Archive for the 'Ingredient Information' Category

Recipe: Making Homemade Extracts

|November 20, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

 I received so many requests for this information – and I wish you would have contacted me sooner for these.

You may not be able to make all these before this holiday season – but if you are a baker – you will find that you can still make them now and you will then have them throughout the year.

By now, you know I am a "homemade" person – and I find that by making my own flavored extracts that my baked goods always have a better taste.  Did you ever buy a bottle of peppermint extract and have a really lousy taste in your finished product?  Fresh is always better.  You will have better results.


Tired of paying high prices (which continually keep going up while the bottle sizes get smaller!) for your extracts and flavorings?

Of you are an "occasional" or "seasonal" baker that only pulls out the flour one or twice a year you probably don't mind paying for an extract. You may even share a bottle with others that don't bake as much. Not in my house. I need my extracts. And I have to watch my "inventory" of my homemade extracts, oils, flavored sugars, etc. to make sure I always have them on hand.

Save money – DIY! It's simple, it's easy, it's flavorful – and it's cheaper! More bang for your buck.

I don't add sugar to my citrus extracts – some do – it's your choice. The sugar is not needed as far as I am concerned.

Also – I feel that using colored bottles is better – keeps the sun out – which will effect your extracts/flavorings.

Be sure to sterilize your bottles and caps!

Opt for colored glass bottles when you can. Store out of sunlight in your pantry/cupboard.

Happy extract making!


How to Make Anise Extract

This takes a good three months to make – but it is worth it. and so simple!

Fill a small (half-pint) sterilized jar with whole star of anise. Carefully pour vodka over until it reaches the top. Cap. Store in pantry, shaking once a week for 3 months. If you want your anise flavoring to have a stronger flavor – allow to sit for 4 months before using.

When ready to use, strain into a clean, sterile jar, cap and store in your pantry.


How to Make Cinnamon Extract

Some will use a light rum – but I use my 80 proof vodka.

Break a couple cinnamon stick into a clean, sterilized jar;.

Pour 8 oz. vodka over sticks; cover; place in pantry.

Shake daily for 2 weeks.

When you have the flavor you are looking for, remove the cinnamon sticks. The longer they are in the jar, the stronger it will be, and you don't want it too overpowering.

Store in pantry.


How to Make Coconut Extract

1 coconut

1 1/2 ounces freshly grated coconut, approximately 1/3 cup

4 ounces vodka – 40 proof – some use 80 proof

To open a coconut: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the coconut onto a folded towel set down in a large bowl. Find the 3 eyes on 1 end of the coconut and using a nail or screwdriver and hammer or meat mallet, hammer holes into 2 of the eyes. Turn the coconut upside down over a container and drain the water from the coconut.

Store the water in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Place coconut on baking pan and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. (The coconut should have cracked in several places.) Using an oyster knife or other dull blade, separate the hard shell from the brown husk. Using a serrated vegetable peeler, peel the brown husk from the coconut meat. Rinse the coconut meat under cool water and pat dry. Break the meat into 2 to 3-inch pieces. With the grater disk attached to a food processor, grate the coconut.

Place 1 1/2 ounces of coconut into a 1-cup glass jar with lid (sterilized) and pour vodka over it. Seal and shake to combine. Place in a cool dark place for 5 to 7 days, shaking to combine every day. Strain coconut and discard. Return vodka to a clean (sterilized) jar or to its original bottle and store in a cool place for up to a year. Reserve the remaining coconut for another use.


How to Make Lemon Extract

the zest from 1 – 2 lemons (wash and dry the lemon well, remove zest – no pith)

4 oz. vodka – 40 proof – some use 80 proof

1 teaspoon sugar – totally optional

Combine sugar and vodka in small stainless or glass saucepan and warm (do not boil) to dissolve sugar. Transfer to sterile jar; add lemon zest. Cap tightly and shake.

Place in pantry – shake daily. In a month you will have your extract.

NOTE: If not using sugar – place vodka and lemon zest in sterile bottle; cap; shake and proceed as above.


How to Make Orange Extract

the zest from 1 – 2 oranges (wash and dry the oranges well, remove zest – no pith)

4 oz. vodka – 40 proof – some use 80 proof

1 teaspoon sugar – totally optional

Combine sugar and vodka in small stainless or glass saucepan and warm (do not boil) to dissolve sugar. Transfer to sterile jar; add orange zest. Cap tightly and shake. (Make sure your strips of zest are completely immersed.)

Place in pantry – shake daily. In a month you will have your extract.

NOTE: If not using sugar – place vodka and orange zest in sterile bottle; cap; shake and proceed as above.


How to Make Lime Extract

the zest from 2 – 4 limes (wash and dry the limes well, remove zest – no pith)

4 oz. vodka – 40 proof – some use 80 proof

1 teaspoon sugar – totally optional

Combine sugar and vodka in small stainless or glass saucepan and warm (do not boil) to dissolve sugar. Transfer to sterile jar; add lime zest. Cap tightly and shake. (Make sure your strips of zest are completely immersed.)

Place in pantry – shake daily. In a month you will have your extract.

NOTE: If not using sugar – place vodka and lime zest in sterile bottle; cap; shake and proceed as above.


How to Make Grapefruit Extract

the zest from 1 – 2 grapefruit (wash and dry the grapefruit well, remove zest – no pith)

4 oz. vodka – 40 proof – some use 80 proof

1 teaspoon sugar – totally optional

Combine sugar and vodka in small stainless or glass saucepan and warm (do not boil) to dissolve sugar. Transfer to sterile jar; add grapefruit zest. Cap tightly and shake. (Make sure your strips of zest are completely immersed.)

Place in pantry – shake daily. In a month you will have your extract.

NOTE: If not using sugar – place vodka and grapefruit zest in sterile bottle; cap; shake and proceed as above.


How to Make Almond Extract

4 oz. almonds, peeled and blanched

2 cups vodka

Process almonds in food processor until fine – like raw sugar not white sugar.

Transfer to sterilized 1-quart glass jar; pour in vodka; cap tightly; store in pantry. Shake daily for 6 weeks.

After 6 weeks, straner through a coffee filter and transfer to small (sterilized) jars. Cap.

Takes time to make – but will keep indefinitely.


How to Make Vanilla Essence

This is more of a vanilla flavoring than an extract – milder – not as flavorful.

For this, I use vodka – some will use brandy, rum, gin, cognac or brandy – which to me changes the flavor completely and will effect the outcome of your baked goods. Vodka has the perfect flavor for true extracts.

