Do you enjoy reading cookbooks like Alison and I do? Those published by Junior Leagues, churches and schools not only feature favorite recipes from the collective of contributors but also contain a treasure trove of their helpful tips, trivia and tradition. However, because the information is printed in the margins
and not always indexed like the recipes, they often remain hidden and forgotten. While many margin tips are recipe-specific, others are delectable tidbits that can be applied to your life-long culinary and entertaining journey. We’ve compiled this list of ones that captured our cooking imagination and might prove useful or interesting on your own kitchen adventures. If you want to save them, just Pin the photo at the bottom of this post to one of your Pinterest boards, or you can always find it on our PInterest board, Household Tips.
The Junior League of Hampton Roads (1995; 20th Anniversary edition, 2014)
1. An effortless way to make burger patties: shape meat into a roll or log and freeze for several hours until firm. Slice into patties of desired thickness and grill! (p.180)
2. Shrimp are easily peeled under cold running water. When deveining is necessary, carefully insert a toothpick 2 to 2 “sections” from head-end and left up and pull out the vein. (p. 38)
3. An easy to remember herb conversion: 1 teaspoon dried = 1 tablespoon fresh (p. 42)
Grace & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church (2005)
4. If soup seasoning it too hot (spicy), add sugar to take the heat out. (p. 46)
5. Lasagna news flash
It is not necessary to precook the lasagna noodles. In fact, your lasagna will be much less soupy if the dried, uncooked noodles can absorb most of the liquid from the tomato sauce.
For finer, more delicate lasagnas with less traditional fillings, use uncooked egg roll wrappers, found in the produce section of the grocery store. (p. 196)
by Jenny Fitch (1988)
6. Poaching the Salmon
A good rule of thumb to use in poaching the salmon is to cook the fish 5 minutes per inch of thickness. For example, a 3” thick salmon would need to be poached for 15 minutes. (p.6)
The Junior League of Atlanta (1997)
7. Most muffin recipes may be baked in miniature muffin cups. Count on three miniature muffins for every two-inch muffin. Reduce baking time 5 minutes. (p. 274)
8. If muffins or cake layers stick to the bottoms of the pans, place the hot pans on a cold damp towel for about thirty seconds before removing. (p.200)
9. Store leftover mushrooms in a non-recycled brown paper bag in the refrigerator to prevent the mushrooms from turning brown. (p.48)
10. Store lemons in a tightly sealed jar of water in the refrigerator. They will yield more juice than when first purchased. (p.71)
11. Warmth rather than sunlight ripens tomatoes, so place them near the stove or dishwasher to receive heat. (p.98)
12. Cover the outside of a springform pan with aluminum foil before baking in a boiling water bath. (p.20)
13. When buying spinach, remember that one pound fresh spinach yields about one and one-half cups cooked spinach. (p.67)
14. If you are unable to cook fresh chicken or ground meat right away, salt them immediately to prevent spoilage. This allows you to store in the refrigerator for a day or two longer. (p.159)
15. The Nitty Gritty of Grits
It is correct to say that “grits are.” It is also correct to say that “grits is a favorite food of Southerners.” In other words, grits has its own grammar and can be used with either a plural or singular verb. One source we consulted with at Martha White Foods (a Nashville company in the grits business for a long time) says the term is believed to have originated from the Old English “grytt,” which means bran and has been used since at least the end of the 18th century. (p.127)
The Junior League of Athens, GA (2007)
16. Try an all green crudité platter with this dip: cucumber and celery sticks, raw trimmed asparagus, snow peas, string beans and florets of broccoli can be attractively grouped in small white or silver dishes to great effects. (p.33)
17. Jacob’s Pharmacy, on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, was where Dr. John S. Pemberton sold the first Coca-Cola. The drink was marketed as being medicinal until 1905. It contained the extracts of cocoa leaves from South America and kola nuts from Africa, hence the name Coca-Cola. (p.205)
The Junior League of Houston (1996)
18. Mastering Muffins
- Grease muffin pans with shortening or non-stick cooking spray, not butter.
- Vigorous stirring creates tough muffins with pointed tops. Stir only until dry ingredients are moistened. Lumps will disappear during baking.
- Never grease muffin cups that won’t be used. Place an ice cube or several tablespoons of water in unused cuts to prevent warping of the pan.
- Muffins are done when tops are domed and dry to the touch or when an inserted wooden pick comes out clean. (p. 214)
19. Handling Phyllo
Phyllo is a tissue-thin pastry dough. Originally used in Greece and various Middle Eastern countries, it has become quite popular in the United States. The dough is bought frozen and should be thawed in the refrigerator overnight. Phyllo can be refrigerated up to 1 month or frozen up to 1 year. Once opened, use within 2 to 3 days. Do not unwrap the dough until ready to use as it become brittle very quickly. While working with the phyllo sheets, cover those set aside with a damp cloth to keep them from drying out. It is best to brush edges with butter first, then move to the middle, as this prevents the edges from tearing. (p. 55)
20. Cake Flour
Cake flour contains less gluten than regular flour which is why it produces lighter cakes. If a recipe calls for cake flour and you don’t have any, substitute 1 cup stirred all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons for 1 cup cake flour. (p. 229)
The Junior League of Memphis (1992)
21. Wait to clean the mushrooms until you are ready to use them. Though cleaning mushrooms is very important, too much water can make them soggy. Most cultivated button mushrooms are clean enough that a tender wiping with a moist paper towel is all they need. (p. 41)
22. When serving cold soups, don’t forget that pewter Jefferson cups, cocktail glasses, and demitasse cups are ideal for individual portions and make it easy to serve a casual first course to guest who are still enjoying “happy hour.” (p. 64)
23. Shallots are delicate small onions with a faint taste of garlic. If they are unavailable, substitute the white part of a green onion or minced yellow onion, soaked in boiling water for one minute, then rinsed and drained. (p. 122)
24. Marinating Musts
- Always marinate meat in the refrigerator, never at room temperature.
- Allow ¼ to ½ cup of marinade for each 1 to 2 pounds of meat.
- For tenderization to occur, meat must be marinated for six hours, or as long as overnight. To tenderized, a marinade must contain an acidic ingredient such as lemon juice, wine, vinegar, or yogurt.
- For flavor, marinate 15 minutes to two hours.
- With the exception of game, which is more muscular, marinating meat longer than 24 hours causes fiber break-down, resulting in a mushy texture.
- Always discard leftover marinades that have been in contact with raw meat. (p. 186)
25. The secret to making a moist pound cake that is not too heavy is letting the eggs come to room temperature before adding them to the batter. This results in a greater volume of batter and thus, a higher, lighter cake. (p. 257)
How grateful we are for the many women who have taken the time to share all this food for thought, discoverable if we simply take the time to sit down with these marvelous cookbooks. Talk about hidden inspiration. We’ll be adopting many of these tasty morsels in our own kitchens.
January 17, 2017
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