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

Dateline:
August 3, 2010

Greetings boys and girls. Here we are in August, traditionally the hottest month of the year. The only thing left in the garden is the okra.

We have a good selection of problems to deal with so we better get with it.

Alice writes: When I cook rice, it has a harsh chemical smell. Do you have any idea what is happening?

Hey Alice: More than likely the problem lies in the water you use. "City" water has chlorine in it. At times the chlorine content is elevated to take care of some problem. When you cook rice, the water and any chemicals are being soaked up by the rice. I used to live at a place where the rice came out smelling like a swimming pool.

The solution is to use water with no chemicals. Bottled spring water will have some minerals and trace elements in it. Distilled water is just water. Try it and see how it works. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Sidney wants to know: Dr. John, how can I preserve cilantro? I always have some left over and don’t like throwing it away.

Sidney: I have found that drying the cilantro and putting it in the freezer is about the best method. I use a dehydrator and run it about three or four hours. You don’t want the cilantro completely dry. You want it just dry enough to wilt it real good. Then let it cool normally before sealing it in bags and sticking it in the freezer. Expel as much air as you can from the bag. You can also dry the cilantro on a cookie sheet in a warm oven, not over 150°F. The cilantro will lose some of its pungency, but it is still good. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Marylee asks: Dr. John, this may be a little off the topic, but I have some old family silverware -- knives, forks, etc. -- that is badly tarnished. Is there a simple way to clean it up other than taking it to a jeweler?

Marylee: I recently encountered the same problem. The commercial silver polish I bought just didn’t get the job done. I researched the problem and came up with a solution.

You will need a baking pan or the like that will hold the flatware in a single layer with room for about an inch of water over the things to be cleaned. If necessary, line the pan with aluminum foil so it will hold water.

Mix up a quart of water, a tablespoon of baking soda and a tablespoon of salt. Pour this mix over the flatware in the pan. If you need more liquid, add plain water to cover. Put the pan on the stove and bring to a boil. Let it boil four or five minutes, cut it off and let it cool.

Put the silverware under cool running water, and scrub it with a coarse rag. Don't use anything abrasive like steel wool. Depending on how bad the tarnishing was, you may have to give some of the things another boiling. When the tarnish is gone, use commercial silver polish following package directions.

There is some chemical reaction between the baking soda and salt that takes place in the water, and it softens the tarnish. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Texas Newbie wants to know: I am new to the Southwest and am learning about the great foods here. I want to know how "hot tamales" are made.

Dear New: Hot tamales, or just plain tamales, are an ancient dish that comes from Latin America. The Mayan and Aztec societies ate them as far back as 8,000 years ago.

As we know the tamale, it is a filling, usually meat of some sort, wrapped in a masa coating and held together with a cornhusk (in Texas, they are known as corn shucks).

The filling is prepared first. It is traditionally shredded pork in a chili sauce. The masa coating is made from corn that has been treated with lime to make it into hominy. Then, it's dried and ground. Masa is not the same as corn meal. It's like southern grits, but ground into flour. The masa is mixed with water into a dough, or you can get it already mixed in some locations.

In the meantime, the dried cornhusks are soaked in hot water to make them pliable.

The production procedure is to: Lay a corn husk out flat on your work surface, smear on a layer of the masa, then top with some of the filling. Now the whole thing is rolled up so the filling is encased in the masa. This is a learned process, and it takes practice. The rolls are then either tied with a string of husk or are folded over on one end.

The tamales go in a large steamer and steamed for a half hour or so. They keep well and can be reheated.

Around South Texas tamales are a holiday treat. Because they are so labor intensive, they are made in volume. The whole family participates in an assembly line manner.

There are regional variations on the tamale. I have seen the TV guys make tamales as big as summer sausage. They use banana leaves for the wrapper. In Central America, various green leaves make the wrappers. The canned tamales come in paper wrappers.

If you want to get into hot tamale production, you can now purchase a machine where you put the masa in one container, the filling in another and turn the crank. Out pops tamales. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Everyone stay cool and hydrated. I'll see ya on down the road.



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

Traditional Texas Food Articles
By Dr. John, Ph.B.
  

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