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Hints & Tips for the Holidays

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CASSEROLE QUICK-FIX

CLOVES, PLASTIC DON'T MIX

COOKING CALAMITIES

EXTRA PEOPLE

GARBAGE DISPOSAL JAMMED

GRAVY RESCUE

GRAVY SECRETS

LEFTOVER MAGIC

LINEN STAINS

OLIVE OIL WARNING

PIE TIPS

REFRIGERATOR ROOM

SALTY SOUP

SUPER SOUP

TURKEY DEFROSTING

TURKEY LEFTOVERS

TURKEY TIPS

HOW TO LOOSEN THE SKIN OF A TURKEY

VEGETABLES HAVE TURNED TO MUSH

WINE PROBLEMS

 

 

 

 

FINDING WAYS TO ADD SOME PIZAZZ TO TURKEY LEFTOVERS          > Back to Top <

BY SAM GUGINO
Special to the Mercury News

For many of us, the three, four, five, even six days after Thanksgiving are the flip side of the 12 Days of Christmas. Instead of inching closer to a joyous occasion, we're counting down (usually with gritted teeth) until the last vestige of turkey, not to mention all those fixin's, is finished. Turkey sandwiches, again?

But turkey leftovers offer lots of possibilities for quick meals, especially because many of the ingredients are already cooked.

Try making a pate by pureeing 1 1/2 pounds cooked turkey in a food processor with 4 chopped shallots, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 2 tablespoons brandy and just enough cream to make it smooth and creamy. Though you can eat the pate immediately (with crackers or bread), the flavor will improve if refrigerated overnight.

Turkey tonnato is a variation on vitello tonnato, the cold Italian dish. For this, puree 5 anchovy fillets, 3 tablespoons capers and a 7-ounce can of olive oil-packed tuna in a food processor. Thin with a bit of turkey stock and fold into 1 1/4 cups mayonnaise, or just enough to make a spreadable sauce. Add lemon juice to taste. Alternate layers of the sauce and about 1 1/2 pounds sliced, cooked turkey breast on a platter. As with the pate, the flavor will improve if refrigerated about eight hours.

 

Other quick turkey leftover dishes that won't bore you or your family include turkey curry, spicy turkey chili and turkey Waldorf salad with apples, pecans and, instead of celery, fennel.

 

And remember, leftovers don't have to involve just turkey. You can make a savory sausage by combining 1 3/4 pounds well-chopped turkey meat with 1 pound bread stuffing and 4 to 6 ounces of drained cranberry sauce. Add 2 eggs to help bind the mixture, then form into one large (or more smaller) sausages. Wrap in cheesecloth or foil and bake for 45 minutes in a 375-degree oven. Let rest 10 minutes before unwrapping.

 

Even those ubiquitous casseroles can be a bit special with the addition of an out-of-the-ordinary ingredient. When making Tetrazzini, the creamy turkey-noodle dish named after an opera singer, use shiitake mushrooms instead of the usual button mushrooms.

 

To the ``blanquette de bird'' below (a variation on the French veal stew, blanquette de veau), you could add frozen tiny carrots.

 

 

SOLUTIONS FOR COOKING EMERGENCIES


Cooking calamities         > Back to Top <

 

No buttermilk? Use plain yogurt or thinned sour cream or crème fraîche instead. Or add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup milk and let stand 5 minutes.

 

No dry bread crumbs? Just get some bread, tear it up into small chunks, saute in a skillet with a little butter until browned.

 

No cornstarch? For every 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, use 1 tablespoon arrowroot or 1 tablespoon potato flour or potato starch or 2 1/2 tablespoons flour.

 

No eggs? If it's for baking, substitute 1/4 cup applesauce for 1 egg.

 

No cake flour? For 1 cup of cake flour, sift together 7/8 cup all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons cornstarch.

 

No sweet potatoes for a casserole, soup or gratin-type dish? Use butternut squash or pumpkin.

 

No confectioners' sugar? For every 1 cup confectioners' sugar, use 7/8 cup granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon cornstarch and whirl in blender for a few seconds.

