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What are the most popular apple varieties in the US?- Tuesday, October 3, 2017

There are more than 100 commercially viable varieties of apples in the US, but here are the 10 most popular.

Red Delicious

Originally known as the Hawkeye, this is the most popular, most maligned, most ironically named of all apple varieties in the US.

Flavor profile: After generations of breeding for longer shelf life and cosmetic stability—call it vanity ripeness—the flavor has largely been cultivated out of the Red Delicious. It now has thick skin, a one-note sweet flavor, and an often crumbly texture.

Where it’s grown: Just about everywhere.

Best enjoyed: Straight out of the silo. Red Delicious apples are not regarded for their use in baking.

McIntosh

This is what you expect to get when you bite into a Red Delicious.

Flavor profile: With a soft skin and softer flesh, the McIntosh strikes a level balance between sweet and acidic.

Where it’s grown: Throughout the northeastern and upper Great Lakes states and eastern Canada.

Best enjoyed: Raw, in fruit salad, or sauced. McIntosh apples typically collapse when baked.

Golden (or Yellow) Delicious

Considered an all-purpose apple, the Golden Delicious—along with Red Delicious (no relation)—is the one most commonly found in 42-pound bags sold for five dollars at the grocery store.

Flavor profile: Mild and sweet, the flesh is juicy, but taste-wise isn’t all that different from the Red Delicious.

Where it’s grown: In most regions of the country.

Best enjoyed: Pick your poison. It works whole, chopped into salad, or baked into desserts.

Gala

This New Zealand breed has gained popularity in the last 15 years. It’s a cross between a Kidd’s Orange Red and a Golden Delicious apple (assuming you’re up on apple husbandry).

Flavor profile: With pinkish-orange striping over a gold base, its skin is thin, concealing a crisp and juicy flesh that’s fragrant and fairly sweet.

Where it’s grown: All but the southernmost points of the lower 48.

Best enjoyed: Raw, juiced, or in salads.

Granny Smith

Neon green and as squat as a five-foot bodybuilder, this is probably the most readily-recognized of all apple varieties.

Flavor profile: If you’re into tartness, this bitter old bird is your go-to. Its crisp, juicy flesh, however, does sweeten with storage.

Where it’s grown: Originally cultivated in Australia, it’s harvested stateside below the Mason-Dixon Line, and is available year-round.

Best enjoyed: Raw, in pies, or in salads where its tartness can be offset. Granny Smiths work especially well with nut butters.

Fuji

The Fuji was created in Japan (where it’s still the most popular variety) and is a cross between two American varieties (Red Delicious and Ralls Genet).

Flavor profile: Dense, crisp and generally regarded the sweetest of all varieties.

Where it’s grown: It wasn’t introduced here until the 1980s, but there are now more Fuji apples produced in all but the northern- and southernmost parts of the US than in Japan.

Best enjoyed: Raw, chopped into salads, or baked into pie.

Braeburn

Apple snobs can’t gush enough about how this variety was discovered—as opposed to bred—in New Zealand. Its probable parents are the Lady Hamilton and Granny Smith.

Flavor profile: Thin-skinned Braeburns boast textbook apple flavor and balance sweet and tart along with faint notes of nutmeg and cinnamon.

Where it’s grown: Just about anywhere on the mainland except the northernmost parts of the Midwest and New England.

Best enjoyed: Raw, but it’s also known to juice very little during baking.

Pink Lady

This brand name for the Cripps Pink variety applies to apples grown under specific license, dictating a rigid sugar-to-acid ratio, among other traits. Those that don’t qualify are sold as Cripps.

Flavor profile: A cross between the Golden Delicious and Lady Williams, the Pink Lady is firm and crunchy with a tart flavor that finishes sweetly.

Where it’s grown: In America, it’s primarily grown in Washington and California.

Best enjoyed: Raw, in salads, baked in pies, and sliced onto cheeseboards.

Honeycrisp

The product of efforts to develop cold-weather apples, the honeycrisp is the official state fruit of Minnesota.

Flavor profile: Keeps things simple with a light overall flavor profile that’s more sweet than tart. It’s also juicy and moderately crunchy.

