Alhamdulillah was-salatu was-salaamu 'ala rasoolillah. All thanks and praise is to ALLAH, Subhanahu wa ta'ala, and we ask that HIS blessings and peace be upon HIS Messenger, Muhammad, salla ALLAHu alaihi wa sallam.
FRESH FRUITS & VEGETABLES
With summer upon us we probably will increase our consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy them more.
1. Ripening Fruits Apricots, bananas, cantaloupe, kiwi, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plantains and plums continue to ripen at room temperature after they have been picked. To speed the ripening, put them in a loosely closed brown paper bag or ripening bowl at room temperature. Plastic bags don't work for ripening. Once fully ripened, fruits may be stored in the refrigerator to lengthen their storage time.
Though the outside skin of a refrigerated banana will turn dark brown, the inside will remain light-colored.
Fruits that should be picked or bought ripe and ready-to-eat include apples, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, oranges, pineapple, strawberries, tangerines and watermelon.
2. Keeping Fruit From Turning Brown You can keep cut fruits (apples, pears, bananas and peaches) from turning brown by coating them with an acidic juice such as lemon, orange or pineapple juice or by using a commercial anti-darkening preparation, frequently called a "fruit protector". If you use the “fruit protector”, follow the manufacturer's directions.
It is best to cut fruits as close to serving time as possible. Cover and refrigerate the cut fruit until ready to serve. Avoid leaving cut fruit at room temperature for more than two hours.
3. Freezing Peppers And Tomatoes Peppers are one of those foods that can be quickly frozen raw without blanching them first. The National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP), hosted by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service, offers these guidelines on freezing bell and sweet peppers raw:
Select crisp, tender, green or bright red pods. Wash, cut out stems, cut in half and remove seeds. If desired, cut into 1/2-inch strips or rings. Good for use in uncooked foods because they have a crisper texture, or in cooked foods.
Package raw, leaving no headspace. Seal and freeze.
Tip: To make it easier to remove only the amount of frozen bell or sweet peppers needed at one time, freeze sliced or diced peppers in a single layer on a cookie sheet with sides. Transfer to a "freezer" bag when frozen, excluding as much air as possible from the bag.
Tomatoes can also be frozen raw. Frozen tomatoes are best used in cooked foods such as soups, sauces and stews as they become mushy when they're thawed.
NCHFP offers these guidelines for freezing tomatoes:
Select firm, ripe tomatoes with deep red color.
Wash and dip in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen skins.
Core and peel.
Freeze whole or in pieces.
Pack into containers, leaving 1-inch headspace.
Seal and freeze. Use only for cooking or seasoning as tomatoes will not be solid when thawed.
Tip: Dip just a few tomatoes at a time into the boiling water or the water temperature may be lowered too much to remove the skins without overheating the tomatoes. Place hot tomatoes in a colander and rinse under cold water to make them easier to handle. A knife with a serrated edge works best for cutting tomatoes.
To extend the time frozen foods maintain good quality, package foods in material intended for freezing and keep the temperature of the freezer at 0° F or below. It is generally recommended frozen vegetables and fruits be eaten within eight months for best quality.
5. Washing Fruits And Vegetables
Thoroughly rinse raw fruits and vegetables under running water before eating them. Don't use soap, detergents, or bleach solutions.
If necessary -- scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush to remove surface dirt.
Try to cut away damaged or bruised areas - bacteria can thrive in these places.
Any bacteria on the outside of fruits can be transferred to the inside when the fruit is peeled or cut. To prevent this, thoroughly rinse fruits that require peeling or cutting -- such as cantaloupe and other melons -- under running water before eating them.
If buying fresh, cut produce, be sure it is refrigerated or surrounded by ice. After purchase, put produce that needs refrigeration away promptly. (Fresh, whole produce such as bananas and potatoes do not need refrigeration.) Fresh produce should be refrigerated within two hours of peeling or cutting. Leftover cut produce should be discarded if left at room temperature for more than two hours.
Enjoy the bounty of summer and stay healthy. For more information on handling fruits and vegetables, you can visit these websites:
In mid-July, US cereal manufacturer General Mills will start offering reduced sugar Trix, Cinnamom Toast Crunch and Cocoa Puffs cereals. The new cereals use a blend of sugar and Splenda sweetener and have 75% less sugar than the original versions. (Reported in www.just-food.com on June 25, 2004.)
Deputy administrator of USDA veterinary services, John Clifford, declared US beef is safe despite the positive results of a preliminary screening for mad cow disease on one animal. The animal did not enter the food chain. Confirmatory tests were to be run. (Reported in www.yahoo.com on June 26, 2004.)
The European Union voted against allowing imports of Monsanto's genetically modified maize (for use in animal feeds). In three months, the EU will vote on allowing imports for use in food products. (Reported in www.foodingredientsfirst.com on June 30, 2004.)
We frequently receive questions about products and ingredients. Here are a few of the questions we recevied recently.
1. Is Xanthan Gum Halal? Xanthan Gum, also referred to as E415, is a product of bacterial fermentation and is Halal unless mixed with other haram ingredients. To be sure it has not been mixed with haram ingredients look for Halal certified products or ask the manufacturer if it has been used in pure form or mixed with other ingredients.
2. Which E-Numbers Are Halal? E-numbers are a regulatory tool in the European Union to facilitate identification of food additives. All food additives used in the European Union are identified by a specific reference number, which is the E-number. An example is E415, which is xanthan gum. Food additives must be approved before they are assigned an E-number.
The numbering system does not make any distinction between Halal and haram ingredients. In many cases an ingredient can be produced from vegetable and animal sources. The vegetable source would be Halal and the animal source may or may not be Halal, depending on the animal and the method of processing. It would be nice if there were some distinction between Halal ingredients and other ingredients, but that is not the case. To be safe, you need to determine the source of the ingredient by asking the manufacturer. Then you can determine if it is Halal or not. Of course, Halal certified products are the best way to know a product is Halal. For more information on E-numbers and ingredients, click these links: E-NumbersIngredients