 

No granulated sugar? For every 1 cup needed, use 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar or 3/4 cup honey.

 

No parchment paper? Use brown paper or waxed paper (not over high heat), or just grease and flour the pan.

 

No kitchen twine to truss the turkey? Use unwaxed, unflavored dental floss.

 

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Q I've had my turkey defrosting in the refrigerator for days, and it still feels like a bowling ball. What do I do?

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A Defrosting a frozen turkey in the refrigerator takes about 24 hours for every 5 pounds. If you wake up Thanksgiving Day and it's still rock-solid, take it out immediately, plunge it in a pot or clean bucket large enough to hold it and cover it with cold water; keep the water cold by changing it frequently. It should take 30 minutes per pound to defrost this way. Alternatively, if the turkey is small and your microwave large, try hitting the defrost button. Whatever you do, don't start roasting it in the oven if it's still frozen. It will cook unevenly and turn into a big dry mess. If all else fails, light some more candles, eat at midnight and tell your guests you're starting a new dining tradition.

 

 

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Q I only turned away from the stove for a second, but now my (broccoli, cauliflower, peas, sweet potatoes, parsnips, insert vegetable here) has turned to mush. What can I do?

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A Thank goodness for cheese and cream. When you're floating in a sea of mush, they're the greatest lifesavers. You can put said squishy vegetables in a casserole dish, spoon on tomato sauce or a cream sauce, then top with grated cheese and bake. Serve as a fancy gratin.

 

Or puree the vegetable with some chopped herbs, stir in a little butter and heavy cream, season with salt and pepper and serve as a trendy side dish puree worthy of a four-star restaurant.

 

Or add the overcooked veggie to a pot with chicken or vegetable stock, some sauteed onions or garlic, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cool a bit and puree. Return to pot to reheat, and stir in a little cream or butter, if you like. Serve as an elegant soup.

 

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Q I went overboard with the salt shaker while making soup (or gravy). Is there any way to salvage it?

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A If you have a potato, peel it and throw it into the oversalted soup or gravy. Let it simmer for a while, then remove the potato and discard. The potato should have absorbed some of the salt. If the soup is still too salty, try adding some mushrooms or tomatoes or a little milk or cream to neutralize the flavor. Or try squirting in a little lemon juice or adding a pinch of sugar to balance.

 

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Q:  What's the secret to gravy?

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A:  When your turkey is done, you have two kinds of liquids in the pan: an oily liquid (the melted fat) and a watery liquid (the meat and vegetable juices). You want to incorporate both of these liquids into your gravy. The trick is to get them to mix into a smooth, homogeneous mixture -- no lumps, no puddles of grease.

 

Flour contains certain proteins that form a sticky substance -- gluten -- when they get wet. If you just dump some flour into the pan, these proteins will get together with the water to form a glutinous goop that the oil can't penetrate. You'll then wind up with little lumps of dough swimming in pools of grease. Most experts agree, however, that gravy should not be the chewiest part of the meal.

 

Make sure to mix the flour first with some of the fat, which you have previously separated from the watery juices. That way, the individual, microscopic particles of flour become coated with oil, which the watery juices can't penetrate to gum things up. Result? Later, when you add the juices, supplemented as necessary with broth or other watery liquids, these individual, oil-coated flour particles become widely scattered. And that's just what you want, because the thickening agent and the fat it carries are uniformly dispersed throughout the watery juices, giving you a smooth, uniformly thickened consistency.

 

You must keep the amounts of flour and fat just about equal. Use one part flour and one part fat to every eight parts of liquid juices and/or stock. Mix the flour with the fat, cook it a bit to brown it, slowly stir in the watery liquids, and simmer to let the flour do its thickening job.

 

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Q OK, I got that. But still, my gravy didn't turn out. What do I do?

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Gravy too thin? Simmer it until reduced; or thicken with a little arrowroot or cornstarch that's been dissolved in cold water, then whisked into the boiling sauce.

