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In brief

The secret life of walnuts; bringing home the right bacon

Associated Press
Published February 1, 2006

Walnuts can be healthful items to include in your food planning, and here are some pointers for storing and using them.

TO STORE: Walnuts have a long shelf life, so it's practical to keep them on hand for adding to recipes or for snacking. In-shell walnuts keep best; shell them when you are ready to use. Unopened packages of shelled walnuts have a shelf life of up to a year. Open packages of shelled walnuts or chopped walnuts can be refrigerated or frozen in an airtight container and kept for six months.

TO OPEN: The best way to open an in-shell walnut is to place the nutcracker at right angles to the shell's seam and crack.

TO CHOP: Use a knife or a food processor. Make sure nuts are at room temperature before grinding in a processor, or their natural oils will make the nuts soften to a paste.

TO BLANCH: Add shelled nuts to boiling water. Take the pot off the heat and let the nuts stand for two minutes. (Some recipes call for blanching, to make the walnuts' flavor a little milder.)

TO TOAST: Toasting walnuts brings out their full, rich flavor. Place them on baking sheets, spray with nonfat cooking spray or add a dash of vegetable oil and bake in a 375-degree oven for eight to 10 minutes, tossing occasionally during baking.

If desired, toss with your choice of salt, sugar or spices during baking, to produce varied flavors for making quick walnut snacks or toppers for salads, soups or pastas.

In case you wonder when you're buying bacon at the grocery counters just what the distinctions are, here are some points on different kinds you can find on sale:

TRADITIONAL BACON: This meat is cut from the pork belly and has a fairly even ratio of fat to lean. It is cured and smoked for flavor and may be sold raw or fully cooked. When cooked and ready to eat, it is crisp and chewy. Traditional bacon is a much fattier cut of meat than Canadian bacon. and when fat content is a consideration, Canadian bacon is a popular substitute for it.

CANADIAN BACON: This bacon is from the loin, a muscle that is generally lean with minimal visible connective tissue or fat. The loin is cured and smoked to make Canadian bacon, which has a flavor similar to ham but is slightly milder.

Canadian bacon has a tender texture and is typically sold ready to eat either in combination with other ingredients or on its own. It's well known for its role in eggs Benedict and as a pizza topper, but it's also a versatile ingredient in salads, pasta, soups, sandwiches, omelets and more.

CANADIAN-STYLE BACON: This is a term that is often used interchangeably with Canadian bacon. However, unlike real Canadian bacon, it can include additional pork muscles including sirloin hip meat and ground pork trim, and will be labeled accordingly. This can mean lower quality than real Canadian bacon, and may result in visible connective tissue or fat.

[Last modified January 31, 2006, 12:44:04]

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