Where it’s grown: The northern Great Lakes and New England. They’re actually better a week or so after removal from cold storage, making the time when you buy them the time that’s best to enjoy them.

Best enjoyed: Hardy and versatile, honeycrisps are up to any task you put them up against

Empire

Introduced in New York in the 1960s, it takes a lot to bruise this cross between Red Delicious and McIntosh varieties despite its thin skin.

Flavor profile: Retaining the sweetness of the Red Delicious and the tartness of the Mac, this is a crisp, juicy everyman’s apple.

Where it’s grown: Mostly in the Northeast and upper Midwestern states.

Best enjoyed: Raw, cooked (it’s better for this than most), chopped into salads, and in lunchboxes.

 

All about eggplants- Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A member of the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes and peppers, eggplant is a fairly common staple throughout the world, especially in Asian countries. As Americans, many of us are familiar with the most common/classic eggplant variety -- the deep purple, somewhat pear-shaped type carried by the majority of grocery stores. However, not many of us are acquainted with all the other varieties available... and there are many!

Eggplant varieties

Here is a list of the more common types of eggplant. Note: Most of these are available year-round!

White Eggplant

Eggplant got its name because it was originally small and white, and thus looked like eggs hanging from the plant. Today, the white eggplant has a tough skin and a creamy, delicate flesh.

Italian Eggplant

Smaller, slimmer versions of the classic American eggplant; useful for sauteing if you want small slices.

Chinese Eggplant

Long and violet to purple in color, the Chinese eggplant is sweeter and more tender than a typical American eggplant. Its skin is soft, so it is rarely peeled. It is interchangeable in almost any eggplant recipe.

Japanese Eggplant

Similar to the Chinese eggplant, it has a thin skin and a sweet, delicate flavor. The Japanese eggplant is slender and can be green, pink, white, lavender or purple. Its calyus, or stem, is most often dark purple.

Indian Eggplant

The Indian eggplant is known for its tenderness and sweet flavor. It is small and round with smooth skin and a red-purple color. The skin does not need to be peeled; it can be used interchangeably with the American eggplant.

Choosing and storing an eggplant

Eggplants should be firm but not hard, and heavy for their size. Their skin should be glossy, with no bruises or brown spots, and the cap should be fresh-looking and bright green.

Eggplant can be kept for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator; after that it can become bitter. Keep it uncut in an open plastic bag. (Eggplants that were purchased wrapped should have their plastic covering removed before storage).

Health benefits of eggplant

The iron, calcium and other minerals in eggplant supply the essential nutrients required by the body.

Eggplants contain certain essential phyto nutrients which improve blood circulation and nourish the brain. (Most of these nutrients are concentrated in the skin of the eggplant.)

Eggplant is low in calories, with just 35 per cup. It contains no fat and its high fiber content can help you feel full.

A few delicious eggplant recipes

 

[Info courtesy of thenibble.com & gardeningknowhow.com]

Greek Olives- Wednesday, November 23, 2016

As more and more folks seek out healthier food alternatives, many of the foods found in a traditional Mediterranean diet have increased in popularity. One such food that we have seen large growth in here at Prisco’s are the various types of Greek Olives. We thought that it might be beneficial at this time to give you a bit more information about what types of olives are so popular in that part of the world.

(Much of the information contained in this blog article was found in a web posting on About.com, written by Nancy Gaifyllia.)

The color of olives indicates what time during the harvesting season they were picked. Harvesting runs from October to January. The greenest olives are harvested in October, the red or pink in November, the black in December, and the wrinkled black (not to be confused with olives that have shriveled due to curing in salt) in January.

picSmall Cretan Green Olives
Crete is famous for these tiny olives, which are also cultivated in Messinia and Zakynthos.  Despite their size, they are packed with oil and are the source of some of the world's best olive oil.  When green, small quantities are harvested as table olives.  When black and ripe (December, January, and sometimes February), they are almost exclusively harvested for the production of olive oil.  Most of the table olives are consumed in Greece, never reaching western markets; the olive oil, famous the world over, is consumed in Greece and exported.

