Posts Tagged With: Napoleon

Canned Corn: Which Brand is Best?

Tara and I were shopping for our weekly groceries this afternoon and were in the canned vegetables section. She needed canned corn for a goulash recipe she was making. “Normally I buy Green Giant,” she said. “But when I’m just mixing a bunch of ingredients together, the cheap stuff will do.” At that point she plucked a can of Santiam off the shelf and started to walk away.

“Wait!” I said. “Is there really a difference between brands of canned corn?”

“I have no idea,” she replied.

“We should find out,” I said. And just like that, a new food challenge was born!

We can thank Napoleon Bonaparte for canning. French troops were suffering badly from malnutrition during their war with Russia in the 18th century, and Napoleon offered a reward of 12,000 francs to anybody who could develop a method of preserving food to keep the troops fed. Nicolas Appert, a candy maker from Paris, won the prize in 1809. Keenly aware that storing wine in sealed bottles helped preserve it, he applied the same principle to food, filling wide-mouthed glass bottles with food, corking them, and boiling them. The tin can followed shortly after, introduced by Englishman Peter Durand. And the rest is history.

To keep the playing field even, I chose the same type of corn: sweet, whole kernel yellow corn. There were two “economy” brands, Santiam and the WinCo store brand, and two “premium” brands: Green Giant and Del Monte. We decided to sample them straight out of the can – uncooked and not doctored up with butter, salt, or any other flavoring that might inadvertently sway our opinions. It was a double-blind study in which I labeled the bottom of each bowl with a number from 1-4, each one matching with a corresponding can, and mixed them up so that I had no idea which bowl corresponded to which can. Tara and I enlisted the aid of my daughter, as well, for a third opinion. unnamed

I went first, and it became immediately apparent that there were differences in flavor between each brand. They looked identical, but taste-wise, that was another story. After sampling all four, I chose my favorite. Then my daughter went, followed by Tara.

Surprisingly, the results were unanimous. We all chose the same brand as our favorite.

The winner? Del Monte. 

Del Monte’s kernels were plump and sweet, and had a pleasing consistency that was nearly creamy in texture. They were slightly salty, slightly buttery. Just a good, crisp fresh-tasting corn.

Green Giant came in second. Again, the corn was high quality, but the flavor was just a little lacking.

We were split between the bottom two as to which was worse, but they both finished 3 and 4 in the rankings. I found the WinCo brand to have a strange “burned” flavor, while Tara described it as tasting metallic. The Santiam brand didn’t have much flavor at all, and the kernels were a little smaller – and stringier.

I have to admit, the results of this taste test surprised me. I had always assumed all canned vegetables were the same, and that if you bought a more expensive brand you were essentially paying for the name. It turns out I was wrong, that there are differences in quality. The lesson? You get what you pay for! From now on, we’ll be buying Del Monte when we purchase canned corn.

I’m curious to see how other canned veggies stack up. Look for a sequel coming soon.

In the meantime, here are 15 great recipes using canned corn.

When it comes to canned corn, you get what you pay for.

When it comes to canned corn, you get what you pay for.

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Categories: Vegetables | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

154/365: National Egg Day

June 3rd is everything it’s cracked up to be, and that’s no yolk. It’s National Egg Day!

National Egg Day is one of the oldest food holidays in the world. It was first declared a holiday by Roman emperor Claudius Nero Germanicus during his reign between 41-54 A.D. A poultry plague devastated Europe at the turn of the century, and people were afraid to eat chicken and eggs. Claudius was convinced eggs were safe and challenged nobles in his realm to eat them in order to prove to the peasants they were harmless. Augustus Antonius took the emperor up on his offer, and ate a meal of boiled eggs before a large gathering. He did not keel over and die, and the Roman population once again embraced eggs and poultry. Claudius issued a royal proclamation declaring June 3rd as the Holy Roman Day of Eggs. The holiday was celebrated for 500 years but eventually faded from memory. In 1805 Napoleon captured historical Italian documents of the Roman Empire. Reading through them, he was intrigued by their fondness for eggs, and in turn declared June 3rd to be “Oeuf Journée Nationale,” or National Egg Day. It has remained popular ever since.

