Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

How to Pit Cherries

posted in Fruits by Kathy Maister

My all-time, number-one, favorite fruit is the cherry! Cherries are in season from about late May until early August. “Bing” cherries are the most popular kind on the market. When you buy them, be sure that they are firm, a deep, dark red in color, and still have the stem attached.

Ranier cherries are yellow/pink-ish in color and are sweet and juicy, but don’t have quite the intense flavor of the Bing Cherries

Don’t wash cherries until you are ready to eat them. They should be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. Cherries will keep for about a week in the refrigerator, but it’s better to buy small amounts and eat them within a day or two of purchase.

The best way to serve cherries is simple: rinse them in cool water, put them on a serving dish and dig in!

If you are adding them to a fruit salad, or putting them on top of cereal or ice cream you are going to want to remove the pit. Using a small paring knife cut around the cherry and split it in half. Pick out the pit with your fingers.

There is another way. I am not someone who likes to buy gadgets that are for doing just one thing. Storage space in just about everyone’s kitchen is very valuable, so why waste it on something that can’t perform multiple tasks? However, my cherry pitter breaks that rule!

The pitter, the strange-looking gadget pictured above next to the knife, supposedly can remove the pit from olives as well, but I have never been able to make it work with olives.

But it can remove the pit of a cherry in seconds!

Wash and remove the stem off the cherry. Place the cherry on the curved bit under the spike.

Squeeze the pitter so that the spike goes through the cherry, forcing out the pit.

Just that easy, just that quick!

There are a few things you need to be careful of, however.

If your cherries are really plump and juicy the spike may go around the pit instead of popping it out. Make double sure the pit actually did pop out!

Really juicy cherries sometimes get a bit messy, with juice squirting back at you. Be careful your shirt doesn’t get covered with cherry stains.

When you are through pitting all your cherries, rinse off the pitter and dry it with a dish towel.

There is a little lever on the base of the cherry pitter which will hold it closed and therefore take up less room in your kitchen drawer.

At the cost of about $12, these cherry pitters are not inexpensive, but if you love cherries, I think it’s a great investment. Cheers!

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How to Cut a Mango

posted in Fruits by Kathy Maister

A mango is one of those fruits that people avoid buying because they don’t know how to cut them. I’ll show you two different ways to cut a mango.

Mangos are great with just about anything. (Chicken, fish, salsa, pancakes, smoothies, on ice cream, fruit salad, etc.) They are low in calories, can be eaten fresh or cooked and are really tasty.

They are in season from May to September. When you buy a mango, it should have a fragrant, fruity aroma and yield slightly to pressure from your thumb. It will ripen sitting on your counter, or you can speed the ripening process by sticking it in a paper bag. Once ripe, put it in the refrigerator. A mango should get eaten within a day or two of being cut.

To cut a mango, start with a serrated edge knife. (That’s the one with the jagged edge that you use to cut a loaf of bread.)  Mangos are very slippery and you have to be very careful when peeling a mango that the knife does not slip.

Slice off the fattest part, sometimes called the “cheek”, of both sides of the mango. Notice in the photo below the position of the knife in relationship to the stem. (The stem is next to my left index finger.)

Now score the “cheek”. That means to make shallow cuts with a paring knife. Make each cut about ½ inch apart, and then turn the “cheek” and make perpendicular cuts as well.

Once scored, press the back side of the mango so that all the flesh is standing at attention. You can serve it this way or trim off the flesh from the skin.

Cut around the pit with a small paring knife.

Remove the remaining skin from the flesh.

Trim around the pit to remove the remaining flesh.

The pit is actually quite large as you can see from the photo below.

The Alton Brown Way to Peel and Cut a Mango:

I was watching Alton Brown on FoodTV demonstrating how to peel and cut a mango. His method actually produced more edible flesh, and was safe and efficient.  But you do need a few more pieces of equipment for the Alton Brown method.

Corn-on-the-Cob Holders

In addition to a large kitchen knife, you will need a vegetable peeler and a corn-on-the-cob holder.

Start by peeling the mango with a vegetable peeler

Then slice off the top (stem end) and bottom of the mango.

Insert a corn holder into the mango.  This is going to act as a holder while you slice the mango. Notice how the mango can stand by itself!

Holding the corn holder, slice off the cheeks.

And trim the flesh off the pit.

Then slice the mango according to your recipe.

Enjoy!

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Apple Picking

posted in Fruits by Kathy Maister

There are a gazillion different varieties of apples. When traveling overseas, I am often at a loss choosing apples as the varieties available in Europe and Australia are often very different from those sold here in the States.

Apples like Granny Smiths and Braeburns are usually available worldwide, but many other varieties are only available locally.

Different kinds of apples vary in taste and texture, which determine what they are used for. Apples are basically divided into three categories:

  1. Eating
  2. Cooking
  3. Cooking and / or Eating

Many stores have signs telling you how best to use the apples.

If you are unsure which ones to buy ask the Produce Person for help.

When cooking things like apple pie or apple crisp (video) the apples should end up being tender and soft to the bite, but still retain their shape. If you choose to cook with apples that are described just as *eating* apples, the recipe probably won’t come out that great. The apples may turn to a watery mush.

Apples used for cooking versus apples that you eat for a snack, vary considerably in how sweet or tart they are.

Granny Smiths are too tart for me to eat but I love cooking with them. Braeburns are both tart and sweet and crisp and are great for eating and cooking.

Cooking apples, like Bramley, Newton Wonder, and Grenadier (English varieties) are very sour and basically used just for cooking.

Tips for Working with Apples

  • Buy apples that are smooth and free of bruises.
  • If you are adding apples to fruit salad be sure to coat them with lemon or orange juice to prevent them from turning brown.
  • Apples will last longer if you store them in the refrigerator rather then leaving them on the counter top.
  • Put an apple in a paper bag with an avocado to help ripen the avocado.
  • A vegetable peeler works really well for peeling an apple.

How to Core an Apple

(In my Apple Crisp Video I demonstrate all the various ways one can core an apple.)

There are many ways to core an apple. You could slice around the core with a large knife.

Or you could use a melon baler to scoop out the core.

Or you could use an official apple corer. This odd looking utensil gets pushed down into the apple. (Be sure to leave the apple on the cutting board or you might end up coring the palm of your hand!)

Then you just pull out the core.

While people have preferences for different kinds, everybody loves apples!

Cheers!

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