3 vanilla beans, split to within 1/4-inch of each end

8 oz. 80 proof vodka

Place vanilla beans in sterilized glass jar and cover with vodka. Place in pantry; shake occasionally and let set for 2 months before using.

NOTE: ALSO – WHICH TO ME THIS IS IMPORTANT – since vanilla beans come in two different grades (A and B), I prefer to use the B grade. Grade B vanilla beans.

Grade B beans have less water weight. You get more bean for your buck because you're not paying for water. This also means that less water ends up in your extract.

With Grade A you pay for appearance, which doesn't matter.

We get the same beans as Grade A, but at a fraction of the cost.


How to Make Vanilla Extract

This is more flavorful than vanilla essense.

For this, I use vodka – some will use brandy, rum, gin, cognac or brandy – which to me changes the flavor completely and will effect the outcome of your baked goods. Vodka has the perfect flavor for true extracts.

6 vanilla beans, split to within 1/4-inch of each end (some remove the seeds, some don't)

8 oz. 80 proof vodka

Place vanilla beans in sterilized glass jar and cover with vodka. Place in pantry; shake occasionally and let set for 2 months before using.

NOTE: ALSO – WHICH TO ME THIS IS IMPORTANT – since vanilla beans come in two different grades (A and B), I prefer to use the B grade. Grade B vanilla beans.

Grade B beans have less water weight. You get more bean for your buck because you're not paying for water. This also means that less water ends up in your extract.

With Grade A you pay for appearance, which doesn't matter.

We get the same beans as Grade A, but at a fraction of the cost.


How to Make Peppermint Extract

This uses dried peppermint leaves.

Chop 1/4 cup peppermint leaves in your food processor or use a mortar and pestle. Transfer to sterilized glass jar.

Add 4 oz. vodka and 4 oz. filtered water. Cap and shake.

Store in pantry for 2 weeks before using. Remember to shake daily.

When ready to use, strain and transfer to clean, sterilized bottles; cap; store in pantry. Discard used leaves.


How to Make Peppermint Extract

This is for those that grow their own peppermint.

Clean (wash) your fresh cut peppermint springs. You will want to "bruise" them a bit with your fingers for the flavor. Place in sterile glass jar. About 5 or 6 small sprigs work well with 6 oz. vodka (3/4 cup). Be sure to cover the springs with the vodka. Cap and store in pantry.

After 2 weeks you wil have a mild peppermint flavor. Once it is the strength you want, strain and discard the sprigs of peppermint. Store in pantry.


So it's time to visit your local liquor store and stock up on 80 proof vodka!



Recipe: Garlic – Fresh or Jarred?

|June 12, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

Garlic – Fresh or Jarred?

Of course – I am back to talking about GARLIC. I received this email which I would like to share:

Date: Sun, 16 May 2010 04:58:02 -0500

Hi Mama!

Thanks for including me in your email list. Yesterday before I went to work, I was on your Old Fashioned Home Cooking blog. I tell you what, I wish I discovered your site a long time ago because if I did, I won't be doing some of the stuff I'm doing right now. For example, I used to use freshly crushed garlic every time I saute something, then I saw some videos of bloggers who uses the already minced garlic that they can get from grocery store. I started using that because I thought it was a good idea and it would save me some time. But after reading your articles about making everything homemade, I kind of realize that you were right, we don't know what's in that bottle of minced garlic. So yes Mama, I am learning from you already. And I am not back in school yet. This time, I want to learn as much as I can for free before I go back to school. And thanks to you. Please don't be surprised if I mention some of your tips in my blog. And thank you so much for the encouragement. I really appreciate it.



When it comes to using garlic – I think I am the biggest user of it in the world! There is nothing like fresh garlic or making your own homemade garlic salt and dried minced garlic! (recipes on this blog)

You all know that I am against purchasing jarred garlic in oil. It’s way too expensive, and it’s a total waste. I don’t care if it saves you time – eating out at McDonald’s, Burger King, etc. will also save you time. But is it really healthy for you?


Let me repeat myself – just in case you didn’t quite get it –


No – not what you purchase at the market – what you can make at home. For big batch cooking, or if I know I am using it two days in a row (which is just about all the time!) – I make my own. Make it the night before and store in a small covered glass jar in the refrigerator. It comes in handy for rubs, barbecuing, roasts, skillet frying – just about anything. Even use when making garlic bread.

I’m fussy about the quality of the ingredients I use. Unfortunately, I can’t say that about food manufacturing facilities. I don’t care who they are – I don’t trust any of them.

Seeing those really tall jars of garlic in oil in the stores just turns my stomach. I don’t give a hoot as to an expiration date on a product either. I don’t care if you just bought it and you are dumb enough to believe that just because it has an expiration date 2 years from now that you are going to be able to use that long! ONCE OPENED – THE EXPIRATION DATE MEANS NOTHING! I don’t care what the product is.

Now back to those poisonous tall jars of garlic in oil – if you are going to use the entire jar within 2 to 3 days – then buy it if you must. If not – it’s just a waste of money because it is not good after that.

It’s so easy to make your own – just mince your fresh garlic (using only good garlic and not half-rotted garlic that you are trying to save!) and add olive oil; mix well; place in small glass jar with a tight-fitting cover and use within 2 days – be sure to store in refrigerator. Pushing it to 3 is something I don’t agree with. Slather it on any foods you want – I am a garlic lover and I can’t get enough of it. But I sure as $%@# I won’t purchase it in a jar. Not when I can make my own in a minute or two. And I know what I am cooking with and feeding to others.

It’s so simple to make – why buy it? And making it yourself, you will know if it is fresh. For “marathon cooking” in my house – I make up a jar to save time. I use it in my sauces, for roasts, for all meats being, fried, roasted, baked, etc., when making garlic breads and rolls, macaroni in oil, dressings, anything I want.

Try it – I think you will agree with me!

And a note to Karen – I enjoy your blog and your recipes! Keep up the good work!

Recipe: How to make your own onion powder and minced dry onion

|June 12, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

What a money saver this is!  Especially if you grow your own onions!  If not – watch those weekly sale papers –


Preheat your oven to 150* F. if you are not using a dehydrator.

Peel your onions and remove that dry papery skin that is on them.  Slice thin and place in your dehydrator or on baking trays in single layer.   When they are dry they will be brittle.

When dry, remove to clean, dry paper towels to cool completely.

