Technology: Reflecting on successes and challenges

What if I told you that some of the best scientists in the world have come up with amazing technology? Technology that could potentially save lives? Technology that could decrease water and pesticide use? Technology that would help people make a better living for themselves and their families?

Hopefully you are asking yourself why this technology is not being used? Or maybe you are thinking, get this technology into the hands of the people who can use it most.

Unfortunately, this technology is hung up in the regulatory process. Unrealistic timelines and costs to bring this technology to fruition…

This technology is biotechnology. You may be most familiar with biotechnology when a Vitamin A fortified rice (aka Golden Rice) was created or when biotechnology saved the papaya industry in Hawaii.

To better grasp these opportunities and challenges, check out 20 Years of Innovation: Reflecting on Successes and Challenges of Biotech Crops by Craig Rickard, executive director for plant biotechnology at CropLife International.

**Note: I am not receiving any compensation for this post. I just find the information very relevant and informative.


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GMO bill passed by Congress

Congress has passed a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) bill. According to MeatingPlace.com, on July 14, 2016 the U.S. House of Representatives voted 306-117 to pass a bill establishing a national mandatory system of disclosure for foods containing genetically modified or engineered ingredients.

The bill says, “To amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national disclosure standard for bioengineered foods, and for other purposes.”

Since the Senate also approved the bill on July 7, in a 63-30 vote, the bill will now be sent to President Obama who has agreed to sign it. The proposed bill was a compromise between Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), chairman of the Senate Agricultural Committee, and Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), ranking member, that will give food manufacturers three options for affixing a GMO label to their goods:

  1. Text, a symbol, or a written statement on the package,
  2. A link to a website or a phone number to call to ask about the food product,
  3.  A QR (Quick Response) code that shoppers would scan with their smartphones to look up information about the food product.

Reportedly, there will be no penalties of fines imposed for noncompliance. Additionally, the bill’s requirements for labeling will be phased in over the coming years, allowing food companies time to adapt.

In reading through the bill, it outlines when a food would/would not meet the criterion expressed about as containing genetically engineered foods. It also states, “SAFETY.—For the purpose of regulations promulgated and food disclosures made pursuant to paragraph (2), a bioengineered food that has successfully completed the pre-market Federal regulatory review process shall not be treated as safer than, or not as safe as, a non-bioengineered counterpart of the food solely because the food is bioengineered or produced or developed with the use of bioengineering.”

The bill exempts foods in which meat and poultry are the main ingredients. GMOAnswers.com addresses the question of If livestock eat genetically modified grain, will there be GMOs in my meat?  The short answer is no, however to fully understand why, be sure to check out the article. Another interesting read is No sign of health or nutrition problems from GMO livestock feed (peer-reviewed journal article linked in article). The bill also exempts gene-edited food items, or items where genes have been removed. To learn more about gene editing, this article on Questions and answers about CRISPR does a good job explaining. Ultimately determining what exactly a GMO product is will be determined by the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) reports Food Safety Magazine.

This agreement was reached just days before the nation’s first biotechnology food labeling law was set to go into effect in Vermont on July 1. This bill prohibits individual states from mandating labels of food or seed that is genetically engineered, creating a patchwork of varying state standards which would needlessly add cost for food companies that package foods and create unnecessary alarm among consumers, reports Mankato Free Press. Additionally, individual state requirements would make it extremely difficult for food manufacturers to distribute food products in multiple states without running into legislative inconsistencies, not to mentioning costs that would be passed to the consumer.

If you keep up on the labeling of genetically modified foods, then you know there has also strong opposition to it. GMO Answers addresses some of those concerns in Why do GMO companies seem like they are so against labeling GMO foods? 

Want more information about GMOs? Some great resources I recommend include:

What do you think about this new bill? Will it be something you look for when you shop for food?

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90% reduction of Salmonella in meat – research update

deMello_Headshot_2015Dr. Amilton de Mello, University of Nevada Assistant Professor and Meat Scientist in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources (CABNR) has been hard at work since he began his career at UNR under a year ago. Amilton completed his PhD at University of Nebraska, and I worked with Nebraska Extension. However, we didn’t meet until we both got to Nevada, so you can imagine that in addition to educational, programming, and research similarities we have the Huskers in common. It will be fun to see what future projects and collaboration we will work on.

