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Dateline: July 1, 2007

July -- the month of firecrackers and watermelon. Have you priced a watermelon lately? They must fertilize them with gold dust. I remember when fifty cents would buy a big Black Diamond melon. The melon would go in the milk cooler at the dairy until it was very cold, and then it was consumed on the front porch. There were as many opinions on how to select a good melon as there were people buying or selling them. Our favorite method was the Thump Test. I cant describe that without sound, though. I think they still have the Watermelon Thump festival at Luling, Texas every year.

Gosh, I got sidetracked thinking about The Good Old Days. The good doctor wants to remind everyone to be especially careful when doing grilling and smoking to avoid burns. It only takes a second to ruin your whole day. Do keep the little ones at a safe distance from the cooking machine.

Okay, we have a good variety of questions and answers today. I hope they fit together. Stay cool, drink plenty of liquids and call me in the morning.

Gary writes:
I have been directed to your site and would appreciate some info if possible. I have been looking for some recipes for pot barbecue. This is an old favorite at reunions and, like a lot of old recipes, they are being lost as the older folks are passing on. This is usually stew meat cooked in a cast iron wash pot with a pot of beans in another. In its simplest form, salt and pepper with barbecue sauce is added near the end of the cooking time. I know there are a lot of really good recipes out there if I can only find them. Please help!

Hi Gary: A while back I had a request for recipe for Pan Barbecue, which is nearly the same as you describe, but it is cooked inside a smoker. I never came up with a recipe. Most of these old family recipes were never written down. They were just remembered and most were never the same twice. I think you can make everyone happy with your recipe. Keep notes as you prepare it, and then you can make a recipe. Here's the way I would do it:

I would brown the meat in small batches, rather than trying to keep a whole big potful going at one time. Use a small amount of oil for each batch. Transfer the browned meat to the big pot. Use a slotted spoon or strainer to let the juices and fat drain off. For seasoning use garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper and salt. Season each batch as you brown it. (Go easy on the salt; you can adjust later). Avoid any of the liquid smokes; they are awful.

You will have to have some water in the big pot while you are cooking the meat. Just about enough to cover the meat. Don't hard boil it, let it simmer gently. When the meat is done, you will probably need to drain off some of the water.

I don't know what kind of sauce you prefer. A thick one will have to be thinned with water. My favorite is Kraft Original cut half and half with water. Remember the sauce has sugar in it and will scorch quickly if the pot gets too hot.

I hope this gets you on the road to a long career as the family pot barbecue chef. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

TB has zucchini grande:
We weren't able to pick our zucchini in our square foot garden when they were small, so I now have zucchini that resemble small baseball bats. We went ahead and harvested them and we are now scratching our heads wondering if they are edible and how best to prepare them if so. They seem to be okay other than their enormous size. Any ideas?

Hi TB: As long as the zucchini have not become fibrous and dry, you can treat them just like the smaller ones. If theyve gotten tough, you may want to remove the skins and seeds.

You can cut them crossways into about three-quarter-inch slices and grill them or fry them. For the grill, brush the slices with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. To fry them, you might want to dip the slices in beaten egg and then in flour and fry them in about a quarter inch of shortening of your choice. My favorite way to do squash is the squash patties.

Chop or shred the squash rather fine. Add a bit of minced onion, salt and pepper. Mix in a beaten egg and enough cornmeal to form patties. Fry them until golden brown. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Lee Ann writes:
I would appreciate a receipt for making jam without real sugar and also what pectin I should utilize.

Hi Lee Ann: There are several products on the market for making sugarless jams:

  • Slim Set
  • Mrs. Wages Light Home Jell
  • Ball 100% Natural reduced calorie fruit pectin
I think the last would be the best. It comes with all sorts of instructions.

When using artificial sweeteners, Splenda is best for anything cooked as aspartame loses its sweetness when heated.

Kyle writes:
We are entered in the Shiner, Texas Barbecue Cookoff and have entered the Chicken Breasts category. Can you help me on it? Thanks, Kyle. Sure enjoy your site.

Hi Kyle: Season the breasts with just salt and pepper. Put them on the grill and baste with Italian dressing. When they are almost done, give them a good mopping with:
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco
Combine in saucepan and simmer fifteen minutes.

Make sure the breasts are just a little saltier than you think they should be. Salt really brings out the flavor. Hope this helps. Thanks for writing.

Dr. John

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

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