Grind or minced to your desired consistency using your coffee grinder, food processor, mortar and pestle – your choice.

Store in airtight in glass containers in cool dry place.

And don't ask me if I would freeze this – no – I do not want the moisture in it.

Recipe: Sixty uses for table salt –

|June 11, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

A very useful and interesting post!



1. Soak stained hankies in salt water before washing.

2. Sprinkle salt on your shelves to keep ants away.

3. Soak fish in salt water before descaling; the scales will come off easier.

4. Put a few grains of rice in your salt shaker for easier pouring.

5. Add salt to green salads to prevent wilting.

6. Test the freshness of eggs in a cup of salt water; fresh eggs sink; bad
ones float.

7. Add a little salt to your boiling water when cooking eggs; a cracked egg
will stay in its shell this way.

8. A tiny pinch of salt with egg whites makes them beat up fluffier.

9. Soak wrinkled apples in a mildly salted water solution to perk them up.

10. Rub salt on your pancake griddle and your flapjacks won't stick.

11. Soak toothbrushes in salt water before you first use them; they will last longer.

12. Use salt to clean your discolored coffee pot.

13. Mix salt with turpentine to whiten you bathtub and toilet bowl.

14. Soak your nuts in salt brine overnight and they will crack out of their shells whole. Just tap the end of the shell with a hammer to break it open easily.

15. Boil clothespins in salt water before using them and they will last longer.

16. Clean brass, copper and pewter with paste made of salt and vinegar,
thickened with flour

17. Add a little salt to the water your cut flowers will stand in for a longer life.

18. Pour a mound of salt on an ink spot on your carpet; let the salt soak up
the stain.

19. Clean your iron by rubbing some salt on the damp cloth on the ironing

20. Adding a little salt to the water when cooking foods in a double boiler will make the food cook faster.

21. Use a mixture of salt and lemon juice to clean piano keys.

22. To fill plaster holes in your walls, use equal parts of salt and starch, with just enough water to make a stiff putty.

23. Rinse a sore eye with a little salt water.

24. Mildly salted water makes an effective mouthwash. Use it hot for a sore throat gargle.

25. Dry salt sprinkled on your toothbrush makes a good tooth polisher.
26. Use salt for killing weeds in your lawn.

27. Eliminate excess suds with a sprinkle of salt.

28. A dash of salt in warm milk makes a more relaxing beverage.

29. Before using new glasses, soak them in warm salty water for awhile.

30. A dash of salt enhances the taste of tea.

31. Salt improves the taste of cooking apples.

32. Soak your clothes line in salt water to prevent your clothes from freezing to the line; likewise, use salt in your final rinse to prevent the clothes from freezing.

33. Rub any wicker furniture you may have with salt water to prevent

34. Freshen sponges by soaking them in salt water.

35. Add raw potatoes to stews and soups that are too salty.

36. Soak enamel pans in salt water overnight and boil salt water in them
next day to remove burned-on stains.

37. Clean your greens in salt water for easier removal of dirt.

38. Gelatin sets more quickly when a dash of salt is added.

39. Fruits put in mildly salted water after peeling will not discolor.

40. Fabric colors hold fast in salty water wash.

41. Milk stays fresh longer when a little salt is added.

42. Use equal parts of salt and soda for brushing your teeth.

43. Sprinkle salt in your oven before scrubbing clean.

44. Soaked discolored glass in a salt and vinegar solution to remove stains.

45. Clean greasy pans with a paper towel and salt.

46. Salty water boils faster when cooking eggs.

47. Add a pinch of salt to whipping cream to make it whip more quickly.

48. Sprinkle salt in milk-scorched pans to remove odor.

49. A dash of salt improves the taste of coffee.

50. Boil mismatched hose in salty water and they will come out matched.

51. Salt and soda will sweeten the odor of your refrigerator.

52. Cover wine-stained fabric with salt; rinse in cool water later.

53. Remove offensive odors from stove with salt and cinnamon.

54. A pinch of salt improves the flavor of cocoa.

55. To remove grease stains in clothing, mix one part salt to four parts
rubbing alcohol.

56. Salt and lemon juice removes mildew.

57. Sprinkle salt between sidewalk bricks where you don't want grass

58. Polish your old kerosene lamp with salt for a brighter look.

59. Remove odors from sink drainpipes with a strong, hot solution of salt

60. If a pie bubbles over in your oven, put a handful of salt on top of the spilled juice. The mess won't smell and will bake into a dry, light crust which will wipe off easily when the oven has cooled.

Recipe: Salt: types and uses

|June 11, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

Salt: types and uses

Most salt is mined from deposits left by salt lakes around the world which have dried up over the past millenia as the earth's surface has changed. Sea salt is distilled from the ocean, a more expensive process, resulting in a heftier price.

Types of salt

Table: This is the common salt normally found on every table. It is a fine-ground, refined rock salt with some additives to keep it free-flowing. Smaller particles mean more particles per measure and more surface area than coarser grinds; thus, use about half the amount if you're substituting for coarse salt.

Coarse: Coarse refers to the grind. The jagged edges and large crystals make this a good choice for sprinkling on pretzels or corn on the cob because the edges tend to cling and the salt does not readily melt.

Iodized: Salt which has iodine (sodium iodide) added. Iodine is a mineral necessary to the body to prevent hypothyroidism and some countries actually require iodine added by law. For those who live in areas away from oceans, iodized salt is an easy way to get this necessary nutrient into the diet. Surprisingly, iodized salt contains a small amount of sugar (usually indicated as dextrose in the ingredients listing), without which the salt would turn yellow due to oxidation of the iodine.

Kosher: This is a coarser grind of salt with large, irregular crystals. It contains no additives. Kosher dietary laws strictly require as much blood as possible be removed from meat before cooking. This coarse grind performs the job admirably. It is a favorite with not only Jewish cooks, but also professional and gourmet cooks who prefer its brighter flavor and texture. When substituting for table salt, you may need more to taste since it seems less salty. The size and shape of the crystals cannot permeate the food as easily as fine grades. Coarse pickling salt can be substituted.

Celtic: This is the expensive type. It is harvested via a 2,000 year-old method of solar evaporation from the waters of the Celtic Sea marshes in Brittany, France. Its flavor is described as mellow with a salty, yet slightly sweet taste. Even more expensive and rare is fleur de sel, from the salt marshes in Gurande, which is said to form only when the wind blows from the east.