Dr. de Mello and his graduate student recently presented some research at the annual American Meat Science Association (AMSA) Reciprocal Meat Conference (RMC) in Texas. I think they are doing great work that will of value to many, and will help ensure that in the U.S. we continue to have one of the safest food supplies in the world.

Salmonella is one of the most common causes of food illness in the U.S. The bacteria can cause fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping. Unfortunately, in young children and the elderly, as well as those with weak immune systems (immunocompromised), it can be fatal. Annually, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports Salmonella is estimated to cause one million food illnesses, 19,000 hospitalizations, and 380 deaths in the U.S.

In the lab, the salmonella bacteria was inoculated on the refrigerated meat and poultry trim, the treatment bacteriophages (Myoviridae bacteriophages) were then applied, and the meat was ground. Bacteriophages are viruses which are commonly found in the environment, but they ONLY are harmful to specific  bacterial cells and are HARMLESS to humans, animals, and plants. The bacteriophages work by invading the cells of the bacteria and destroy them.

De Mellos says, “we were able to reduce salmonella by as much as 90% in ground poultry, ground pork, and ground beef. We’re excited to be able to show such good results, and hope this can be adopted by the meat industry to increase food safety.”

Isn’t new research great?! If you want to follow what Amilton is working on for Nevada meat producers check our his Facebook page Horizons – Nevada’s Meat Newsletter. Full and original article can be found at UNR’s NEVADAToday.

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Should you let your meat rest after cooking?

If you cook meat you are probably aware that you should let it rest, or sit, for a few minutes after cooking to let the juices (please do not call it blood, it is a protein water called myoglobin) reabsorb into the meat. Let’s dig into this topic more to see if there is any validity behind resting meat.

In theory, as meat is cooked the juice in the meat moves away from the surface (as the muscle fibers are shortening during cooking) to the center of the cut, when you flip the meat over, the juices move again, away from the heat during cooking. When you take your meat off the grill, all of those juices are still in the center of the meat. If you immediately cut into the meat all of the juices have no where to go, but out. However, if you let the meat set for three (minimum) to ten minutes, those juices have redistributed themselves throughout the meat, thus making your meat eating experience a more flavorful and juicy one.

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Yummm… steak

The rest time depends on the size of the meat. A roast should rest for 10-20 minutes before being carved, while steaks and chops only need three to five minutes. I found several rule of thumb guidelines for rest times: about one minute of rest time should be given for every 100 grams (about 1/4 pound) of meat, five minutes per inch of thickness, 10 minutes per pound, or half of the total cooking time. The Serious Eats Food Lab suggests the best way to measure length of rest time is by temperature. At an internal temperature of 120*F (49*C) the muscle fibers have relaxed and juices have been redistributed. Additionally, most cookbooks provide some guidance on rest times, those can be followed too.

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Six steaks of identical thickness, each cooked to 125*F. Each steak was sliced in half every 2.5 minutes and placed on a plate to show how much of the juices leaked out (Source: The Food Lab – J. Kenji Lopez-Alt)

It is suggested that while the meat is resting it should be kept in a warm place. Options may be loosely covering it with foil, placing it in a small space, like your microwave or oven. Do not cover it too tightly with foil as you will cause the meat to sweat and loose more liquid. Keep in mind, the more you cook your meat the dryer it will become as juices and fats are lost to cooking and evaporation. This may result in a less desirable eating experience too. If you are a serious meat smoker check out some great tips and suggestions at The Virtual Weber Bullet.

There can be some drawbacks of resting meat. One is that it can cool off and not be as hot as it would have been when it was fresh off the grill or out of the pan or oven. Another is the possibility of losing any rub crust, or that the crust becomes soft during this time instead of providing a more crunchy texture and robust taste. More importantly, when covered in foil, your meat can continue to cook, in turn taking your degree of doneness up a notch or two. Additionally, the fats change. When fresh off the grill or out of the pan or oven, the fat and collagen in the meat is hot and soft, when cool, the fats start to solidify again and may stick to the roof of your mouth. Finally, the skin on poultry may also get soft and rubbery instead of crispy.

