates trick or treat, and is recorded in Scotland at Halloween in 1895, where masqueraders in disguise carrying lanterns made out of scooped out turnips, visit homes to be rewarded with cakes, fruit and money. While going from door to door in disguise has remained popular among Scots and Irish, the North American custom of saying “trick or treat” has recently become common. The activity is prevalent in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Puerto Rico, and northwestern and central Mexico. In the latter, this practice is called calaverita (Spanish for “little skull”), and instead of “trick or treat”, the children ask ¿me da mi calaverita? (“can you give me my little skull?”); where a calaverita is a small skull made of sugar or chocolate.

 

 
The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays dates back to the Middle Ages and includes Christmas wassailing. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). It originated in Ireland and Britain, although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy. Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of “puling [whimpering or whining] like a beggar at Hallowmas.” The custom of wearing costumes and masks at Halloween goes back to Celtic traditions of attempting to copy the evil spirits or placate them, in Scotland for instance where the dead were impersonated by young men with masked, veiled or blackened faces, dressed in white.
Guising at Halloween in Scotland is recorded in 1895, where masqueraders in disguise carrying lanterns made out of scooped out turnips, visit homes to be rewarded with cakes, fruit and money. The practice of Guising at Halloween in North America is first recorded in 1911, where a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported children going “guising” around the neighborhood.
American historian and author Ruth Edna Kelley of Massachusetts wrote the first book length history of the holiday in the US; The Book of Hallowe’en (1919), and references souling in the chapter “Hallowe’en in America”;
The taste in Hallowe’en festivities now is to study old traditions, and hold a Scotch party, using Burn’s poem Hallowe’en as a guide; or to go a-souling as the English used. In short, no custom that was once honored at Hallowe’en is out of fashion now.
Kelley lived in Lynn, Massachusetts, a town with 4,500 Irish immigrants, 1,900 English immigrants, and 700 Scottish immigrants in 1920. In her book, Kelley touches on customs that arrived from across the Atlantic; “Americans have fostered them, and are making this an occasion something like what it must have been in its best days overseas. All Hallowe’en customs in the United States are borrowed directly or adapted from those of other countries”.
While the first reference to “guising” in North America occurs in 1911, another reference to ritual begging on Halloween appears, place unknown, in 1915, with a third reference in Chicago in 1920.
The earliest known use in print of the term “trick or treat” appears in 1927, from Blackie, Alberta:
Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun. No real damage was done except to the temper of some who had to hunt for wagon wheels, gates, wagons, barrels, etc., much of which decorated the front street. The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word “trick or treat” to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.

The thousands of Halloween postcards produced between the start of the 20th century and the 1920s commonly show children but do not depict trick-or-treating. The editor of a collection of over 3,000 vintage Halloween postcards writes, “There are cards which mention the custom [of trick-or-treating] or show children in costumes at the doors, but as far as we can tell they were printed later than the 1920s and more than likely even the 1930s. Tricksters of various sorts are shown on the early postcards, but not the means of appeasing them”. Trick-or-treating does not seem to have become a widespread practice until the 1930s, with the first U.S. appearances of the term in 1934, and the first use in a national publication occurring in 1939.

 

 
Almost all pre-1940 uses of the term “trick-or-treat” are from the western United States and Canada. Trick-or-treating spread from the western United States eastward, stalled by sugar rationing that began in April 1942 during World War II and did not end until June 1947.
Early national attention to trick-or-treating was given in October 1947 issues of the children’s magazines Jack and Jill and Children’s Activities, and by Halloween episodes of the network radio programs The Baby Snooks Show in 1946 and The Jack Benny Show and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet in 1948. Trick-or-treating was depicted in the Peanuts comic strip in 1951. The custom had become firmly established in popular culture by 1952, when Walt Disney portrayed it in the cartoon Trick or Treat, and Ozzie and Harriet were besieged by trick-or-treaters on an episode of their television show. In 1953 UNICEF first conducted a national campaign for children to raise funds for the charity while trick-or-treating.
Although some popular histories of Halloween have characterized trick-or-treating as an adult invention to rechannel Halloween activities away from vandalism, there are very few records supporting it. Des Moines, Iowa is the only area known to have a record of trick-or-treating being used to deter crime. Elsewhere, adults, as reported in newspapers from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s, typically saw it as a form of extortion, with reactions ranging from bemused indulgence to anger. Likewise, as portrayed on radio shows, children would have to explain what trick-or-treating was to puzzled adults, and not the other way around. Sometimes even the children protested: for Halloween 1948, members of the Madison Square Boys Club in New York City carried a parade banner that read “American Boys Don’t Beg.” The National Confectioners Association reported in 2005 that 80 percent of adults in the United States planned to give out confectionery to trick-or-treaters, and that 93 percent of children, teenagers, and young adults planned to go trick-or-treating or participating in other Halloween activities. In 2008, Halloween candy, costumes and other related products accounted for $5.77 billion in revenue.