 

Too thick? Thin with water or stock.

 

Lumpy? Put it through a fine strainer.

 

No taste? Use salt and pepper, soy sauce, more pan drippings, chicken stock, or port, Madeira or bourbon.

 

Looks muddy, not glossy? Add cold stock or water, simmer, then skim often.

 

Unthickened gravy or jus didn't emulsify? Skim off almost all the fat, then add more stock, boil hard to emulsify. If the fat is still separating, take it off the heat, whisk in 1 tablespoon heavy cream or cold butter for every 1 cup gravy.

 

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Q Help, my cousin just showed up with six extra people!

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A Don't panic. It's Thanksgiving. It's almost a given that whatever is prepared is already prepared in abundance. That's why we're able to enjoy leftovers the next day and the next and the next. So, you probably have more food than you think. Plus, it's always good to keep on hand extra cans of chicken broth, frozen veggies, frozen rolls, tins of paté, boxes of crackers, jars of tapenade, tubs of ice cream and fancy packaged cookies.

 

If you really don't think you prepared enough, don't be shy about whipping up something not necessarily on the usual Thanksgiving menu but that's easily made, such as spaghetti or mac and cheese. It might not be traditional, but if it tastes good, nobody's going to turn it down. After all, Thanksgiving is all about piling your plate with this and that. Heck, one year, I had chow mein as a side dish to the turkey. And it was swell.

 

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Q I dropped the pie. I burned the pie. I give up.

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If it's an apple pie, scrape out the filling from the burned crust, put it into a baking dish, whip up some streusel topping with bits of butter, brown sugar, oats, flour or even some granola, and bake. Serve this warm fruit crisp with ice cream.

 

If it's a pumpkin pie or cheesecake that's slipped off the counter, scrape up as much of the filling as you can that hasn't touched the floor. Layer it in parfait or wine glasses with whipped cream, and top with toasted nuts, crystallized ginger, or crushed amaretti cookies or gingersnaps. Julia Child would be proud.

 

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Q: I can't believe it! I just jammed the garbage disposal.

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A:  Press the ``restart'' button. And you might have to repeat the process a couple of times. Just be careful not to put your face directly over the opening when turning on the machine since objects might fly out. If the restart button doesn't work, first turn off the machine. Then place a broom handle or very sturdy stick into the disposal and turn it counterclockwise to try to unjam the motor. Pull the stick out, run water, then turn on the machine. And if your dishwasher drains through your disposal, try running the disposal for a few seconds while the dishwasher is pumping hot, soapy water through it.

 

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Wine gulps        > Back to Top <

Q Ack! I broke the cork while trying to open the wine. What do I do?

A Don't fret. If you're handy with a waiter's corkscrew, you can usually remove even a broken cork.  Ease the screw into what's left of the cork and carefully remove it using the lever action of the corkscrew. If that doesn't work, you can always poke the cork into the bottle. Just warn your guests, though, that they may find bits of cork floating in the wine.

Q Blehhhhh, I just opened a bottle of wine and it tastes horrible. Now what?

A Foil bad tasting or spoiled wine by always having a backup bottle on hand.  In fact, it's also a good idea to pour yourself a tiny taste of each bottle you open, to make sure the wine is OK to serve.)

 

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Table tantrums        > Back to Top <

Q:  My cousin from Los Angeles brought a supermodel to dinner, and she got lipstick all over my linen napkins. Argh!!

A:  First test a hidden area of the fabric for color fastness. Immediately place stain facedown on top of absorbent paper towels and saturate stain with rubbing alcohol. Dab at the area with a cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol. You might also try a prewash spray. Rinse and launder as usual. Then use a commercial spot remover or dry cleaning fluid if necessary.

Q Help! Why do I always end up with red wine spilled on my tablecloth? 