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Lamb chops on the grill

Several sources I have read said that you shouldn’t purposely wait the three to five minutes. By time everyone sits down, you build your plate, start eating, and have conversations, the three to five minutes has come and gone and your food is still hot. It was also suggested that meat juices on the serving tray/plate be poured over the meat and that you soak up the juices with each bite you cut off.

While there are some reasons or concerns with letting meat rest, there are also some benefits. The most important things to consider are, will resting the meat impact a key component of the flavor or texture? Or will it make the degree of doneness undesirable? Use your best judgement when it comes to letting your meat rest. Personally, I loosely cover it with foil while I put the finishing touches on the meal.

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Barbecued tri-tip and fixings

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A summer in Seoul… Flashback Friday

I always start getting twitchy this time of year, I want to be traveling! Until my next international adventure I like to reminisce about some of the parts of the world I have been blessed to visit.

During the summer of 2008 I spent three months in Seoul, South Korea as an intern with the U.S. Meat Export Federation. It was a summer I will never forget! Not only did I travel alone, I was completely on my own for those three months in a country with unique customs and traditions, the food was like nothing I had ever experienced before, where English was not the first language, and where it was very humid (not my favorite climatic condition).

During my stay, there were  daily protests about American beef and negotiations of it reentering the South Korean market, and at one point (I learned after my internship) they had thought about sending me back to the USA, as they were concerned for my safety. Despite some of these challenges, I learned so much, worked with some great people, and saw first hand how emotional and sensitive beef export/import and BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (aka: Mad Cow Disease)) was to a country.

I kept a blog about my experience during that time. Occasionally, I read through some of the posts and chuckle about the stories I shared. Here are a couple that share specific details of the experience. (PS – during my time there I had the opportunity to be a tourist too, I will share some of those experiences in another post).

On June 30, 2008 I wrote:

Well half of 2008 is already over, how time flies. Speaking of things that fly – there were lots of very hard inanimate objects flying this weekend at the protests. The protests have taken a very violent turn as you may have seen on tv. As soon as it was announced that Korea was officially open for US beef imports, the riots have escalated to a new violent height. While police were able to deter protesters from gathering in City Hall, they pushed them to rally in front of my hotel. I was peacefully napping, and it was so loud it woke me up. So I saw things were getting crazy, with fire extinguishers and yelling. When I went downstairs to try to get some photos, the hotel persons would not let me go out. Ahh safety precautions, so after a trip to the roof, and back down I was able to get out and check things out. By that time things had died down to a dull roar. It has been estimated that over 150 police officers were hospitalized (as well as some protesters), some for critical conditions (and one guy had his skull bashed in), over the weekend. And do you know what their injuries were? Broken and bruised bones due to hits from hammers, pipes, rocks, and water bottles inflicted by the protesters!!! I have asked my co-workers why does this madness continue? Why are the police not enforcing stricter behaviors? Because in the 80’s when Korea was still becoming democratic, the police were very violent to the citizens who protested; pepper spray and violence were used quite often. So the police (and gov’t officials) vowed that pepper spray would never be used again. I guess you should never say “never”! I will never understand why the police can be used as punching bags, and the citizens boo hoo if they are hit back. Perhaps if these violent rallies continue more drastic measures will have to be taken.

This weekend, in an afternoon outing I went down to City Hall. Home of the protesters. I was amazed to see all the buses that have been destroyed thus far (over 100), were parked up and down the streets, they were lined up in front of the statue leading up to the Blue House (President Lee’s house). My co-worker said that the buses have been placed there to get people to realize what is happening; to see the damage that is being done. And in some way get them to stop protesting. I am doubtful it works.