 

 
Some organizations around the US sponsor a “Trunk-or-Treat” on Halloween night (or on occasion, a day immediately preceding Halloween), where trick-or-treating is done from parked car to parked car in a local parking lot, often at a church house. The trunk of one’s car is opened, displaying candy, and often sometimes games and decorations. Concerned parents see it as safer for their children,[citation needed] while other parents see it as an easier alternative to walking the neighborhood with their kids. Opponents frown upon the Trunk-or-Treat as violation of the tradition of walking door-to-door on Halloween, and as exclusion of children that do not belong to these groups and thus are not informed about them. Some have called for more city or community group-sponsored Trunk-or-Treats, so they can be more inclusive. Many neighborhoods see a large reduction in door-to-door trick-or-treating because of a competing Trunk-or-Treat. These have become increasingly popular over the years especially in conservative states like Utah, and are catching on around Midwest and Southern states.
Churches are expanding on the original idea of trunk or treat by adding food, music, games and rides. Their goal is to reach more of the community with an alternative to trick or treat. It not only has become a way to provide an alternative for children in the church but to the entire community. They have also found that it opens up opportunities to invite parents and children to other events or services going on at the church. A number of churches have started handing out Halloween Christian tracts or other information on the church.

 

 

Magazine advertisement in 1962

Magazine advertisement in 1962

In Portugal children go from house to house in All Saints day and All Souls Day, carrying pumpkin carved lanterns called coca, asking every one they see for Pão-por-Deus singing rimes where they remind people why they are begging, saying “[…]It is for me and for you, and to give to the deceased who are dead and buried[…]” or “[…]It is to share with your deceased […]” If a door is not open or the children don’t get anything, they end their singing saying “[…]In this house smells like lard, here must live someone deceased”. In the Azores the bread given to the children takes the shape of the top of a skull. The tradition of pão-por-Deus was already recorded in the 15th century. After this ritual begging, takes place the Magusto and big bonfires are lit with the “firewood of the souls”. The young people play around smothering their faces with the ashes. The ritual begging for the deceased used to take place all over the year as in several regions the dead, those who were dear, were expected to arrive and take part in the major celebrations like Christmas and a plate with food or a seat at the table was always left for them.
In some parts of Canada, children sometimes say “Halloween apples” instead of “trick or treat.” This probably originated when the toffee apple was a popular type of candy. Apple-giving in much of Canada, however, has been taboo since the 1960s when stories (of almost certainly questionable authenticity) appeared of razors hidden inside Halloween apples; parents began to check over their children’s “loot” for safety before allowing them to eat it. In Quebec, children also go door to door on Halloween. However, in French speaking neighbourhoods, instead of “Trick or treat?”, they will simply say “Halloween”, though in tradition it used to be La charité s’il-vous-plaît (“Charity, please”).
In some parts of Ohio, Iowa, Massachusetts and other states, the night designated for trick-or-treating is referred to as Beggars Night, and in some communities it is held on a night prior to Halloween itself.

