Blackened Bananas

Bananas ripen in stages, and each stage is good for something. In spite of the common concept that bananas are best eaten raw, there are plenty of other uses for this wonderful fruit.

 

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Green bananas

If a banana is yellow with some green along the seams, it’s not quite ripe. The meat is harder than the truly ripe stage, and has less flavor.

 

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Ripening bananas

An all-yellow banana, most especially those that have turned a more golden color, are at the stage a lot of people refer to as “perfect” for just peeling and eating. The flavor is richer than the green banana, and more mellow.

 

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Slightly over-ripe bananas

Dark patches or spots on a banana are a signal to some that a banana is almost ready to ‘go’. The meat looks just like as it does in the all-yellow skinned banana. This is still a good eating stage, or for slicing and frying up like a plantain.

 

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Blackened banana

Then there’s that stage where the stem is shriveled and black, and the banana is slightly smaller with most of the skin gone dark. This stage of the banana is often just disposed of, but that’s a mistake.

 

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Banana peel showing blackening, and spots of over-ripe fruit still on the inside.

The most flavorful banana stage is actually after the skin has turned mostly dark, or “blackened”. It’s very soft, like room temperature butter and easy to mix without turning chunky. It’s great in cookies, breads, cakes, custards, and other recipes calling for raw banana. It is at it’s sweetest and still adds nutrients and fiber to your cooking.

The blackened stage may be peeled and frozen, whole or premashed, for use later.

Bananas can also take the place of oil in some recipes. Two medium bananas may be substituted for oil in most cake or cookie mixes, boxed or scratch.

 

–Ann Cathey

Be Freezer Friendly

Freezing foods is not only a way to preserve foods and keep them fresh longer, it also allows snack and meals to be easily kept on hand. If you take a few simple steps to freeze foods properly, and to assist your freezer to run as efficiently as possible, it’s a simple matter to keep frozen foods at their best.

TEMPERATURE CHECK
Most people don’t realize that you have control over the temperature of your freezer. Check for the temperature controls (use the manual if needed). The ideal setting for your freezer is 0F or below.

KEEP IT BREATHABLE
Make sure there is ample air space on the sides and top of the freezer to allow air to circulate and heat to escape. Air circulation is critical to keeping food frozen.

KEEP IT SHUT
Don’t stand with the door to your appliance open. Keep it closed as much as possible to maintain the internal temperature at an even level. In the event of a power outage, leave the freezer closed so food will stay frozen as long as possible.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY
If there are any empty spaces in your freezer, fill them up with plastic bottles of frozen water. This will assist your freezer in maintaining an even temperature without using up additional energy every time the door is opened allowing the cold air to fall away. Less air volume in large spaces means less loss of cold with each exposure.

SEAL CHECKS
Perform regular checks on the seal around the door of your unit. Keeping the seal clean and free of any material stuck to it’s edges will allow the rubber to complete the seal on the freezer every time. Hardening of the material, drying out, and even cracks can form over time decreasing the ability of the seal to hold in the cold. Have the seal replaced if it suffers any damage to keep your appliance in tip-top shape.

USAGE ARRANGEMENT
Keep items meant for long-term freezing in the coldest section of your appliance, be that int he back or bottom of the chamber. Also, try to allow for a first in first out rule for multiples of items and items that are not likely to remain int he freezer very long. For example, if you have two bags of frozen veggies, use the one that has been in the freezer longest, first. Keep frozen snacks (ice cream bars, fruits and berries, microwaveable mini pizza, etc) in the easiest to reach spots. It allows for quicker removal of items and resealing the chamber.

Your freezer, be it a chest freezer, an upright, or a second door on your standard refrigerator, will benefit in the long run from these usages. It can also help you maintain a lower power bill each month.

–Ann Cathey