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Dateline: May 2, 2006

Ask Dr John

And the merry month of May is at hand. I mourn the passing of the Mayfete of years ago. The celebration of the coming of spring was observed in every little country community. The big towns and cities seldom had a Mayfete. (Mayfete was one word before spell checkers).

My favorite Mayfete was at the SPJST Hall just east of Taylor. (SPJST is a fraternal insurance organization.) It was on Sunday afternoon after church. The ladies wore their finest, the men all had on suits and ties, and the children had on their best Sunday School togs. Dinner was always barbecue and the trimmings. Afterward came the pageant of the crowning of the May Queen and her court.

It is a deep shame that such innocent gatherings are disappearing from the American scene.

Okay, before the Doctor gets maudlin, let's get to the first question.

Robert has a deep-frying problem: Why do deep fried fish fillets, chicken, etc. end up tough?

Hi Robert: It sounds like a case of overcooking to me. There is a bit of a learning curve involved. First you want to make sure your oil is hot enough. At least 350-375. Rule of thumb is when you deep fry fish, it will sink and then when it rises to the top of the oil it is done.

The larger pieces need a bit lower oil temperature than the little pieces. This allows time for internal cooking while the outside browns. The smaller pieces will cook faster and will be done when the outside is the right color. Don't try to fry too many pieces at once or you'll bring the oil temp down too low. Just experiment a bit. Pull out a sample and cut into it to see where you are in the cooking process. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Leslie has a rust problem: A gift of a cast iron skillet was given to me. I seasoned it as instructed, cooked in it and then washed it (with dish soap), dried it and put it away. When we next took it out, it had rust in it. Guess I didn't dry it completely, and I have been told not to use dish soap now. Is there a way I can get the rust out and use it safely or do I scrap it for a new one and start over?

Hi Leslie: Oh oh, a boo boo. First of all, you can get the rust off your skillet with some steel wool. You can use some water to rinse it after you steel wool it. Put it on the stove on a low heat to dry. Then reseason it as per instructions.

Each time after you use the skillet, clean it good. If nothing is stuck you can wipe it out with a paper towel or such. If there are things stuck you can use warm soapy water and a stiff brush or plastic scraper to remove it. Just as soon as you get it washed, put it on the stove to dry. Then give it a very light coat of oil inside and out. This keeps the rust bugs away.

The seasoning builds up a layer of carbon on the cast iron. If it gets too hot it will burn off and you have to start over again. Hope this explains it. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Steven has encountered gas: I was told many years ago that if you add a little baking soda to a pot of beans, it would help decrease the amount of gas the body produces. Is this true? And if so how much baking soda do I add per cup of beans?

Hi Steven: There are two schools of thought on this subject. One side says the baking soda helps; the other side says it does not. If you want to try baking soda, use no more than one-eighth teaspoon per cup or you may get a soapy flavor and darken the beans.

If you soak your beans overnight, which I do, you can put in about a half teaspoon of soda while soaking. Discard the soaking water and start with fresh water when you cook the beans. There is a faction that says discarding the soaking water cuts down on the gas whether you use the soda or not. You will just have to see what works for you. There is always Bean-O. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Raquel wants to deep fry a ham: I have heard that folks down in Texas know all about deep-fat frying a ham, just like you do a turkey. What I want to know is specifics like oil temp, cooking time, what kind of ham is best, can I do a spiral cut, etc. We are wanting to do this for Easter this year. Please let me know!

Hi Raquel: Down here in Texas we know everything about everything. As for frying a ham, you can use a spiral cut one. Just take it out of the wrapper; you don't have to do anything to it. The oil should be 375 degrees. For a seven pound ham, it will take about 7-9 minutes. All you are doing is warming it and putting a crust on it.

A whole, fresh (uncooked) ham about the same size will take about 3-1/2 minutes per pound. You want an internal temperature of 160 degrees. It is recommended you inject marinade in a fresh ham to get the flavor. You would cook a regular cooked ham just like the spiral cut. You are just warming it and putting a little crust on it.

I assume you know about deep fryers. You lower the hams in the oil very slowly as they contain a lot of water. Be real careful anyway you go about it and keep the kids away. Thanks for writing.

Dr. John

If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc
end article

Traditional Texas Food Articles
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