A It's like when you wear a freshly laundered white shirt. You just know at some point you'll end up with something splattered on it. For wine stains, Heloise advises to rinse in cool water first. Or try the old standby -- club soda. If the fabric is bleach safe, wash fabric with bleach according to label directions. Also on bleach-safe fabrics, make a paste of powdered dishwasher detergent with a little water and scrub with an old toothbrush. After treating the spot, wash in the hottest water possible for the fabric. For 100 percent cotton, permanent press or cotton blends, sponge with undiluted white vinegar within 24 hours, then launder or dry-clean.

If the spot refuses to vanish, just stick a pretty vase of flowers over it next Thanksgiving.


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Preparing the ‘fridge      > Back to Top <

 

Your refrigerator is about to be asked to perform an impossible task for Thanksgiving: On top of holding all its everyday contents, it must now also embrace the makings for a mammoth feast to feed a hungry mob. The turkey itself demands almost a whole shelf to itself, and that's not counting the piles upon piles of other groceries and prepared items that will be fighting for space in the coming week. Besides buying an extra refrigerator, the best thing you can do to make room for the Thanksgiving spread is to use up as much of the other food in the fridge as you possibly can, before you start bringing home the fleets of fresh groceries.

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Turkey Talk and Leftover Meltdown!
A little procrastination never hurt anyone; in fact, some of us do our best work when the pressure runs highest. If you love the rush of pulling off the big meal in a whirlwind of cooking and quick decisions, swap a few of our praiseworthy turkey tips into your game plan. Then, wrap up all the leftovers with care and get ready to work some magic with our terrific leftover suggestions.


Turkey Tips:        > Back to Top <

* Get under your turkey's skin to give it an extra punch of flavor. Whip up a mixture of butter, chopped fresh herbs and shallots -- use 1/2 cup of butter per 10 pounds of turkey - and carefully lift the skin up and rub the mixture into the meat just beneath the skin.

* To produce a turkey that's moist on the inside and crispy on the outside, place the turkey in the oven at a higher than normal turkey-cooking temperature (around 450 degrees F or 230 degrees C). After 30 minutes, reduce the heat to the temperature that your recipe recommends and cook for the remaining time.

The secret ingredient is your time and lots of it. Buying, preparing, and roasting a turkey are time-consuming. With careful preparation and attention to timing, you will be rewarded with a beautiful and tasty main coarse.

Your first decision will be selecting between a frozen or fresh turkey. A fresh bird is more expensive, but will save you time and precious refrigerator space. Buy the bird the day before you wish to roast it, but remember to reserve your turkey with the butcher. What a catastrophe to find that the only turkey left for your intimate four-person dinner is a 26-pound glacial beast!

A frozen turkey needs to be defrosted. The preferred method is to defrost it in the refrigerator. (Yes, the one filled with the rest of the holiday fare.) Allow one day per 5 pounds. A 15-pound turkey will require three days to defrost thoroughly. An alternate method is to defrost the bird in a cold water bath. Allow 30 minutes per pound. That 15-pound turkey will require only 7 1/2 hours to defrost using this approach. It is also possible to use a combination of these methods.

Now you are ready to prepare the turkey for roasting. First remove the giblets. This is a fundamental step not only because you might want to use them to make the gravy, but also because it is disconcerting to find these paper-wrapped lumps when carving. Next, rinse the bird inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels. If you are stuffing the bird, do so now with a freshly prepared dressing. Stuff loosely, allowing about 1/2 to 3/4 cup per pound of bird. Brush the skin with melted butter or oil. Tuck the drumsticks under the folds of skin or tie together with string. Lastly, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. The thermometer should point towards the body, and should not touch the bone.

Place the bird on a rack in a roasting pan, and into a preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven. Use the following chart to estimate the time required for baking.

Weight of Bird Roasting Time (Unstuffed) Roasting Time (Stuffed)
10 to 18 pounds 3 to 3-1/2 hours 3-3/4 to 4-1/2 hours
15 to 22 pounds 3-1/2 to 4 hours 4-1/2 to 5 hours
22 to 24 pounds 4 to 4-1/2 hours 5 to 5-1/2 hours
24 to 29 pounds 4-1/2 to 5 hours 5-1/2 to 6-1/4 hours


Bake until the skin is a light golden color, and then cover loosely with a foil tent. During the last 45 minutes of baking, remove the foil tent to brown the skin. Basting is not necessary, but will promote even browning.