Rock: Less refined and grayish in color, this is the chunky crystal salt used in ice cream machines. This type is generally not used as an edible flavoring mixed into foods, but in cooking methods such as to bake potatoes or to encrust or embed meat, seafood or poultry for baking. Rock salt makes an impressive bed for oysters on the half shell. When using rock salt for cooking, be sure it is food-grade. Some rock salt sold for ice cream machines is not suitable for cooking.

Pickling: This fine-grained salt has no additives and is generally used in brines to pickle foods. Unlike table salt, the lack of additives will help keep the pickling liquid from clouding.

Sea: Distilled from sea waters, this form can be fine or coarsely ground. This is a less expensive version of Celtic salt. Some consider sea salt nutrionally better than rock salt because it naturally contains trace minerals, but the difference is too minute to note. It does, however, have a stronger and more interesting flavor.

Sour: Although it is not a salt, I include it here for clarity's sake. Sour salt is actually citric acid, extracted from citrus and other acidic fruits such as lemons, oranges, and pineapple. Also known as citric salt, it is used in some classic recipes such as borscht and also by some as a pseudo-salt substitute. It adds a zesty, tart flavor that can sometimes mask as a salty flavor in some dishes and gives a helpful psychological satisfaction of shaking on "salt." If it's not in the spice section of your market, check the kosher section.

Seasoned: Single or multiple herbs and spices are added to salt to make garlic salt, onion salt, and other mixes. If you are watching your salt intake, you're better off using the unsalted powdered or dried herbs and spices and controlling the salt as a separate ingredient. The main ingredient in seasoned salt is, after all, salt.

Unseasoned salt has an infinite shelf life. Seasoned salts should be kept tightly capped and used within one year. Humidity and moisture will cause salt to clump and stick together. Add about ten grains of raw rice to the shaker to absorb the moisture and keep the salt flowing freely. If you've oversalted a soup, toss in a peeled, quartered potato for 15 minutes. Salt pulls juices out of vegetables. This is a good thing for some watery vegetables like cucumbers and eggplant in some dishes, but if you want mushrooms to remain plump, add the salt at the end of cooking. MSG (monosodium glutamate), used in some Asian dishes, amplifies the natural flavor of salt, but can have a chemical reaction with salt and give off a metallic taste. If you must limit salt intake, maximize flavor by sprinkling a pinch of kosher or coarse salt on cooked meats during their resting period. Do not use table salt for pickling and canning. The additives can darken the pickles and affect fermentation. Use pickling salt for best results. Do not store salt in silver containers. The chlorine in the salt reacts negatively with the silver, causing a green discoloration. 1 tablespoon coarse or kosher salt equals 2 teaspoons table salt.


|June 11, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

The smoke point of fats –

Do you know what the “smoke point” of cooking oils and fats is?

Heat causes different reactions in cooking oils and fats; the hotter they get, the more they break down, causing them to begin to smoke and give off unpleasant odors. This is similar to burning; rendering it unusable because it begins to break down at the molecular level. Some oils are better than others for high-heat cooking, such as sautéing, deep-frying, etc.

A cooking oil or fats “smoke point” is the temperature at which it will begin to smoke. Having a high smoke point means that the oil or fat can withstand high heating temperatures before beginning to smoke.

Usually, oils that are vegetable-based have higher smoke points than animal-based fats like butter or lard. The exception to this is hydrogenated vegetable shortening – which has a lower smoke point than butter, and olive oil, which has a smoke point that is about equal to that of lard.

Also, since refining oils removes the impurities that can cause the oil to smoke, the more refined an oil is – the higher its smoke point. Usually it’s the lighter oils that have the highest smoke points.

Although an oil has a smoke point of XX degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius, it’s smoke point will not remain constant. The longer the oil is exposed to heat, the lower its smoke point becomes. Fresher oil has a higher smoke point than the very same oil that has been heated in a deep-fryer.

If you like to deep fry as well as cook, knowing the smoke point will save you money. Each time you deep fry, you lower the smoke point of the shortening/oil/fat irreversibly.

If your oil’s smoke point is just above 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius) (the normal deep-frying temperature), there is a very good chance that its smoke point will drop below 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius) after using it the first time. This makes it useless.

Save money by selecting one with a high smoke point:


Almond 420* F.

Avocado oil (refined) 520* F.

Butter 350* F.

Butter (Ghee) 375 – 485* F. (depending on purity)

Canola (unrefined) 225* F.
Canola (semi-refined) 350* F.
Canola (refined) 400* F.

Coconut 350* F.

Corn oil (unrefined) 320* F.
Corn oil (refined) 450* F.

Cottonseed oil 420* F.

Flaxseed oil (unrefined) 225* F.

Hazelnut oil 430* F.

Hemp seed oil 330* F.

Grapeseed oil 392 – 485* F.

Hazelnut oil 430* F.

Lard 361 – 401* F.

Macadamia nut oil 389* F.

Olive oil (unrefined) 320* F.
Olive oil (extra-virgin) 406* F.
Olive oil (virgin) 420* F.
Pumace 460* F.
Extra light 468* F.

Peanut (unrefined) 320* F.
Peanut oil (refined) 440 – 450* F.

Rapeseed oil 438* F.

Rice bran oil 490* F.

Safflower oil (unrefined) 225* F.
Safflower oil (semi refined) 320* F.
Safflower oil (refined) 450* F.

Sesame oil (unrefined) 350* F.
Sesame oil (semi refined) 450* F.
Sesame oil 410* F.

Shortening, vegetable 325* F. (emulsified/hydrogenated)
Shortening, vegetable 356 – 370* F.

Soy/soybean oil (unrefined) 320* F.
Soy/soybean oil (semi refined) 350* F.
Soy/soybean oil (refined) 450* F.

Sunflower oil (unrefined) 225* F.
Sunflower oil (semi refined) 450* F.
Sunflower oil 440* F.

Tea oil 486* F.

Walnut oil (unrefined) 320* F.
Walnut oil (semi refined) 400* F.

There are a number of factors that will decrease the smoke point of any fat:
The length of time the oil is heated
The presence of foreign properties (batters, for instance)
The presence of salt
The combination of vegetable oil in products
The number of times the oil was used
The length of time the oil is heated
How the oil was stored (exposing it to light, oxygen, temperature)

The importance of knowing the smoke point will also warn you of the flash point and fire point. Most oils reach the flash point of about 699* F. – tiny wisps of fire begin to leap from the surface of the heated oil. If the oil is heated to its fire point (700* F. for most oils), the surface will ablaze.


