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Tag: cooking

Provisioning for Thanksgiving


Are you planning to host a Thanksgiving dinner? Do you know how much food to buy? Planning out a Thanksgiving dinner can be challenging. Since the Thanksgiving holiday is about plenty, you want to avoid running short. This can lead to making way too much food and eating leftovers for two weeks. Below are a few tips to help you.

I’m a retired engineer. I switched to the food preparation business ten years ago and can’t help but bring my engineering mindset with me. I study and learn every technique I can and study the chemistry of cooking. While I frequently cook things that I make up on the spot, for anything serious I like to have numbers and measurements. Below are some numbers you can use.

A Thanksgiving Spread

Turkey: 1 pound of bird (uncooked) per person, and you will have leftovers.

Dry mix stuffing like Stove-Top: 1 ounce dry mix per person

Potatoes for mashing: 6 oz (raw) per person or 3/4 of a large potato

Sweet potatoes: 6 oz (raw) per person

Canned cranberry sauce: 4 oz per person

Pie: 1 piece per person

Butternut squash: 7 oz (raw whole squash) per person

Brussels sprouts: 2.5 oz (raw) per person

Green beans: 4 oz (canned) per person

Extending the Above to 40 Persons

To extend the above numbers, multiply by the number of guests and round up to the next package size. Thanksgiving usually involves a lot of baking. If you try to prepare all the food on Thanksgiving day, you’ll need several ovens. Remember that cooking the turkeys will occupy your oven(s) for much of the day. Prepare as much as you can the day(s) before and reheat it.

Of course, you don’t have to do all of the items below. Just pick the items you think your guests will like. You don’t have to do squash and sweet potatoes, or offer three different vegetables. These are just examples.

Turkey: 40 pounds. So four 10 pounders, three 14 pounders, etc.

Dry mix stuffing: 40 ounces dry, so seven boxes. A lot of people go heavy on stuffing and it’s cheap and easy, so having extra won’t hurt. I’ve found the in-house brands like Walmart are just as good as the big name product and cost half as much.

Potatoes for mashing: 240 ounces raw. So 15 pounds of russets, peeled, cooked, mashed, and prepared as you like with milk, butter, salt, pepper, garlic, etc.

Sweet potatoes: 240 raw ounces. So 15 pounds prepared as you prefer.

Canned cranberry sauce: 160 ounces, so ten or twelve 14 oz cans. These could be split between cranberry jelly and whole cranberry sauce. Some people like one and not the other.

Pie: 40 pieces. For big pieces you’ll need seven pies, smaller pieces, 5 pies.

Butternut squash: 280 oz raw whole squash (17 pounds)

Brussels sprouts: 100 oz raw (6-1/4 pounds)

Green beans: 160 oz (canned), so ten or twelve 14 oz cans. When cooking raw whole beans, I figure six beans per person. A pound of raw beans is 35 to 40 beans. For 40 guests you need to cook about six pounds.

Conclusion

You can save money by buying larger cans. In supermarkets, verify that the larger container is actually cheaper. Many times I’ve seen a gallon jar of mayonnaise or other product priced higher than buying the same amount in several smaller jars.

Larger towns have stores that sell wholesale foods to churches and other organizations, and sometimes to the public. Here you can buy Number 10 cans (institutional size) that contain around 115 ounces, and save even more money.

Does Salt Raise the Boiling Point of Water?

I love cooking, I love eating, I hang around with foodies, and I work as a sous chef at a local restaurant. As a result, I’m tired of hearing that salt raises the boiling point of water.

Technically, yes. If you’re in a chemistry lab with precision instruments for measuring temperature, there is a small measurable effect. Any liquid’s boiling point will be affected by molecules dissolved in that liquid. In the case of salt and water in the kitchen, the effect is microscopic — smaller than the effect from changing your elevation above sea level by a couple hundred feet.

If you add a half pound of salt to a quart of water, you’ll raise its boiling point by 2 degrees C. If you add one tablespoon of salt to one quart of water, you raise the boiling point by 0.16 degrees.

Will that have any effect on cooking? No. So, please, just stop. Thanks.  😉

Making Candied Orange Peel

Making candied orange peel is easy once you learn what to watch for. Expect a couple of spoiled batches where you undercook or burn the product, but after that it’s straightforward.

Candied Orange Peel

The number of oranges to use is hard to specify. I eat two oranges a day and save the peel. Since I want as many long 1/4 to 3/8 inch wide strips that are 2 inches long, I cut the oranges in half and juice them or quarter them and carve out the inside (and eat it). Then I wash the peels under running water, and scrape as much of the meat off as I can and then toss the peels into a sealed plastic bin I have in the refrigerator. The sealed bin has a small amount of water on the bottom to keep them hydrated, otherwise the refrigerator will dry them out and they’ll shrivel.

When I have “enough”, I get the cutting board and start slicing as many long pieces as I can and I dice up the odd pieces, and continue until I have enough to fill a small 16 cm stainless saucepan about 3/4 full (but not more).

Next the peels optionally get boiled in the saucepan. Boiling them like I describe here will reduce the flavor and remove bitterness. It will also help to hydrate any peels that have dried and thinned. You can skip the boiling steps here for a stronger orange flavor. If I’m going to use the peels for baking I skip the boiling to get a stronger flavor. To boil the peels, fill the saucepan with water, and boil for 10 minutes or more, dump them into a strainer and hit them with cold water. Then back in the pot to boil again for 10 minutes or so, dump and rinse with cold water.

Next comes the candying step. Put 2 to 2-1/2 cups of sugar in the saucepan and 1 cup of water, bring it to a boil and dissolve all the sugar. Be careful from here on because the sugar syrup will be at 240 degrees F. Treat it with respect because it WILL hurt you–think napalm. Gently add the peels to the boiling syrup, bring back to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and cook them in the syrup (uncovered). I’ve seen recipes that say to cook for 20 minutes. Forget that. It takes 40 to 45 minutes of cooking. The whole time it will be merrily bubbling and foaming. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking or burning. When you get to around 40 minutes, you’ll notice the amount of liquid is getting less and less and now is where you really have to pay attention. You want the peels to get that “glassy” candied look–not all the way through, but you want to see the flesh start to get glassy. Some people say to boil until all the syrup is gone. If you do that, you’ll burn the peels. There’s a fine line where they are “just right” and it always seems to come at around 45 minutes.

While it’s cooking, I’ve put out sheets of waxed or parchment paper. When the decision point comes, dump the contents of the pot into a metal screen strainer (remember it’s at 240F which will melt some plastics) and let it drain for a minute. Then spoon them out onto the waxed paper and as quickly as you can spread them out so they are touching each other as little as possible. When they cool they will stick together and it’s pretty easy to unstick them from the paper but not from each other. Then let them cool off and dry for a while, an hour or two, and then you can use them or cover with another sheet of waxed paper. You can stack several batches on top of each other, put a dinner plate on top, and store them like this for several days.

Finally, you can sprinkle them with flour and mix them into a cake. You can dip the long ones in melted chocolate (just like strawberries). You can coat them with powdered sugar, use then to garnish ice cream, whatever.

To try this out I’d recommend starting with four oranges worth of peel. The thickness of orange peels varies a lot so it’s hard to say how many oranges you need. Thick skinned oranges are great for this application. Oranges with very thin skins are not good choices for candying. You can also do this with grapefruit skins for a very different flavor.

For me, candied orange peel is one of the greatest flavors on earth, and it’s extra fun to make because you are using what would otherwise be garbage plus about 20 cents worth of sugar. However, it is labor and time intensive.

Candied Orange Peel

Closeup of finished candied orange peels.

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