Dateline: October 1, 2005
The Doctor has a recommendation for everyone to keep them in good health at a reasonable price. A few days ago, the Doctor and his friend Ed "Chillee" Paetzel had dinner (noon meal) at the Country Cupboard in Johnson City, Texas.

The Country Cupboard has a big sign out front that says, "World's best chicken fried steak, over three dozen sold". I don't know about the number sold, but the Worlds Best title is close. Ed is real picky; he's been eating for over 70 years and knows when he finds something good. He won't hesitate a minute to tell management if something is not good. This day, Ed took time to tell the cook the chicken fried steak was outstanding.

The Country Cupboard is about genuine Texas as you can get in a café or restaurant. The walls are decorated with antiques and various documents. The service is good. The prices are right. The chicken fried steak comes with two vegetables of your choice. You have a large selection. The ice tea is good, and the glasses the correct size. We really didn't find anything to complain about.

If you are in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, be sure and visit the Country Cupboard. It's on Highway 281 at the stoplight in Johnson City.

Now let's get to the questions. People are waiting.

Bettye has loose peach preserves: I made peach preserves for the first time, and they're runny. Can I fix it or is it a loss? Help please.

Hi Bettye: I think you can salvage your preserves. If you used a recipe that calls for pectin, you can go back to the start and cook it over using more pectin. Be sure you have some acid for the pectin to work with such as lemon juice. Read the pectin instructions.

If you used the long boil method, your peaches were probably too ripe. The real ripe peaches have very little pectin in them. You need a few that are slightly green to get a good "set". In either case, you can slow boil them until they thicken. Try one jar before you get into the whole she-bang. Hope this helps. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Ron has a mildness problem: I've been trying to make some hot pepper relish (medium hot, actually). I'm using bell peppers with either jalapeños or Serranos. There is sugar and vinegar in the recipe. I can't seem to get it hot. Does the sugar or vinegar affect the heat? The last trial was 10 bells and 15 Serranos with 2 cups of sugar. I'm not a screaming hot kind of guy, but this relish just isn't hot.

Hi Ron: You're the first one writing in wanting something hotter. Most have overdone it and want to cool it off.

First thing that comes to mind is put in a wee bit of Habanero or Scotch bonnet, as they are sometime called. Start easy as these buggers are the hottest you can get. I don't use Serrano so I can't comment on that, but I know jalapeños have become so inbred they can be stinging hot in one pod and mild as bell pepper on the next. The little chile petin is another smoking chile. They have a good flavor, but most people can't handle the heat. You can probably find some of them around. Just experiment a little, and you'll find the combination soon. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Peggy has a bitter tomatillo salsa: Hello! I just made my first recipe of tomatillo salsa, and it has a somewhat bitter taste. I did add some flat leaf parsley that the recipe didn't call for, and I always add extra lime. I am hoping you might know which one I shouldn't have added.

Hi Peggy: The sauce is naturally a little bit bitter. The best way to combat the bitterness is to add a tad of brown sugar. If you can find liquid brown sugar so much the better. Otherwise mix the sugar with a tad of warm water before stirring in. Start with just a little and work up. I doubt the parsley had anything to do with the bitterness. The lime would just make it more acid. I hope this works out for you. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Lana just isn't blending in: When blending ice and juice (crushed ice is up to the top of the blender), the ice at the top of the blender doesn't go down to the bottom very well to be blended. I have to try and push it down with a spoon. Is there a certain way to best do this that eliminates the need for stirring the contents in the blender?

Hi Lana: Something ain't right. I suspect the blade on your blender is bent. The blade is supposed to suck the top stuff down provided there is enough liquid. Check the blade. If that doesn't work, you will have to put rocks in your ice cubes so they will sink. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Tader has a jerky question: We make Beef Jerky and have for about ten years. We have decided to start selling it. We now have two commercial dehydrators. We usually put the meat on for six to eight hours from 115 to 140 degrees. Is this what you use or what is your recommendation?

Hi Tader: Sounds good to me. You have a lot more experience at it than I do. Only thing I would recommend is you check in with your state health department before you get too much money tied up in the operation. Sometimes they can be a large pain over little things. Have fun and prosper. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John