Recipe: Know your oils…………..

|June 11, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

With so many oils on the market, and various recipes calling for different oils, it can be confusing. Hopefully this little oil guide will help:

NOTE: Because I tend to get long-winded, I will post a separate listing of the smoke points of oils. Knowing the smoke point of an oil will save you money and ensure good-tasting foods.

ALMOND OIL (Monounsaturated)
Sweet almond oil is made from a combination of sweet almonds and a minute quantity of bitter almonds. It is a fixed oil, clear, and pale yellow in color. It’s taste is bland and slightly nutty. Many substitute almond oil for olive oil in cooking. Since almonds contain monounsaturated fat, it is healthier for you and helps to lower blood pressure (although it is high in fat and calories). Many Oriental stir-fry dishes call for this oil.

AVOCADO OIL (Monounsaturated)
Rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and Vitamin E, this oil will lower the bad cholesterol and increase the good cholesterol. Don’t replace your olive oil with it, but use as a blend with olive oil. It will have the lingering flavor or avocado as well. Goes well in any dish that has avocado in it and can compliment many dishes and appetizers – especially those that are seafood dishes. Can also be used to marinate seafood. Use in stir-fry dishes, or for searing (has a high smoke point).

BUTTER (Saturated)
A mix of fats, milk solids and natural water which results from churning, butter is great of baking and used widely in many recipes.

This has a higher smoke point than butter because clarification eliminates the milk solids that burn at lower temperatures. Great for sautéing or frying.

CANOLA OIL (RAPESEED) (Monounsaturated)
This is a light, golden-colored tasteless oil, lower in saturated fat that any other oil and contains more cholesterol-balancing monounsaturated fat than any oil EXCEPT olive oil. Made by the process of cross-breeding rapeseed varieties (plants – not genetically engineered). A good all-purpose oil for anything from salads to cooking.

COCONUT OIL (Saturated)
This oil is extracted from the kernel (meat) of matured coconuts. It has a high level of saturated fat and yet is being recognized by the medical community as a powerful tool against immune diseases. Having a high smoke point makes it excellent for cooking and frying. A heavy and almost colorless oil. Good for coatings, confectionary, and shortening.

CORN OIL (Polyunsaturated)
An extract from the germ (endosperm) of the corn kernel having a mild, medium-yellow color. Excellent for frying, salad dressings, and in shortening.

COTTONSEED OIL (Polyunsaturated)
A pale yellow oil extracted from the seed of the cotton plant; classified as a vegetable oil and is lower in cholesterol than other oils having little to no trans-fats per serving. Used in margarine, salad dressings, shortenings; excellent for frying.

FLAXSEED OIL (Polyunsaturated)
A cold-pressed oil extracted from flax seeds (a product of wine-making) that is light, medium-yellow used for sautéing and frying as well as salad dressings. Also can be taken as a supplement being a resource for Omega 3 essential fatty acids.

GRAPESEED OIL (Polyunsaturated)
The oil extracted from wine grapes being light, medium-yellow in color with a light flavor with just a hint of nuttiness. Excellent for sautéing an frying as well as used in salad dressings.

HAZELNUT OIL (Monounsaturated)
The result of grinding and roasting hazelnuts (filberts) before pressing to extract the oil having a strong hazelnut taste which can be mixed with a lighter oil (like canola) to lighten the flavor. Used in salad dressings, baking, marinades; doesn’t contain any cholesterol.

HEMP SEED OIL (Polyunsaturated)
Pressed from hemp seeds. Cold and unrefined hemp oil is dark to light green in color with a pleasant nutty flavor; the darker the green (color), the “grassier” the taste. Refined hemp oil is light and flavorless.
Not good for frying with a very low smoke point; used as a dietary supplement.

LARD (Saturated)
The rendered or unrendered fat from a pig primarily used as a cooking fat (shortening) and in previous years was used as a margarine/butter spread. Today many have substituted vegetable shortening for lard. Excellent in baking and for frying.

MACADAMIA NUT OIL (Monounsaturated)
A light oil, similar to the finest extra virgin olive oil that is extracted from macadamia nuts used for sautéing, skillet frying, searing, deep-frying, stir-fry, grilling, broiling, an baking.

OLIVE OIL (Monounsaturated)
There are various olive oils on the market which vary in weight and color – all depending on the fruit used and the processing.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL is great for just about any use. It’s green in color and has somewhat of a fruity flavor. It’s unrefined and can be used for sautéing and as a seasoning (adding a splash to your dish as it goes on the table), as well as in salad dressings/vinaigrettes. Said to be the highest quality – it is from the first pressing of fresh chopped or crushed olives.
Next comes EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL and FINE VIRGIN OLIVE OIL which is also cold-pressed. Breaks down easily at frying temperatures.
There is a SEMI-FINE or ORDINARY VIRGIN OLIVE OIL which when properly processed it maintains the purity of the fruit’s flavor, aroma and vitamins. Best used for frying.
VIRGIN OLIVE OIL has a higher acidity level than extra virgin.
Pressing olives (cold-press) is best. It involves pressure, producing a natural low level of acidity in oil.
Some PURE OLIVE OIL is a blend of extra virgin, virgin, and refined olive oil (refined meaning processed with chemicals to remove impurities). This oil will lack the flavor of extra virgin and virgin oils; best for sautéing and frying.
PUMACE OIL is olive oil produced by heat and chemicals; extracted from the leftover pulp (pumace) of extra virgin and virgin olive oil processing. The lowest grade of olive oil.
EXTRA LIGHT is heavily refined with very little color or flavor; used in cooking and baking.

PALM OIL (Saturated)
This yellowish-orange (such color is because of the high amount of beta carotene in it – and the process of boiling destroys the beta carotene but not the color) fatty oil is extracted from the pulp of the fruit of the oil palm. It is a semi-solid at room temperature. Primarily used in frying, cooking, and flavoring.

Palm kernel oil is extracted from the kernel (seed) of the oil palm. It is a semi-solid at room temperature. Primarily used in frying, cooking, and flavoring.

PEANUT OIL (Monounsaturated)
This pale yellow refined oil has a subtle scent and delicate flavor; made from pressing steam-cooked peanuts having a high smoke point. Used in frying (great for chicken and French fries), cooking, and salad dressings.