The best test for doneness is the temperature of the meat, not the color of the skin. The turkey is done when the thigh meat reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees F, and when the breast meat reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees F. If your turkey has been stuffed, it is important to check the temperature of the dressing. The stuffing should be 165 degrees F. When the turkey is done, remove from the oven and allow to stand for 30 minutes.



Leftovers tend to pile up in the refrigerator when there's not enough of any one thing left to make a whole meal. Luckily, though, there are lots of versatile recipes that readily embrace the bits and pieces from all those little storage containers and plastic bags that are lurking at the back of your refrigerator shelves. With a little of this and a little of that, you can make an entirely new (and delicious!) meal.

 



Leftover Magic:         > Back to Top <


* Store leftovers in serving-size containers for food safety and cooking ease. Dig into the containers to make sandwiches, turkey and mashed potato burritos and turkey stir-fry!
* Make turkey chili in your slow cooker! Toss some chopped turkey meat, chili beans, tomato paste, chili powder and any leftover veggies into the slow cooker. Refrigerate overnight and let the chili simmer on low until ready.

The big event is over, and you're surveying the damage. The aftermath of a medieval feast may come to mind. Or perhaps a medieval battle. A turkey carcass squats amid biscuit crumbs, half a bowl of cranberry sauce, a platter of stuffing, dribbles of gravy, a defeated pumpkin pie... and groaning merry-makers who are likely to weep if you suggest turkey leftovers for the evening meal. However, they will rally, especially if you put your creative mind to work.

First things first. If you want to put these leftovers to good use over the next few days or weeks, you must handle them carefully. Immediately remove the stuffing from the turkey and refrigerate it separately to be eaten in a couple days (or freeze it to be eaten within one month). Turkey should be refrigerated or frozen within two hours after roasting. Remember, bacteria form rapidly in a cooked bird sitting at room temperature. Wrap the turkey as airtight as possible in aluminum foil and refrigerate. Turkey dries out fast, so remove the meat from the bones within a day or two and cut into slices or cubes for freezing. Store the meat in zipper bags (with all air forced out before sealing) in one- or two-cup portions for easier thawing and use. For the best quality and flavor, freeze for no more than two months. Don't forget to label and date the bags! Thaw in the refrigerator or microwave-NEVER at room temperature.

Now, the question still remains: what to do with all those leftovers? Well, get creative! What can you do to make the day-after meal as appealing as Thanksgiving Day's? If plain turkey sandwiches from the fridge leave you cold, don't eat 'em! How about a barbecue twist to the standard? Sauté some onions in a little butter, stir in cooked turkey and barbecue sauce until heated through, add pepper, throw it all on a split hard roll, and voila! A flavor explosion. Here's another departure from the basic turkey sandwich: mix together chopped olives, celery, onions, roasted peppers, capers, oregano, pepper, or any other vegetables or herbs that call out to you. Mix in oil and vinegar. Split a round Italian bread loaf, pulling out some of the insides, and brush both sides with more oil and vinegar. Place turkey slices on the bottom half of the bread, then spoon the olive mixture over the turkey. Arrange provolone or Swiss cheese slices on top, then press top bread half over it all. Cut the sandwich into wedges.

There are countless interesting recipes that don't need to look or taste like Thanksgiving warmed over. Treat each dish as a real meal, complete with attractive presentation and good ingredients. Seek out recipes that call for other kinds of poultry or fowl, and adapt. Try a turkey stir-fry, using soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, and vegetables. Plenty of pasta dishes lend themselves to diced white turkey meat. A turkey sauté is quick, easy and delectable: just heat butter and oil in a skillet until hot. Add mushrooms, onions, or peppers and cook. Add minced garlic, a little broth, and turkey. Wild rice and turkey salad, anyone? Or what about a curry? Here's the simplest next-day meal: layer leftover stuffing, turkey slices, gravy, and cranberry sauce in a shallow, greased casserole. Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes. Another option for leftover stuffing is to take 1/4 to 1/2 cupfuls and shape into balls with your hands. Place in greased baking pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, until heated through and lightly browned. And of course we can't neglect the traditional: turkey soup! No need to stick with the basics, though. Try turkey chowder, or a spicy turkey stew.