picHalkithiki Green Olives
These olives are harvested in October and are grown solely on the Halkithiki Peninsula.  Recently, green olives from Halkidiki were finally granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the European Union (EU).  A PDO product is given this designation/label to highlight the fact that it is produced in a specific geographical region, and therefore unique.  The Halkdiki green olives are huge due to the microclimate and the geography: low-lying hills, lots of flat land and the sea being nearby.  These olives have a unique flavor profile and, like all other olives, are very healthy for you.

picGreen olives from Nafplion
Harvested at the beginning of the season, in October, these olives are named after a town which is found on the seacoast and which is famous for its exotic places and nature.  The Nafplion olive is rather small and has a nutty flavor.  They are used in Greek specialties, including cold appetizers, as topping for warm main courses, and in salads or in garnishes.  These kinds of olives are sometimes used simply for decorating salads and various meals.  They may also be used in local kebabs, besides chicken, lettuce and mayo.

picKalamata Olives, Red & Black
Also known as "pink" olives, these are harvested in November.  If left on the tree longer to further ripen, the Kalmata turn black and are harvested, at full ripeness, in December.  This is the olive most recognize as the Greek olive.  Kalamata is a region in Greece, famous for its production of olives and olive oils.

Most Kalamata olives are split prior to being brined or pickled, which allows the flavor, particularly of vinaigrette, to soak into the interior of the olive.  Yet before you begin eating, be aware that these olives are usually sold with their seeds in.  If you plan to serve these, eat them yourself or add them to recipes, be sure to remove the seed first.

picWrinkled Black Olives or "Throubes"
Unlike olives that shrivel up after curing, these are fully mature olives that are not picked...They ripen and shrivel on the tree.  Nets are placed under the trees and the olives fall off when fully ripe.  The wrinkling is their natural state.  They are the only olives that can be eaten directly from the tree, but are dry cured for commercial use.  Most throubes come from the Greek island of Thassos.  Favorite ways to serve them are with Patatosalata (Greek potato salad), or drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano.  They are meaty with a strong olive taste, and are not used to make olive oil.

 

Oktoberfest – A Great Bavarian Tradition and the Beers That Make It So.- Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Oktoberfest, the world's largest beer festival, is held annually in Munich, Germany. The 16-day party attracts over 6 million people every year who consume 1.5 million gallons of beer, 200,000 pairs of pork sausage, and 480,000 spit-roasted chickens during the two-week extravaganza.

The Oktoberfest tradition started in 1810 to celebrate the October 12th marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to the Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese. The citizens of Munich were invited to join in the festivities which were held over five days on the fields in front of the city gates. The main event of the original Oktoberfest was a horse race. Anniversary celebrations were held annually thereafter that eventually became larger and more elaborate. When the city began allowing beer on the fairgrounds, makeshift beer stands began cropping up, and their number increased steadily until they were eventually replaced by beer halls in 1896. The beer halls, like the beer tents of today, were sponsored by the local breweries

Before refrigeration, it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer due to the hot weather and bacterial infections. Brewing ended with the coming of spring, and began again in the fall. Most were brewed in March (Märzen). These brews were kept in cold storage over the spring and summer months, or brewed at a higher gravity, so they’d keep. Märzenbier is full-bodied, rich, toasty, typically dark copper in color with a medium to high alcohol content.

The common Munich Oktoberfest beer served at Wies'n (the location at which Munich celebrates its Oktoberfest) contains roughly 5.0-6.0% alcohol by volume, is dark/copper in color, has a mild hop profile and is typically labeled as a Bavarian Märzenbier in style.

Augustiner -  Founded in 1328, it is the oldest Munich brewery. It’s rooted in the old Munich Augustiner monastery in Neuhauser Gasse. There has also been a taproom which was popular with the Munich people. Augustiner-Oktoberfest-beer has 6% alcohol.  As the only Munich brewery, Augustiner is still using wooden barrels for storing beer.

Hacker Pschorr - This brewery was founded in 1417 and grew to be the leading Munich brewery in the 18th century under the couple Joseph Pschorr and Maria Theresia Hacker. After their death, the brewery was divided into Hacker brewery and Pschorr brewery and not reunified until the 1970s. Since 2007, the beer is sold again in the traditional bottles with flip top closure. The beer, which with 5.8% alcohol the lightest one, is offered at the Oktoberfest.

