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

Dateline: September 2, 2007

It is just about back to school time. I spent twelve years getting my high school degree, and I have tried to stay smart ever since so I don't have to go back to school. The main problem was, school was never as much fun as hunting or fishing or just running around.

Speaking of school, for the first six years of my educational career I had a lunchmeat (pressed ham) sandwich and a small bag of Fritos every day. There was an occasional apple. My mama went to school at Turkey Creek School in East Williamson County. She said her lunch was a lard sandwich, which was some hog lard on homemade bread with a little sugar sprinkled on it. Mama made it through the third grade. Every year about the time she got in school, the cotton got ripe and she had to pick cotton.

I feel so sorry for the kids today who can't afford an Iphone.

Be that as it may, let's get to work.

Michelle is waiting for the Great Pumpkin:

Is there a method of converting real pumpkin (versus canned pumpkin) into our pumpkin recipes? I am one who always tries to use fresh produce when available and am stumped that I cannot find any recipes that specifically call for fresh pumpkin. After all, wouldn't fresh be better than something coming from a can? I know it is a little early in the season to be thinking about fall, but any input would be greatly appreciated.

Hi Michelle: It's easy as pie. All you have to do is cook the fresh pumpkin. To do that, you cut the pumpkin into half or quarters depending on how big it is. Clean out the seeds, oh, did I mention wash the pumpkin with clean water before you start.

You can microwave it or cook it in the oven. Either way the cooking time depends on the size of the pieces. Use High on the microwave and about 400 degrees in the oven. You cook it until it is tender.

Next, you let it cool down to room temperature. Remove the meat from the skin. Run the meat through the food processor or use a potato masher on it. You now have the same stuff as canned pumpkin but better ‘cause it's fresh. You can substitute it in any recipe calling for canned pumpkin.

If you make a lot, you can freeze it. Put it in zip bags and get out all the air you can. Most recipes call for 2 cups of the pulp, so put up 2 cups in the bags. It will keep in the freezer for about a year. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Linda the Texas Gal has a gritty chili problem:

Hi. I can't figure out why my chili is sometimes sandy or gritty. I just finished a batch last night, and only used the following ingredients....not measured, though. I did not use any cornmeal or harina flour at all in this recipe, only tomato paste. Simmered it for about 3 hours. Flavor is very good, but consistency is gritty. This is the second time this has happened to me. What am I doing wrong?
  • Caramelized onions and garlic in Dutch oven with olive oil
  • Added 3 cans of diced tomatoes
  • Added cut up (leftover) tenderloin steak
  • 4 cups of broth and beer combined
  • 1 whole can of tomato paste
  • 1 can of DRAINED black beans
  • palm full of chili powder
  • 1/2 palm full cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • salt and pepper
Any ideas as to why this went wrong? Thanks.

Oh gosh Linda: This is one of them buggers. My first suspect is that there was something on the sirloin. It may have been seasoned with something that doesn't cook down. But, also, coarse grind black pepper is gritty. Dried onion and garlic will stay gritty. The beans may be responsible. You need to rinse them before adding to the mix. Last suspect is the chili powder. It can be gritty when it does not cook long enough. If you add it up front it should have had plenty of time to cook down. Other than that I can't think of anything. I hope this puts you on the track to the villain. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Gail writes:

If a recipe calls for 1/4 cup of green chili, how much powder should I use as a substitute?

Hi Gail: Green chili and chili powder are two completely different spices. Green chili is fresh chiles you find in a can. Ortega or Old El Paso brands come to mind. They should be available in any Hispanic section of the supermarket. If you can't find green chile or just want to do without it, just omit it from the recipe. There will not be enough difference to notice. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Gail is back:

I am trying to make my own chili powder, and I used cascabel dried chiles. I put them in my chopper, but I cannot get them to a fine powder. How do I do this?

Hi Gail: You need a spice grinder - same thing as a coffee grinder. Check with the kitchen shops. They are not expensive. You can do it in a blender, but it takes a lot more time. You sift the ground chiles through a fine sieve to get the size powder you want.

Here's a hint: Remove the seeds and stems from the chiles. Put them on a cookie sheet and pop them in a 350-degree oven for about five or ten minutes. Don't scorch them. They will become dry and brittle and powder much easier. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Don writes:

I am looking for a good recipe for chili with venison. I am not what you would call a cook, but I really would like to try my hand at making a good chili. I hope you can help me.

Hi Don: Venison makes great chili, but you need to mix it with another meat to get the best results. Traditionally, equal amounts of venison and pork are used. I have been mixing venison and beef chuck half and half, and I think the results are outstanding.

Look up my article in Traditional Texas Fare Stop the Presses -- Gotta Be Chili. You'll find my basic Texas chili recipe there. 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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