The Casserole Quick-Fix         > Back to Top <


One of the most popular ways to use up leftovers is to toss them into a casserole or a pot pie. These dishes are so flexible, you can put almost anything into them and they'll taste great. Any manner of leftover rice, potato, or noodle, plus any bits of meat that need to be used up, plus any assortment of vegetables -- fresh or leftover -- equals one very tasty meal. Just cut all your ingredients into manageable bite-size pieces and mix them together with something that will moisten them and bind them together. This
can be any kind of creamy soup, sour cream, eggs, mayonnaise, tomato sauce, cheese, broth mixed with a little cornstarch or a combination of these items. Season to taste and spread the mixture into a casserole dish or a prepared pastry crust. Then shred a little of your favorite cheese over it, and bake at about 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) until heated through and lightly browned on top.

 



Super Soup to the Rescue!       > Back to Top <


Soup is another one of those dishes that just loves leftovers. Once you start with a base of broth or crushed tomatoes, just keep on adding the contents of your refrigerator -- a little cupful of rice, last night's mashed potatoes, that lone carrot, the remains of a ham that's not quite enough for tomorrow's sandwiches, and so on -- until you've got enough soup for a meal. If the soup needs to be bulked up a little, you can begin with beans, split peas or lentils, or add some extra vegetables or meat from the freezer. Don't forget to add the finishing touches with herbs, salt and pepper!

Everything But the Kitchen Sink
Casseroles, pot pies and soups are just the beginning when it comes to emptying out your refrigerator onto your dinner table in a simple and appetizing way. Dice up leftover lunchmeat with chopped carrots, celery, pickles, olives, onions and other tasty things lurking in the refrigerator. Mix with mayonnaise, mustard or salad dressing and serve on toast (use up that bread, too!) with leaves of lettuce. An omelet or frittata is always happy to receive your odds and ends, as is a pasta salad or a pan of lasagna.

HOW TO LOOSEN THE SKIN OF A TURKEY         > Back to Top <

 

NOTE:  Many of today recipes require you loosen the skin on the turkey.  Here is a bit of information on how to loosen the skin without damaging the skin.

Poke the end of a small spoon between the breast meat and skin, starting at the open cavity of the turkey. Move the spoon over the breast to separate the skin from the meat; take care not to rip the skin.

Do this on both sides of the breastbone. Place a spoonful of the herbs, butter, spices, etc. under the skin, and press it out to distribute it evenly over the breast.

 

  

Cloves, plastic don't mix        > Back to Top <

QI ground some whole cloves in an electric coffee grinder, and the plastic cover got soft and pitted. Now I can't clean it or get the smell out of it.

A Cloves contain oil of cloves. And the main ingredient in oil of cloves is a chemical called eugenol. Eugenol can dissolve some plastics, including the polystyrene that your grinder's transparent hood is probably made of. The sand-blasting effect of the hard cloves helped the eugenol to chew deeply into the plastic. The damage is permanent, as is the ingrained aroma.

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Fridge can freeze olive oil's components          > Back to Top <


Q My olive oil in the refrigerator turned cloudy. Is it still good? A
Water's freezing point is 32 degrees, so it doesn't freeze at the average
refrigerator temperature of 40 degrees. But olive oil is a mixture of
compounds called triglycerides. When the temperature gets below 60 degrees a
few of them may freeze, turning the liquid into slush. Thaw it out; it'll be
fine. But too many freeze-thaw cycles can hasten spoilage, so keep a small
day-to-day supply outside the fridge.

SHALOM FROM SPIKE & JAMIE