PUMPKIN SEED OIL (Polyunsaturated)
Pumpkin seed oil (a/k/a pumpkinseed oil) is made by pressing roasted, hulled pumpkins seeds (pepitas), from the Styrian oil pumpkin. Its oil can be light green to dark red in color – depending on thickness with green in the thin layer and red in the thick layer. It has a very intense nutty flavor and makes an excellent salad dressing when combined with olive oil and honey. When browned it has a bitter taste.


RICE BRAN OIL (Monounsaturated)
This oil is produced by extracted the oil from the germ and inner husk of rice and has a very high smoke point making it excellent for skillet-frying and deep-frying, as well as sautéing, salad dressings, baking, and dipping oils.

SAFFLOWER OIL (Polyunsaturated)
This oil is flavorless and colorless with a light texture, derived from pressing the seeds from safflowers having a high smoke point (good for deep frying) and makes an excellent salad dressing (doesn’t solidify when chilled). Also used in mayonnaise, and margarines.

SESAME OIL (Polyunsaturated)
Sesame oil is extracted from sesame seeds. Cold-pressed sesame oil is pale yellow, Indian sesame oil is golden in color, and Chinese and Korean sesame oils are dark brown. Dark brown sesame seed oil is from toasted/roasted sesame seeds – which also enhances the flavor. Dark sesame seed oil and be combined with peanut or canola oils used in stir-fry dishes, cooking, and salad dressings.

A semi-solid fat that is used mostly in baked goods as well as for skillet-frying and deep-frying, having a high smoke point. It has a 100% fat content compared to butter or margarine that is only 80%. Made from blended oil that is solidified using various processes including whipping in air and hydrogenation. Some have an artificial (or real) butter flavor added.

SOY/SOYBEAN OIL (Polyunsaturated)
Soy/soybean oil is a fairly heavy oil that is extracted from whole soybeans. Read the labels of your “vegetable” oils when grocery shopping and you will see it is made from soybeans. It is cholesterol-free and is also used in making margarines and shortening as well as in salad dressings.

SUNFLOWER OIL (Polyunsaturated)
This light, colorless to pale-yellow oil is pressed from oil-type sunflower seeds. Used for cooking and in margarine as well as salad dressings and shortening.

TEA OIL (Monounsaturated)
This oil is pressed from the seeds of tea plants, with a delicate floral flavor good for salads and pasta dishes. Also great in Asian dishes. It has not trans fats or cholesterol. Great for deep-frying because of it has the highest smoke level of all oils.

VEGETABLE OIL (Polyunsaturated)
This can be made from single ingredient or a blend of several different ingredients. It’s a refined oil which is great for high-heat frying. The unrefined specialty oils are better in salads and other cold dishes. These oils can be extracted from seeds, nuts, or the flesh of fruit (like olive oil). Mildly flavored, great for cooking and salad dressings.

WALNUT OIL (Monounsaturated)
This medium-yellow (topaz) oil has a rich, nutty flavor is made from roasted walnuts (dried and cold-pressed). A cheap imitation of walnut oil can be made from soaking walnuts in vegetable oil which really does not give the oil an flavor. Used in sautéing, skillet-frying, stir-fry dishes, grilling, broiling, and deep-frying.

Recipe: Now we’re talkin’………………

|June 2, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

I want to thank those that have e-mailed me with questions –

don't be afraid to ask a question; there is no such thing as a stupid question –

Q: "how can I stop chocolate chips, raisins, etc. from ending up in the bottom of my cakes when I bake them?"

A: Certain ingredients, such as chocolate chips, dried fruits, and even nuts will "sink" to the bottom of your batter. If you were to coat these ingredients with a bit of flour, tossing well, (please remember to leave excess flour behind – you don't need to add it!) before stirring into your batter you will have better results. The flour will absorb some of the surface oils/water that these ingredients emit during the baking process and will help to prevent them from sinking to the bottom.

Q: "I tried to melt chocolate in the microwave and it was lumpy – what did I do wrong?"

A: First of all – you all know that I do not believe in microwaves. I don't trust them for anything at all and I have no desire to use one in my kitchen. Next, I am a chocolate melter from way back – always in a double boiler. Which of course I don't even own one. I use a stainless steel bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stale chocolate will seize right up and has to be tossed. But for a small amount of chocolate with a bit of lumps, you can add a spoon of vegetable shortening or a tad of oil and that should do it for you – unless your chocolate is old. Then there isn't much you can do except buy fresh chocolate.

Q: "berries are so good fresh, but it's always too hot to bake in the summer months – how can I have fresh berries for baking during the off-season?"

A. Why not use frozen berries to bake? As long as they are whole berries that are not in syrup there is no problem. You do not need to thaw; but you may have to add an additional minute or two to your baking – depending on what it is you are making.

Q: "you have posted on your blog how to tell if your baking soda and baking powder are fresh – but what about yeast?"

A: Sometimes you cannot trust the dates on the packages of anything. And like I have said before – I don't care what the expiration date or use-by date is – once it is opened it is not going to last that long – regardless of what it is! I like to use bulk yeast in a bag. And it needs to be tested to make sure it is still active. The best way to do this is to test it by placing the yeast in the water as called for in the recipe, add no more than 1/8 teaspoon of sugar (the sugar is food for the yeast) and it should begin to bubble within 5 to 10 minutes. No bubbles – no good – don't use it.

Q: "what is the easiest way to prevent a cheesecake from cracking?"

A: I don't believe in wrapping the bottom of the springform pan with foil and placing in another pan of water to bake. Most cheesecakes have a topping and the cracks do not even show or matter. If you want to prevent cracks – place a small pan of water next to you cheesecake in the oven; less mess; no danger when removing from the oven.

I hope this helps – and don't be afraid to ask if you want to know something!

Many of us will be planting our gardens soon – of course – unless you live in a warmer area of the country than we do – and tomatoes are always popular.  And many of us will be canning our tomato products as well.


I put this together hoping you would find this useful.


How about a little lesson on all these?

*Tomato paste: Is a deep red, richly flavored concentrate that’s made of tomatoes that have been cooked for several hours, strained and reduced. It’s available in cans or tubes. When I make it homemade I use a good quality Roma tomato, remove skins by blanching (place in a pot of boiling water for 15 to 30 seconds), core, remove seeds (which can be used for soups or salad dressings, etc.), dice and place in heavy saucepan, boil down into a thick, rich paste. You can add a bit of salt. Stir to prevent from sticking. After an hour, place tomatoes in large metal colander to strain. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, press the tomato flesh through. Scrape occasionally. Return flesh to pan and at this point you can add additional spices and herbs, if desired. You can add Italian seasoning, basil, marjoram, garlic, rosemary, onion powder, etc., whatever you want to use. Continue the cooking process for as long as it takes (in hours) and has turned into a thick paste that sticks to the spoon. The bigger the pan, the longer it takes. Homemade tomato paste will store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Either use it or lose it. After refrigerating for 24 hours (to be sure that it is the proper temperature, you can portion and freeze in freezer containers or freezer bags, label and date.