Hofbräu - Wilhelm V. founded the brewery 1589. Originally the brewery was located at the Platzl location of the famous Hofbräuhaus, one the most important tourist attractions in Munich. The beer, which is sold in the Hofbräuzelt at the Oktoberfest, contains 6.3% alcohol -- the strongest one sold at Oktoberfest.

Löwenbräu - The logo of the beer is a lion. Also famous is the oversized, mechanical lion on the top of the Löwenbräu tent which can roar and move its tail.  At the Oktoberfest, the 6.1% beer is sold in Löwenbräu-Zelt and Schützenzelt.

Paulaner - This beer has been brewed since 1634 in the Paulaner monastery and therefore is the most recent under the Munich beers. First the beer was only sold in public on holidays. The recipe of the stout, which became very popular with the Munich people, was invented by Brother Barnabas. The Oktoberfest-beer of Paulaner has 6% alcohol.

Spaten -  The Spaten brewery was founded 1397. The logo of the label is a spade with the initials of Gabriel Sedlmayr. Also in the possession of the Sedlmayr family is the Franziskaner brewery. Both of these 5.9% beers are offered at the Oktoberfest in the Schottenhammel, the Marstall, the Ochsenbraterei and, of course, the Spaten-Zelt.

 

Get to know your vegetables - Cabbage - Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Here is one of the vegetables that never gets much fanfare and is often taken for granted. Chances are good you eat a whole lot more cabbage than you’d expect. How often have you enjoyed a Reuben sandwich with sauerkraut or fried chicken with coleslaw?

There are lots of reasons to love cabbage and two of the most popular are the fact that it’s always very inexpensive and extremely versatile. It’s also crispy, sweet, high in vitamin C and fiber, and rich in cancer-preventing compounds (like its relatives kale, broccoli, and cauliflower). And talk about versatile! Shred it finely and it’s a coleslaw, or make sauerkraut by salting and weighting it. Slice it less finely and it stir-fries beautifully. And in quarter-inch or larger slices, cabbage becomes a succulent braised vegetable. For many backyard gardeners, however, cabbage is not easy to grow as it takes up loads of space, but at its low price point it’s hardly worth trying to grow it yourself when it’s almost always in good supply at at Prisco’s.

Pickling cabbage started in China and is embedded in the cuisine of many countries, including Korea (think kimchi). In France, choucroute is a specialty of Alsace. Eaten raw, sauerkraut is tangy and chewy, good on hot dogs, reubens and other sandwiches. When cooked, sauerkraut acquires complexity and sweetness. It’s a pretty fair guess that most of the cabbage we Americans eat comes in some form of coleslaw, a term anglicized from the Dutch koolsla. Coleslaw comes in an endless variety of flavors and ingredients, and personal taste plays a big part in determining whether you love it, can tolerate it or can do without it, thank you very much. Some like it noticeably sweet; some don’t. Accents of grated carrot, sweet peppers, red cabbage, apples, and even currants boost flavor and visual appeal.

So, pretty much everyone has had boiled cabbage if you’ve ever had a traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal of corned beef, cabbage and potatoes. For something a bit more interesting and as a great way to enjoy cabbage as a standalone vegetable, try braising it. Slow cooking in a small amount of liquid after an initial sauté is an ideal way to prepare cabbage. Braised cabbage is good enough for company! It’s also a luscious side dish for an everyday family meal—and the aromas are great, possibly because it starts with sautéing and doesn’t cook long. The basic technique accommodates other additions, including onion, garlic, ginger, chilies, peppers, carrots, peas, cream, nutmeg, or fresh herbs.

Here is a recipe for Braised Cabbage and several others you might like to try.

 

The types and benefits of tea- Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tea Tales

Tea has been a important beverage in many cultures for thousands of years, and throughout history has often been prized for its medicinal value and health benefits -- in addition to the caffeine buzz.

Tea originated in China some time during the Shang Dynasty between 1500 and 1046 BC, although the details of its emergence aren't clear. In fact, there are a variety of legends surrounding the origins of tea, and very few verifiable facts. According to the folks over at tea.co.uk,

Perhaps the most famous [story of the origin of tea] is [that of] of Shen Nung, the emperor and renowned herbalist, who was boiling his drinking water when leaves from a nearby tea shrub blew into the cauldron. He tasted the resulting brew, and the beverage of tea was born.