Of the 5,300 metric tons of beef that has been in storage since October 2007 (after bones were found in a shipment) only 85 metric tons have passed quarantine inspection. Things are moving so slow because 1) the protesters are wreaking havoc at the ports where the beef is stored – they are causing road blocks and doing more rallying, 2) restaurant owners and retail stores are afraid to sell/advertise they have US beef because the citizens may boycott their store/restaurant. And like I have mentioned before, it is not good enough to have US beef in retail locations, label it, and let the people choose for themselves. Korean consumers do not trust even the retail food owners because they may be mislabeling the meat. So it opens a whole new can of worms. While the US has yet to implement a traceability or COOL program; these are issues we may face when we do. Or will Americans really care where their food is coming from?

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South Korean military: all S. Korean men and required to serve two years in the military. They can do it immediately after high school or after college. If they have poor vision, a disability, or anything else that would not let them be active they are given policy duty or an office jobs (as they are easier).

On July 10, 2008 I wrote:

Well it was official today. As of 5:00 a.m., July 10 (USA central time) beef is officially being slaughtered for Korea. So in a few short weeks US beef will be arriving here for consumption. It will be interesting to see what the reaction is. The good news is that the protests will only happen on the weekends from here on out. They have estimated that the month and half of protests have cost $2.5 billion in damages; which is in lost business, the ruined buses, hiring of extra police, restaurant and taxi business losses, etc., plus the grass at City Hall has to be replaced. And to top it off the founders of the Mad Cow group are holed up at a temple. I guess if they remain there, the police cannot come onto the temple grounds to arrest them, the only way it can happen is if the temple wants them to leave. President Lee has replaced 3 more of his cabinet in hope of trying to get public sentiment back to a reasonable level.

Burger King is under some fire now. In the US they released a statement saying that hamburgers were from cattle over 30 months of age. Well Burger King in Korea was telling people that their burgers were cattle under 30 months, so I guess the head office put their foot down, and now Korea Burger Kind has announced that yes, their burgers are from cattle over 30 months of age too. The good thing is that when we went there for lunch today, it was not busy at all.

Korean food
An example of Korean food: Military soup, Korean pancake (veggies, seafood, and egg batter), and a traditional Korean breakfast.

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Meatloaf in a clay pot = amazing!

I am getting more brave with my clay pot cooking experiments. We started with the Cornish Game Hens, then did chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, and today I want to share with you the meatloaf meal. I love meatloaf, and thought it would be a lot of fun to try this cooking method.

Claypot Meatloaf
Meatloaf is in the pot and ready to go. To prepare your pot for cooking read my Cornish Game Hen post.
Clay Pot Meatloaf - cooked
TAA-DAA! The recipe says to cook it ~90 minutes, I think at ~80 minutes you could put your meat thermometer in and see if it was ready. Next time I would also double the amount of yummy goodness spread over the top (aka ketchup blend).
Clay Pot Meatloaf dinner
I served the meatloaf with squash and a green salad. The meatloaf was excellent!

So far, the meatloaf has been my favorite clay pot dinner. It was very moist and had a rich, meaty flavor with the hint of earthiness from the clay. This recipe was the hardest to clean up afterwards. Some of the meat was stuck pretty good to the bottom of the pot. Next time I would add just a bit more liquid, or as I mentioned, decrease the cooking time. I also found a meatloaf and potato recipe. This one suggests putting the potatoes around the loaf, but I think I would put a layer of potatoes on the bottom, then the meat on top. Stay tuned, we have some other clay pot creations coming.

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Clay pot chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

I have had a lot fun experimenting with cooking in my clay pot. The first thing we made were the Cornish Game Hens, which were good, but they were not great. In my research of clay pot cooking I found a recipe for chicken with 40 cloves of garlic – yum! As a garlicholic I knew we had to try this.

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I covered my pot in a 5-gallon bucket worth of water (perfect size I might add), and let it soak while I peeled 40 cloves of garlic.
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The garlic, yes I counted to make sure I had 40. Would hate to short change the recipe 🙂

Garlic hack: throw your garlic in the freezer with skin on, I just put it in a ziplock bag (left). When you are ready to use it, pull out what you need (top right), peel it (bottom right), and use as you would with fresh garlic. Fresh garlic can sprout or rot quickly, and it can make your house smell a little fragrant (bologna like). I have had garlic in my freezer up to year, and it is just perfect when I use it!