In Sweden children dress up as witches and go trick-or-treating on Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter) while Danish children dress up in various attires and go trick-or-treating on Fastelavn (or the next day, Shrove Monday). In Norway “trick-or-treat” is called “knask eller knep”, which means almost the same thing, although with the word order reversed, and the practice is quite common among children, who come dressed up to people’s doors asking for, mainly, candy. Many Norwegians prepare for the event by consciously buying a small stock of sweets prior to it, to come in handy should any kids come knocking on the door, which is very probable in most areas. The Easter witch tradition is done on Palm Sunday in Finland. In parts of Flanders and some parts of the Netherlands and most areas of Germany, Switzerland and Austria, children go to houses with home made beet lanterns or with paper lanterns (which can hold a candle or electronic light), singing songs about St. Martin on St. Martin’s Day (the 11th of November), in return for treats. In Northern Germany and Southern Denmark children dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating on New Year’s Eve in a tradition called “Rummelpott”.
Children of the St. Louis, Missouri area are expected to perform a joke, usually a simple Halloween-themed pun or riddle, before receiving any candy; this “trick” earns the “treat”. Children in Des Moines, Iowa also tell jokes or otherwise perform before receiving their treat. Des Moines trick-or-treating is also unusual in that it is actually done the night before Halloween, known locally as “Beggars’ Night”.
In many areas of the United States it is frowned upon for teenagers to trick-or-treat. In fact, several US cities have banned trick-or-treaters older than 12 from participating in the event.

 

 

 

Seafood of the Week – Clams

October 29, 2013 at 8:29 AM | Posted in seafood, Seafood of the Week | Leave a comment
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Edible clams in the family Veneridae

Edible clams in the family Veneridae

A clam is a generic term for many kinds of bivalve molluscs, some of which are edible.
Clams, like most molluscs, also have open circulatory systems, which means that their organs are surrounded by watery blood that contains nutrients and oxygen. They feed on plankton by filter feeding. Clams filter feed by drawing in water containing food using an incurrent siphon. The food is then filtered out of the water by the gills and swept toward the mouth on a layer of mucus. The water is then expelled from the animal by an ex-current siphon.

 

 

In the United States, the word “clam” has several different meanings. First, it can generally cover all molluscs. It can also be used in a more limited sense as cave sediment bivalves, rather than those attached to the substrate (like oysters and mussels) or those that swim (like scallops). It can also refer to one or more kinds of commonly consumed marine bivalves, such as in the phrase clam chowder, which refers to shellfish soup. Many edible bivalves are roughly oval-shaped; however, the Pacific razor clam has an elongated, parallel-sided shell, the shape of the show, an old-fashioned straight razor.
In the United Kingdom, “clam” is one of the common names of various species of marine bivalve mollusc, but it is not used as a term covering either edible clams that burrow or bivalves in general.
Numerous edible marine bivalve species live buried in sand or mud and respire by means of siphons, which reach to the surface. In the United States, these clams are collected by “digging for clams” or clam digging.
In October 2007 an Arctica islandica clam, caught off the coast of Iceland, was found to be at least 405 years old and declared the world’s oldest living animal by researchers from Bangor University. It was later named Ming.
Some species of bivalves are too small to be useful for food, and not all species are considered palatable.
The word “clam” is used in the metaphor “to clam up,” meaning to refuse to talk or answer, based on the clam behavior of quickly closing the shell when threatened. A “clamshell” is the name given to a container or mobile phone consisting of two hinged halves that lock together. Clams have also inspired the phrase “happy as a clam,” short for “happy as a clam at high tide” (when it can’t easily be dug up and eaten).

 

 

Littleneck clams, small hard clams, species Mercenaria mercenaria

Littleneck clams, small hard clams, species Mercenaria mercenaria

A clam’s shell consists of two (usually equal) halves, which are connected by a hinge joint and a ligament which can be external or internal.
In clams, two adductor muscles contract to close the shells. The clam has no head or eyes, though scallops are an exception of this rule. Clams do have kidneys, a heart, a mouth, and an anus.
Clams begin as a shellfish the size of a grain of sand when born. It has a natural glue on it that causes it to connect to other shells or things at the bottom of the river. Once a clam is secure, it feeds on the plankton, as stated, and moves with the tide. It takes a clam 24-30 months to become harvestable.

 

 

In culinary use, within the eastern coast of the United States, the term “clam” most often refers to the hard clam Mercenaria mercenaria. It

Yummy bowl of steamed clams in broth

Yummy bowl of steamed clams in broth

may also refer to a few other common edible species, such as the soft-shell clam, Mya arenaria, and the ocean quahog, Arctica islandica. Another species which is commercially exploited on the Atlantic Coast of the United States is the surf clam Spisula solidissima.
Clams can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, baked or fried. They can also be made into clam chowder or they can be cooked using hot rocks and seaweed in a New England clam bake.

 

 

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