In the winter months, folks keep right on cooking and eating. The good Doctor's waiting room has been seeing lots of traffic. Let's get on to our first patient.

Harry C. writes: I got a question for ya Doc, and it sounds like I may be talkin' to the right man. I'm lookin' to buy cracklins on-line or mail order. And I mean the fresh renderings pressed out from making lard, not the puffy fried ones. So if ya might be able to point me in the right direction that would be great. Thanks a lot.

Harry: Great question. Have you heard of National Hog Lard Month? Yep, every November we celebrate that great American invention. Hog lard greased many a pioneer wagon axel and fried many a rabbit. My mama said her school lunch was bread smeared with hog lard and some sugar sprinkled on it. Getting back to your question. Look up the following web sites: www.rudolphfoods.com/tender.htm and www.webga.com/turkeycreeksnacks If that don't do it, we'll just kill a couple of hogs and make our own. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Sherry writes: Hello. My name is Sherry, and I'm doing a project in the hospital where I work. I work in the food nutrition department, and we are celebrating all the 50 United States starting January 1. We are trying to find recipes that would represent your state, so if you have recipes from Texas that you would like to share with our patients and families please send them or any interesting state facts. We are going all the way with celebrating your beautiful state (the state bird, bug, tree, nut), and now we need recipes or some links. Thank you so much.

Sherry: Sounds like fun. I've often wondered what the folks in Utah eat. As for Texas, Chili is the official state dish. I'll attach a recipe for that. Also on the Texan's menu will be Chicken Fried Steak and Barbecue. You can find those recipes in the Cookbook on the www.texascooking.com page. For other information on Texas, go to www.lsjunction.com Anything else you need, give me a holler. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Robert writes: Question: Why is smoking a turkey at 250 degrees safe, when roasting one in your conventional oven at 250 degrees a death risk?

Robert: The smoke cuts down on airborne or other bacteria that may be present. It is common practice to smoke hams, sausage and bacon at 140 degrees for several weeks. In the oven, you need to get the bird up to 140 degrees as fast as possible so the bacteria that may be present won't produce any toxins. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Betty writes: A friend is looking for a recipe she calls Texas Pickles. She says it's real hot and has sugar and Tabasco sauce. Can you help?

Hey Betty: Oh good, someone finally asked me something I know. Get a pint bottle of sour pickle chips and drain off all the juice. Remove the pickle chips from bottle. Put in a layer of sugar, just enough to cover bottom of bottle. Put layer of pickle chips on that, sprinkle with Tabasco. Then another layer of sugar, pickles and Tabasco until you have all the pickles back in the bottle. Now, seal the bottle. After one day, turn the bottle upside down. Next day, turn it right side up again. Repeat for a week. You will then have Texas Pickles. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

John M. writes: I am looking for a source for wild game recipes, especially a good use for deer hearts, since I have six since we last visited. I remember eating it cooked when I was young, but the cooks are all gone to the big hunting grounds. I am interested in a recipe to pickle or to cook fresh. I have a foolproof recipe for the tougher game meats if you are interested (neck, etc.) I cooked it for a wild game dinner that the Governor of New Hampshire was coming to. The meal was excellent, but the Governor didn't show. Thanks.

John: Here's an address for many wild game recipes: http://martin.ces.state.nc.us/newsletters/wildrecipes/list.html Give a look.
Dr. John

Bill writes: Why does mesquite wood on the smoker often leave a bitter taste? Can mesquite be mixed with other woods to tame the flavor?

Hey Bill: Don't be afraid of that trash tree. The problem folks have with it is they don't get wood that is properly seasoned. Green mesquite has lots of oil in it that may impart bitterness. If you skin the bark off it, it will last for a hundred years, propping up an old house, for instance. (If you leave the bark on, the worms will make all kinds of tunnels in it.) This gets into an issue of personal taste. What I like may not suit you. I suggest you try some mesquite without mixing it with other woods. This will let you determine how it tastes and then you can go on to blend the woods to perfection. You can overdo any smoke. You want just enough -- not too much. Only way to get the right formula is to experiment. Good luck. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

James writes: Hi Doctor John! I live in the northeast and am having difficulty locating the various types and brands of chile powder that many southern recipes call for, like Gebhardt, New Mexico hot, and California. Any ideas on where I might call to purchase over the phone or Internet? Regards, Jim.

Jim: Look into www.texmex.net or www.pendreys.com They seem to have a pretty good assortment. Keep your powders in the freezer; they will last a lot longer that way. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Ranamok writes: I'm planning to make a special Christmas dinner for family and friends. I've been searching high and low for a recipe for blackened scallops and could not find one that suits me. If you have a favorite recipe, please share it with me.

Hey Rana: Here you go.

Cajun Style Blackened Seasoning

That's the seasoning. Coat the critters real good with it. Slap them in a hot, heavy skillet. These are going to cook fast -- probably a minute and a half on one side, turn, and a minute on the second side. Try one or two to get the timing right. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Andrew writes: Can a brisket be deep-fried like a turkey? And if so, do you have a recipe or cooking time? Thanks.

Hey Andrew: I've never heard of fried brisket. I doubt it would work. Brisket is a tough cut of meat, requires a long, moist, cooking time. The 350 plus degree cooking oil would probably turn the outside into cardboard long before the inside was done. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John