NOTE: When it comes to straining, some have used a food processor or blender to do this job and save time – I’ll still use the metal colander. I do not season my paste – this way I can use it in any recipe without having to worry about how much of what is in it.

NOTE: It’s the meaty tomatoes that give you the best final results.

* Tomato puree: A thick, rich mixture made of tomatoes that have been cooked briefly and strained. It’s available in cans. When I make this homemade I begin with the same procedures as above (for tomato paste) BUT once I remove the skins, I cut in half to remove the seeds and place cut side down on paper towels to remove excess juice. Transfer tomato halves to large bowl. Process tomatoes in food processor to a smooth, pourable puree, transfer to large pot and add salt. If too thick, add a small amount of water. Partially cover and allow to simmer for 45 to 60 minutes. It’s done when you have an even, thick consistency and no longer separates. I find that a wide pan does a good job (better than a tall pan) because the liquid evaporates quicker. If you are going to process in jars to preserve, or you are going to freeze for future use, bring puree to a boil before removing from heat. If canning, follow direction in your Ball blue Book; if you are freezing, place in the refrigerator for 24 hours to be sure it reaches the proper temperature. Portion into freezer containers or freezer bags, label and date.

NOTE: You can saute finely minced onions in a bit of olive oil before adding tomatoes and salt. That is not tomato puree to me – sorry. Left alone, I can use my puree for anything I want.

* Tomato sauce: This is a slightly thinner tomato puree. Some styles are seasoned so that the sauce is ready to add to soups, sauces and other preparations. My preference is plain – then I can do what I want with it. It’s going to take 35 to 45 pounds of tomatoes to give you approximately 7 quarts of tomato sauce. The thinner you want your sauce, the less tomatoes it will take. Score the bottoms of your tomatoes and place in boiling water for less than a minute; plunge into ice water and remove the skins. You don’t want the skins left on because they will become tough and chewy. Halve the tomatoes and remove the seeds and excess juice. Just squeeze and use a spoon to dig out the insides. Place in your metal colander to drain. Place in large pot, bring to simmer until you receive desired consistency. Bring to boil, reducing by one-third will give you a thin sauce; reducing by one-half will give you a thicker sauce. At this point you can follow the Ball Blue Book directions for canning. If you are going to freeze, place in refrigerator for 24 hours to reach the proper temperature then portion into freezer containers or freezer bags, label and date.

* Tomato paste: 4 1/2-ounce tube = 5 tablespoons
* Tomato puree: 1 cup = 1/2 cup tomato paste plus water to equal 1 cup
* Tomato sauce: 1 cup = 3/8 cup tomato paste plus water to equal 1 cup

* When a recipe calls for tomato paste and all you have is tomato sauce, for each tablespoon of tomato paste, add 1/2 cup tomato sauce and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup.

* The next time you need a small amount of tomato paste, buy it in a tube instead of a can. Because so little of the tubed paste is exposed to the air, it can be tightly sealed and refrigerated for up to 1 year. I also find that if I only need one to two tablespoons for a recipe, I can measure tablespoonfuls of paste onto waxed paper placed on a baking tin and place in the freezer to freeze. When frozen, transfer to Ziploc freezer bag and I have portions for the next recipe that calls for a tablespoon or two of tomato paste. You can even use an ice cube tray to portion your paste; once frozen, transfer to freezer bags. The tablespoons of frozen paste can be dropped right into hot mixtures like soups and sauces.

* Use a dab of tomato paste to enliven flat-flavored soups or sauces.

When it comes to choosing tomatoes to work with, Roma (plum) tomatoes are known as “paste” tomatoes because they thicker, meatier walls and much less water content than other tomatoes. The least amount of water/liquid will give you less cooking time. Beefsteak is another good tomato to use. And you can mix tomatoes if need be.

Sun-dried Tomatoes
Sun-dried tomatoes can be quite pricey in the supermarkets and it is very easy to make them yourself! If you don’t live in a hot, sunny climate – you can use your oven and still have great results!

In Italy, ripe plum tomatoes are dried in the hot sun. When dried, they look like shriveled red chili peppers and are wonderfully flavored since the drying process intensifies their natural sweetness and flavor.

Sun dried tomatoes should be used to give an extra flavor punch to a recipe instead of as a main ingredient. For example, a tablespoon or two will flavor a pasta dish for four. They can be used without additional cooking in garlicky pasta sauces, pizza, pasta salads, and with strongly flavored vegetables like broccoli or chicory. They work well in stir fries with chicken, beef, and shrimp or in rice, pasta, and grain salads.

Sun dried tomatoes are sold either loose in packages or packed in oil and are quite expensive. You can make them yourself by drying the tomatoes and varying the flavorings to suit your taste, using any combination of herbs that pleases you.

To Dry Plum Tomatoes in the Oven

Select perfect, ripe fresh Italian plum tomatoes.

Cut each in half and open like a book. Cut out the seeds, trim the stems, and cut out any blemishes.

Preheat the oven to 220°F. Place the tomatoes on racks on baking sheets. Sprinkle tomatoes lightly with salt. Bake for 7 hours. Rotate baking sheets in the oven during cooking time and remove smaller tomatoes as they dry.

Cool tomatoes and fold them closed.

To Dry Cherry Tomatoes

These smaller tomatoes are for pastas, pizzas, sauces, or garnishes.

Preheat oven to 450°F for 20 minutes.

Cut fresh red or yellow cherry tomatoes in half. Grease a cookie sheet with olive oil and place the tomatoes on the sheet, cut-sides up. If desired, sprinkle with herbs.

Place tomatoes in oven. Turn oven down to 350°F leave for 2 hours or until dried to your taste.

Storing Dried Tomatoes

After tomatoes have been dried, you can store them in an herb-flavored oil. To do this, pack dried tomatoes tightly in 1/2 pint jars with a layer of fresh herbs in between two layers of tomatoes. Cover with olive oil. Run a knife around the tomatoes to help air escape. Seal jars and store at room temperature for several months for best flavor.

After you've finished the tomatoes, you can reuse the remaining tomato flavored oil in pasta salads and for sauteing fresh vegetables.