Claypot chicken - raw
I lightly coated the chicken in olive oil (the recipe calls for butter, but that is too messy for me, as I learned in the Cornish Hen cooking) and seasoned with my favorite poultry rub. I put a few cloves of garlic under it, inside of it, and sprinkled the rest over the top, and put just a touch of lemon juice over the top. Doesn’t it look beautiful?
Clay pot chicken with 40 cloves of garlic-cooked
TAA-DAA!! The last few minutes I cooked it with the lid off so it would brown.

The original recipe called for 50 minutes with the lid on, but it took this one about 70 minutes with the lid on (size of the bird probably has something to do with it). Make sure to check the internal temperature with your meat thermometer to ensure it is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

This recipe was great! The meat was so tender and juicy and the garlic was amazing too. We will definitely be making this again.

Enjoy!

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Does freezing meat make it more tender?

Does freezing meat make it more tender? The answer is… Maybe. One of the great things about research is new things are being discovered daily, or we are expanding on previous research that has been done, which provides more information to things we did not previously know.

Kansas State University has been doing research to see if freezing meat can make it more tender. Six different muscles from the hind quarter were the focus of the research by Dr. John Unruh and grad students. They found that freezing the strip loin and inside round steaks improved tenderness by as much as 10%, as compared to the tenderness before the steaks were frozen. The research used paired strip loins (available in a retail setting), which were frozen, thawed, and evaluated for tenderness using a Warner-Bratzler Shear Force test, which determines how tender or tough meat may be (video demonstration).

Dr. Unruh said the strip loin (from the sirloin) and inside round (from the round) steaks were more tender because they did not loose as much moisture during freezing as the other steaks did. As you can see, this research opens the door for further research… What about those steaks/muscles helps them retain moisture? Is it associated with a locomotion or movement muscle on the animal that is impacting moisture holding? Does animal diet/stress/age/etc. impact water holding capacity in those muscles?

You may be asking yourself, so what or who cares? Well have you ever heard anyone recommend a steak because it was tough or hard to chew? Me neither. We like steak to be tender. We can preserve meat by freezing it and now this research indicates that freezing may be advantageous to meat tenderness versus detrimental. It will be fun to see what further research in this field finds.

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A handy chart of various beef cuts and where they come on the carcass. Source: Certified Angus Beef.

For more information on meat cuts, I also like Beef Cuts: Primal and Subprimal Weights and Yields.

** Note: I am not promoting one entity over another, just using the materials as reference.

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Meat: To wash or not wash?

To wash or not wash your meat before cooking… This has been a discussion of debate for a long time. Well wait no longer dear readers, the verdict is in.

Dr. Jonathan Campbell, meat extension specialist at Penn State University, says“from a food safety standpoint, it’s a bad idea because we can potentially spread the bacteria that are on the meat to all other areas of our kitchen. That makes the food safety hazard even worse.” Campbell adds that washing meat also is not effective at removing all of the potential bacteria, which is best accomplished by cooking the meat to the proper internal temperature as confirmed with a meat thermometer.

A new Meat MythCrusher video produced by the North American Meat Institute and the American Meat Science Association also discusses the best strategies for safely removing meat from packaging to avoid any cross contamination and the proper temperatures for various cuts of meat and poultry.

 

If interested, the Drexel University website discussed in the video is found at Don’t Wash Your Chicken.

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Source: Drexel University, Don’t Wash Your Chicken

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Clay Pot Cooking: Cornish Game Hens

Over the Christmas break my Mom and I cleaned out her cabinets and found a gently used clay pot that she was willing to re-gift to me 🙂 Thanks Mom! I have never cooked anything in one of these babies… So the first thing I did was head to Google to read all about how I could master clay port cooking. I found several sites with some great information including The Essential Kitchen: Clay Pot Cooking, Cooking with Shirley and Cooking in Clay Pots, and the kitchn Two Unique and Unexpected Benefits of Cooking in Clay.