An alternative story links tea drinking to the Indian prince Bodhidharma, who converted to Buddhism and in the sixth century and went to China to spread the word. He believed that it was necessary to stay awake constantly for meditation and prayer, and took to chewing leaves from the tea shrub, which acted as stimulant, helping him stay awake. (An alternative, more macabre version has Bodhidharma accidentally falling asleep, and upon waking cutting off his own eyelids in disgust at himself. He threw the eyelids away, and from them sprouted the first tea shrub).

Kinds of Tea

There are several different categories of tea with hundreds of unique varieties in existence, although they are all basically the same plant: Camellia Sinensis. Differences between individual teas is the result of the climate/environment in which the plants were grown, as well as the harvesting and processing practices of the product owner. The basic categories are as follows (info courtesy of itoen.com):

White

White tea undergoes the least processing of all teas. Traditionally cultivated in China, white tea was picked only a few days out of the year, when a white down, known as bai hao, appeared on the tender shoots. The tea shoots are allowed to wither then dry to prevent oxidization. This process is a delicate one, requiring strict attention from the tea makers.

 

Green

Because they are unoxidized, green teas keep their vital color. To prevent oxidization, the leaves are heat processed to eliminate the enzyme responsible for oxidization. In China, this is generally done by roasting or pan-firing the leaves, while the Japanese generally accomplish this by steaming the leaves at a high temperature. Each process tends to bring out a more particular flavor from the tea leaves. The Chinese style of processing tends to bring out a mouthwatering range of flavors from citrus-like to smoky with a lighter body...Green teas that have been steamed contain more moisture and are therefore more delicate.

Oolong

Oolong, also spelled Wu Long, teas are semi-oxidized. The term in Chinese actually means "Black Dragon". Oolong teas have long been cultivated in both mainland China and Taiwan. In general, larger, mature leaves are picked, withered, rolled, oxidized, and then fired...Often, different tea estates have their preferred ways of making oolong tea. It is because of the intricacy of this process that oolong teas can have the widest array of flavors and aromas. Furthermore, oolongs can be steeped several time, with each successive infusion having its own distinctive taste and fragrance.

Black

Black tea is the most well-known variety of tea in the West. Known as "red tea" in China, black tea leaves are fully oxidized. In the case of most black teas, younger leaves are picked before being withered, rolled, fully oxidized, and fired. While created originally in China, black teas are now cultivated worldwide. Some of the most famous black teas come from the Indian regions of Assam, Darjeeling, and Nilgiri as well as Sri Lanka. The use of machines is becoming more common, but the best black teas are those entirely done by hand.

 

How to Brew Your Tea

Brewing a good cup of loose tea is quite simple: All that is required is good water*, the correct quantity of tea, and control of the steeping time. (* If your source of water isn't the best, try using bottled spring water or purified water; many teas have subtle flavors that can be destroyed or masked by water that contains heavy concentrations of iron or other impurities.)

How long and at what temperature to brew your chosen tea depends on the kind of tea being steeped. The following chart should give you a good idea of what to aim for when brewing tea.

image from stashtea.com

 

Why Tea is the Perfect Beverage of Choice

There are numerous reasons why brewed tea is an excellent choice when it comes to selecting a staple beverage. First of all, there is the fact that tea comes in a wonderful assortment of flavors; so many so, in fact, you could have a different variety of tea every day for months and never run out of options. Also, home-brewed tea, hot or cold, is relatively easy to prepare, and unlike soft drinks you have complete control over the quantity of sweetener (if any) you wish to add.

In addition, all four of the basic tea types are high in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that seems to protect cells from the DNA damage that can cause cancer and other diseases. A 2009 review of 51 green tea studies found that sipping three to five cups a day may lower the risks of ovarian, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancers.

There's also evidence that tea can have positive effects on the brain. For example, downing from one to four cups of black or green tea a day has been linked with a lower risk of Parkinson's disease. Drinking tea may also be helpful in preventing or delaying certain risk factors of cardiovascular disease, and lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides. According to one Japanese study, adults who consumed five or more cups of green tea per day had a 26% reduction in death from heart attack or stroke compared with those who had one cup or less.