Buying and Storing Tomatoes

As long as they are kept at room temperature, tomatoes picked at the mature green stage will finish ripening in supermarkets and after you purchase them. Within a few days, they will soften slightly, turn red and-most important of all-develop their full flavor and aroma.

To avoid interrupting this process, place the tomatoes on a counter or in a shallow bowl at room temperature until they are ready to eat.
When tomatoes are chilled below 55° F, the ripening comes to a halt and the flavor never develops.

To speed up the process, keep tomatoes in a brown paper bag or closed container to trap the ethylene gas that helps them ripen. Adding an ethylene-emitting apple or pear to the container can also hasten ripening. Store the tomatoes in a single layer and with the stem ends up, to avoid bruising the delicate "shoulders."

Once they are fully ripened, tomatoes can be held at room temperature or refrigerated for several days. When you?re ready to use them, bring the tomatoes back to room temperature for fullest flavor.

Tomato Techniques

To peel: Fill a saucepan with enough water to cover tomatoes; bring to a boil. Immerse tomatoes about 30 seconds; drain and cool. Remove stem ends and slip off skins.

To seed: Cut tomatoes in half crosswise. Gently squeeze each half, using your fingers to remove seeds. To reserve the juice for use in dressings, sauces or soups, seed the tomato into a strainer held over a bowl.

Tomato Shells: Cut a 1/2 inch slice off the stem end of each tomato. Using a spoon, scoop out the pulp.

Roast: Preheat oven to 450° F. Halve tomatoes crosswise. Place halves, cut side down, on a shallow baking pan; brush with oil. Roast until lightly browned, about 20 minutes; cool. Remove skins and stem ends.

Slow-Cook: Preheat oven to 300° F. Remove stem ends; slice tomatoes. Place slices on a shallow baking pan; brush with oil. Cook until tomatoes soften and shrink, about 45 minutes.

Tomato Equivalents:

1 small tomato = 3 to 4 ounces
1 medium tomato = 5 to 6 ounces
1 large tomato = 7 or more ounces
1 pound of tomatoes = 2 1/2 cups chopped or 1 1/2 cups pulp

How to Choose a Tomato

Tomato season is June through August. The best tomatoes available for purchase are vine-ripened tomatoes. Unfortunately, these are the most perishable, which is a reason why most supermarkets purchase green tomatoes and allow them to ripen at the store. These, unfortunately, will NEVER have the flavor or texture of a vine-ripened tomato. Look for firm tomatoes, with no blemishes, a distinct tomato aroma, that gives slightly to pressure, and should be heavier than it appears.

Always store tomatoes at room temperature. They should NEVER be placed in a refrigerator or placed in direct sunlight.

You can ripen an unripe tomato by placing in a paper bag (pierced in several areas with a fork) with an apple. Keep at room temperature for a couple days (check occasionally).

Recipe: How to caramelize onions –

|June 1, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

In our house we absolutely love caramelized onions.

Their unique, sweet flavor goes well with just about anything and they can really dress a meal. I don't believe in eating "dry" when it is so simple to add something to make a meal really standout for your family and guests.

Take a plain hamburger and add caramelized onions and maybe even some mushrooms (or mushroom slices) and a simple gravy and it's so much better; it's not a dry, dull sandwich – and it makes it more of a meal than a fast food item.

They are excellent with beef, pork, chicken and caramelized onions can even be added to pasta as a meal or a side dish!

Not into eating meat? Enjoy them with portabella mushrooms or baby bellas.

Try them on hotdogs, sausages or brats. Use as a spread at your next gathering. Serve on crostini. How about as a pizza topping? Use them as the gravy for your meat. Try making a potato gratin with caramelized onions. Use these on your next Philly Steak sandwich. Stuff tortillas. Wonderful with liver. I even enjoy them on homemade bread as an open-faced sammmie!

So simple to do – takes time – but is well worth it. Slice or cut your onions into wedges and begin cooking, stirring, cooking, stirring, cooking, stirring – a real no-brainer.

Although it is so simple – onions do come close to scorching so you need to use the heaviest pot you have and cook over the lowest possible heat setting. Once you get that awful bitter taste from the scorching – you never get rid of it and your caramelized onions will need to be tossed. Then you need to start over again.

Stir your onions very often – every 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the amount your are making) and once they are closer to being done – stir every 5 to 10 minutes.

Remember that onions shrink and wilt during the cooking process, so you will need a very large pan. Use enough oil to keep them from sticking, and season with salt to help draw the moisture out. You NEED to use salt – I use Kosher.

I start mine out in a heavy Dutch oven over a medium-low heat. First I heat my oil (which I use olive oil or vegetable oil) and I add my onions; sprinkle with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Cover the pot and within 15 to 20 minutes the onions begin to soften and the moiisture is being extracted from them. At this stage they may be swimming in moisture. Since you want most of this to evaporate, remove the lid and increase the heat to medium; continue stirring every 15 minutes.

In about an hour or so (the "critical period") the moisture is reduced quite a bit and the onions are a light beige-brown color. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting (I put a trivet under my pot as well when I do this) and stir every 10 to 15 minutes. This is the point where they will begin to scorch and be ruined.

After about 2 hours, the moisture is gone, the onions have darkened and have a sweet taste. Stir every 5 to 10 minutes.

After three hours of cooking you'll find that your onions have darkened considerably and you will hear them begin to sizzle – now they are done. It may have taken you 3 to 4 hours – but you have the best caramelized onions! And they should still be moist and flexible.

It took time – but it is worth it. You can use them immediately or you can transfer to a bowl and place in the refrigerator to cool completely and when cooled completely you can cover and store for a day or two or you can transfer to freezer containers (not until completely cold) and freeze for future use. After all that slicing – you'll only end up with a couple cups of onions.

A few notes: Sweet onions (Vidalias included) are great in salads and on sandwiches. Believe it or not – they actually contain less sugar than regular onions and more acrid sulfurous compounds (that make your cry) than other onions which makes them turn out bland after cooking. Always use your regular brown storage (cooking) onions which caramelize much better. You can use red onions, but the end result won't be any better than using brown onions. And regular cooking onions are much cheaper as well.

Another thing I do: Sometimes I use half olive oil and half butter for a truly great flavor.

I have also found that it takes about 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter for about 4 cups of prepared onion. If watched carefully, you can caramelize in 30 minutes or so – stirring often. But the longer process gives a much better result.