So after reading all about cooking in clay pots, it was time to give it a try. I wasn’t sure if a chicken would fit into my pot, so I decided to start with Cornish Game Hens. I also had a bunch of veggies in the fridge. But first things first, I had to soak the pot. My dang sink wasn’t big enough to accommodate both the top and bottom on the same side. So I had to soak them on separate sides, which to me was a waste of water. Normally I would water my plants with this water, but I gave all of my plants away when we moved (and I digress…). Next time I am going to try soaking them together in a 5-gallon bucket filled in the tub, stay tuned on how that works for me.

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Soaking the clay pot.

From my background reading it said to put the seasoned meat which had been rubbed with butter into the pot. I literally rubbed soft butter over the Hens, it didn’t go quite as smoothly as I hoped it would, and got pretty messy. There were seasoned clumps of butter all over the Hens. Next time I will melt the butter first, use a brush to apply it, and then season the meat. It was at this stage that I also added my veggies (garlic, onion, carrot, potato, and jalapeno) to the pot.

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Cornish Game Hens with veggies in a clay pot.

One of the sources I read said to add the juice of 1/2 lemon over the top, so I did that and put the lid on. In everything I read they made it clear that no additional juices or liquids should be added, as the steam and juices from the meat and veggies would be plenty. It is important to note that the pot should be put into a cold oven, once the oven is turned on, the oven and the pot can heat together. Putting the pot into a hot oven may cause it to crack. Also, when you take the lid off to brown the bird(s) in the final stage, the lid should be placed on a fabric potholder or towel, as setting it on a cool surface may crack it.

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The wet pot has all of the yummy goodness inside and is going into the oven. PS, I just love the agriculture scene on the lid.

I couldn’t find any guidelines for how long to cook Cornish Game Hens with veggies, so I just went with the amount of time that was suggested to cook a chicken. At about 50 minutes I checked on the Hens and saw that the juices coming from them were bloody, so I let it cook for an additional 10-15 minutes with the lid on. I think adding so many veggies to the pot increased the cook time, which was not a big deal, I will just keep that in mind next time.

When I removed the lid the second time, the juices ran clear and the internal temp was taken. As recommended, I let it cook an additional 10 minutes with the lid off to brown the top of the Hens. After I pulled it out of the oven I let it rest for about 10 minutes. I am not sure if that step was necessary, as everything keeps cooking since the pot is so hot. Be cautious when removing and replacing the lid, they are very hot and there is steam!

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TaaDaa!! The finished product.

The end product looked delicious. We were anxious to try it. The meat was so moist and tender, it was great. The veggies were tasty too, especially the garlic, which had great flavor. There was a slight flavor of clay with everything, it was a little strong to me, but The Hubs didn’t notice it as much. I think as the pot becomes more seasoned this flavor may dissipate. It added a very earthy flavor.

Clean up of the pot wasn’t bad. There was a lot of liquid in the bottom, so nothing stuck there. As you can see in the picture, there were a few veggies stuck to the side. I just let the pot soak in plain water for about 20 minutes and those scrubbed off. The information I read said not to use a detergent/soap to clean the pot as the pores will soak up the detergent and give your food an off flavor. A baking soda paste for the real stuck on stuff was suggested. It was also not recommended to put the pot in the dishwasher because of temperature fluctuations. I let the pot dry on the counter for several days before putting it away as I read it could get moldy if put away wet/damp. If that happens it was suggested to use a baking soda paste on those areas.

Next in clay pot cooking I am going to try a chicken with 40 cloves of garlic! Now that I know a chicken will fit, and I know that garlic is excellent in the pot, it seems like a logical next dish in my culinary experimentation. I want to also try meatloaf and a stew. I have also read that if you plan to bake sweets in a clay pot, a second one should be purchased, as cooking sweet foods in the savory seasoned pot may make bad/weird flavor combinations – remember the pores in the clay soak up the flavors.

Have you cooked in a clay pot? What is your favorite thing to make? What advice do you have for me? I would love to hear from you.

I have been experimenting, and have tried this clay pot dishes too:

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