Weekly Food for Thought with items on why canning is popular again, “Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit” by Barry Estabrook and more.

"Listen for the pop. As a canner, you love hearing that."

The pop, Vera Massey explains, means you have a vacuum seal, and your batch of home-canned food is nearly finished.

This advice was a sampling of the instruction Massey, a University of Missouri Extension specialist, delivered to 25 students during a session of “Preserving the Harvest” in Columbia, Mo.

Massey, who has been teaching nutrition and health for 36 years, enjoys the home canning workshops because people learn safe and reliable methods.

"It’s exciting to see the interest again in home food preservation," she said.

In recent years, the type of people who attend has been changing.

"I would say, many years ago, it was mostly middle-aged people," Massey said. "But now it seems to be all ages."

Massey says the change could be because, in part, there’s an increased interest in home gardening and a desire to eat locally grown foods. Massey and fellow extension specialists taught more than 150 classes last year, which is a significant rise from the 64 classes in 2008.

As newer information becomes available, Massey says using current methods and knowing research trends are critical to health and safety.

"Grandma’s method could be wrong," she said, "so the best method to follow is ‘If in doubt, check it out.’"

Many of those old family recipes have made their way to the Internet and do not follow the current standards. Massey recommends home canners steer clear of those recipes and use tested ones like those from state extension services, which will have up-to-date instructions.

-- August Kryger/ University of Missouri Extension

Tip of the Week: Follow safe sanitation in your kitchen

Use these guidelines from the new Food Safe Families campaign from the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture, which aims to get consumers to adopt four easy steps when preparing food:

Clean: Clean kitchen surfaces, utensils and hands with soap and water while preparing food.
Separate: Separate raw meats from other foods by using different cutting boards.
Cook: Cook foods to the right temperature by using a food thermometer.
Chill: Chill raw and prepared foods promptly.

Easy recipe: Southwest Chicken Pasta Salad

1 box (12 ounces) penne pasta 1 cup prepared salsa 8 ounces plain low-fat yogurt 2 cups cooked, diced chicken 1 can (15 ounces) corn, drained 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained 1/2 cup green onions, sliced 1 can (2.25 ounces) black olives, drained 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped Tortilla chips, optional

Prepare pasta according to package directions. In a medium bowl, whisk together salsa and yogurt. In a large bowl combine pasta, chicken, corn, black beans, green onions and black olives. Fold in dressing. Top with cheddar cheese and cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips, if desired. Serves eight to 10.

-- Ronzoni

Did You Know?

USDA and the Department of Health recently launched the Food Safe Families campaign to help prevent food-borne illness inside American homes.

Critic’s Cupboard: Bundaberg Pink Grapefruit Sparkling Drink (non-alcoholic)

Spatula down

Saimi Bergmann: If historians wrote a book about our 21st century quest to take nature’s food and ruin it, one chapter would be devoted to juice.

Manufacturers take a perfectly delicious fruit juice, then they add coloring and sugar and carbonation and, of course, lots of water. The result? Calorie-laden, nutrient-deficient swill.

I’ll admit, the flavor of this drink is good, with an authentic grapefruit taste despite it having only 5 percent juice in an 11.5-ounce bottle. But you know where else you can find authentic grapefruit-juice taste? In grapefruit juice! And along with that authentic flavor, you’ll get vitamin C (none in this drink) and fewer calories.

Spatula up

Jennifer Mastroianni: It’s al-fresco cocktail season, which means I’m always on the lookout for interesting drink ideas in case my patio pals stop by for a refreshing libation to enjoy outside. Bundaberg sparkling beverages are my new go-to mixer. I found these Australian bevvies at World Market, and they come in tasty flavors of pink grapefruit, peach, root beer, ginger, lemon lime, blood orange and guava.

I love the citrusy bite of the pink grapefruit flavor, which is delightful with a little Absolut and a few splashes of soda water or lemonade, served in a tall glass packed with ice. Top with a slice of fruit and a sprig of mint and say, “Hellooooo summer.”

-- Canton (Ohio) Repository

Food Quiz

When a chef juliennes a fruit or vegetable, the results look like which of the following?

A. Coins

B. Crowns

C. Cubes

D. Matchsticks

-- funtrivia.com

Answer is at bottom of column

Wise to the Word: Knish

[kuh-NISH] A pastry of Jewish origin that consists of a piece of dough (baking powder or yeast) that encloses a filling of mashed potatoes, cheese, ground meat and buckwheat. These pastries can be served as a side dish or an appetizer.

-- epicurious.com

Number to Know

210: A soft-shell beef taco from Taco Bell is 210 calories.

 – calorielab.com

The Dish On …

“Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit” by Barry Estabrook

Based on his James Beard Award-winning article, "The Price of Tomatoes," investigative food journalist Barry Estabrook reveals the huge human and environmental cost of the $5 billion fresh tomato industry. Fields are sprayed with more than one hundred different herbicides and pesticides. Tomatoes are picked hard and green and artificially gassed until their skins acquire a marketable hue. Modern plant breeding has tripled yields but has also produced fruits with dramatically reduced amounts of calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C and fourteen times more sodium. The relentless drive for low costs has fostered a thriving modern-day slave trade in the United States. How have we come to this point?

-- Andrews McMeel Publishing

From the Beer Nut’s Blog: Grilling with beer

It's officially summer, and now it's time to partake in the annual summer tradition: the grilling of the meat.

What's better than sitting outside on a warm day with a few friends, the smell of meat wafting through the air while you enjoy a few cold beverages? But just because it's summer and you're outside doesn't mean you have to revert to drinking boring, mass-produced, flavorless lagers. Craft beer is still the way to go.

This past weekend, I fired up the grill (charcoal or wood is the way to go, by the way) and cooked some Samuel Adams Boston Lager Cuts, a steak designed by Dickson's Farmstead Meats in New York City. It was created to pair perfectly with the Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

They really do go well together. I don't know if this was a perfect pairing, but a glass of the Boston Lager and an 8-ounce steak with potatoes and corn made for a great dinner.

To read more from the Beer Nut, visit http://blogs.townonline.com/beernut/.

Food Quiz Answer

D. Matchsticks

GateHouse News Service