Tara suggested we make deviled eggs to celebrate, and I thought that was a great idea. They’re delicious, simple to make, and usually reserved for special occasions. I think both Napoleon and Claudius would be proud. Tara’s got a special recipe, and will take you through it step-by-step now.

I got the inspiration for this post from a previous blog entry written in 2008 that shows step by step instructions.  At the time, I had an online/blogger friend in Australia that had never seen or tried deviled eggs and I was convinced that she had to have some.  Since pictures are always fun, here we go again!

This time I started with a dozen eggs (+1 that was rolling around from our last carton) that I let boil for about 35 minutes.  They were cooled in cold water, peeled, and paper towel dried.  Each egg is cut lengthwise; the whites arranged on a plate, and the yolks mashed with a fork in a bowl.  I then laid out the  mayo, mustard, diced onion*, garlic, pepper, and Lawry’s seasoned salt.

Ingredients for deviled eggs.

Ingredients for deviled eggs.

Unfortunately, I can’t give exact measurements on ingredients.  It really depends on your taste and how many eggs you actually end up with.  I don’t know about you, but I always end up with at least one or two eggs that don’t peel right and end up in the trash.  Rough measurements are… two-three heaping tablespoons of mayo, squirt of mustard, ¼ finely diced small onion, 1-2 cloves minced garlic, and five or six shakes of pepper.

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I blend the yolk mixture, taste, and add any of the above ingredients as needed, and then spoon the filling into the egg whites.  Did you catch that the seasoned salt WASN’T added to the filling?  Bonus points if you did!  A trick I learned from the same person I got this recipe from is to use Lawry’s to finish the eggs instead of paprika.  There’s something about the seasoned salt that brings all the flavors together.  Yum!

Spooning is fun.

Spooning is fun.

Cover the eggs and refrigerate for 2-3 hours (overnight is better).  This gives the ingredients time to meld and the flavors to blend.  Enjoy!

*I don’t always use dried minced onion, but when I was digging in the pantry for an onion, there was only one left and it was half rotted.  Minced onion makes a good substitute, just make sure you re-hydrate in warm water before adding to the yolk mixture.

Deviled egg

Categories: Poultry | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

80/365: National French Bread Day*

Bonsoir! Today’s food holiday is c’est bien. It’ll please even the crustiest of individuals and fill their hearts with loaf. It’s National French Bread Day!

It’s also National California Strawberry Day. No offense to Californians, but your strawberries pale in comparison to the ones grown in the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, we have to wait until June until those are ripe. So, French bread it was!

By law, French bread must contain four specific ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt. The French, you have to understand, love their bread, and even went to war over it. The storming of the Bastille in 1789 was more about bread for the commoners than freeing enemies of the crown; mass starvation gave way to anger and led to the French Revolution. Think about that the next time McDonald’s screws up your order and forgets to give you your six-piece chicken McNuggets. Afraid that history might repeat itself, when Napoleon ruled he passed laws establishing standards for French bread. The classic baguette is long and slender, but it wasn’t always so; wide, flat loaves were popular until the 1920s, when the French passed a labor law prohibiting bakers from working between the hours of 10 PM and 4 AM. (Boy, the French sure have a fondness for silly laws, don’t they)? “Sacré bleu!” they declared in unison. In order to get around this loophole, French bakers started making their loaves of bread long and thin, no more than 2.5″ in diameter, in order to speed up baking time. It’s got a soft, chewy interior and a crispy, golden brown crust and is cooked in a steam oven, which leads to a light and airy loaf that is, to borrow a phrase, c’est magnifique! French bread in other countries doesn’t adhere to such particular standards. In America, loaves are typically fatter, and available in whole wheat, multigrain, and sourdough varieties.

Since Tara and I can’t afford a trip to Paris at the moment, we had to settle for an American-style loaf of French bread instead. Not that either of us was complaining; French bread is quite tasty even if it is made contrary to Napoleon’s original desires. We served it two ways: with bruschetta as an appetizer, and sliced with a smear of butter to go along with grilled steaks.

French bread with bruschetta.

French bread with bruschetta.

Categories: Bread | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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