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

June 1, 2009

Well gosh, boys and girls, we finally got some much needed rain here in the Texas Hills. It has been a long dry spell.

I just finished washing up the dishes. Yes, the good doctor does do dishes. My regular dishwasher is in Thailand, so it's all in my corner. I know all of you have the electric dishwashers, where you wash your dishes and then put them in the dish washer to keep from having to dry them and put them away in the cabinet.

Back in the olden days all dish washing was accomplished with a "dishrag". This was usually a piece of an old towel about twelve inches square. It scrubbed everything from fine China to stuff dropped on the floor. When "dishes were done", the dishrag was squoze out and stored beside the sink. The damp, dark environment made the perfect germ farm. It is a wonder any of us lived to be adults.

All I need for washing dishes now is some dish soap that is gentle on my hands, a vegetable brush, a wad of steel wool for when I burn the pizza cheese onto the baking pan, a sponge and a 3M scrubbing pad for delicate items.

The only thing is making myself do it. I have never met anyone who enjoyed washing dishes.

Enough of that, let's solve some problems.

Marshall has mushy shrimp:

What causes shrimp to be mushy when you cook them? This has happened with fresh/frozen, boiled/grilled, local and store bought. Thanks for the help.

Hi Marshall: There are a lot of opinions as to the cause of mushy shrimp. Most blame it on mishandling after the catch. There is a theory that farm raised shrimp are mushy as they do not get as much exercise as wild shrimp and are therefore soft. There is a brining process that is supposed to solve the mushy problem. I have not tried it as I am not big on seafood. The process is

  • 1/4 cup Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups crushed ice
Dissolve the sugar and salt completely in the boiling water. Pour it over the ice in a large bowl. Add the shrimp and stir. For peeled shrimp, brine 20 to 30 minutes. For shell-on, brine 40 minutes to an hour. Rinse the shrimp and pat them dry. You can refrigerate them until you are ready to cook.

I hope this solves the problem. If it works, let me know so I can tell the rest of 'em about it. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Ellen has a ham question:

Dr John: My family likes ham, but I am confused about all the different types of ham available. Some seem reasonably priced, while the others are very expensive. Can you tell me which is the best for the money?

Ellen: It has come to where selecting a ham is like buying a bottle of wine. Prices range from the Red Lady 21, which is about two dollars a bottle to the "Chateau de chapeau", which is as expensive as printer ink.

All hams (pork) come off the hind legs of the hog. Hams are divided into two groups, the butt portion and the shank portion. The butt portion is the thigh, and the shank is from the knee to the ankle. The majority of the hams on the market are "cured" hams. That is, the hams have been treated to preserve their quality. The treatment consists of rubbing and injecting various compounds into the fresh ham. Sugar and/or salt is used primarily. Next, the ham goes into the smokehouse where it is dry smoked for a considerable time. The smoke imparts a good flavor to the ham. Hickory smoke is preferred.

Like nearly every other noun in the store that has been corrupted to mean whatever the vendor wants it to mean, there are a lot of hams out there that are not really hams. The packing houses have learned how to take a lot of ham scraps and press them together to make them look like a portion of real ham. (I once bought a canned "Danish" ham that turned out to be a ham-shaped chunk of Spam.)

Did I mention that you can also get shoulder hams. These are from the front leg of the pig. These are the ones you see on sale at terrific prices. I prefer them. My method of cooking one is to put it in a 350°F oven, uncovered, until it's internal temperature is about 160°F. Leaving it uncovered will get a bit of browning and crispness on the outside, which enhances the flavor.

Avoid "water added" hams of any sort. This just means you will pay several dollars a pound for water. The guy at the store will tell you the added water makes the ham more moist. If you want a moist ham, steam that sucker in the oven. Also, the spiral cut ham is just a sales gimmick. The way you slice a ham has nothing to do with flavor or quality.

You will occasionally find a fresh ham. That means the ham is in the condition it was in when it came off the hog. You treat them like any other raw pork.

There is my quick study of the Secret Life of Ham. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Here is one of the good doctor's favorite letters. (A blast from the past.) Rob writes:

How do you make toast? Tell my wife.

Rob: I'm not going to touch that one. I'm old enough to know not to get involved in family matters. Thanks for writing anyway.
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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