Saturday, December 20, 2008

How to Clean Celery Properly for your Holiday Guests (and Yourself)

The ladies over at eDiets, my fellow Atkins ("Strictly Atkins") ladies, gave me the idea for this post. Turns out, in a discussion about eating more fruits and vegetables, that a couple of them had never peeled celery before.

I mentioned that because I am appalled when I go to a party and see that the celery has not been peeled. Does the host actually like green organic dental floss in their teeth after each meal? (Does this bug anyone besides me?)

Celery strings are thicker and tougher on the toughest stalks of the celery bunch . In addition, I learned that the tenderer stalks are the tastier ones and the tough ones should be pulled off the stalk and discarded or used for soup.

So now I'm going to tell you how to clean a bunch of celery so you can discover this wonderful vegetable which requires more calories to eat it than it actually provides! How cool is that!?!!

Celery is also a good thing to give to kids with cream cheese, peanut butter, or "bugs-on-a-log" -- raisins embedded in peanut butter.

I recommend using a paring knife. I knew someone who actually uses a vegetable peeler to do this, but it takes off more of the celery and is more difficult to do (the strings catch in it) yet that method may be quicker, until you learn how to do it with a paring knife.

A paring knife is that little bitty knife - about a 4" knife blade - that is sold anywhere kitchen stuff is sold. They come cheaply, but try not to get one that is so cheap it bends. Your fingers will thank you.
  • So, first remove the outside stalks from the celery bunch and wash the dirt off them. Set them aside for soup or discard (it's kinda fun to watch them spin when inserted whole, and in a standing position, down the garbage disposal, but the strings can cause problems for the garbage disposal -- I've heard-- so try not to have too much fun).

  • Then, cut off the bottom hunk of celery (where it all comes together at the root). You can use that for soup too, if you like, or toss it. Clean it a bit better if you keep it because there are more crevices there for dirt to hide in.
  • Now all your stalks should be "free" and independent of each other. One option is to cut the ends off (just scant) to clear the ending of dried, dirty stalk. Another is to cut it off just below the "joint" and use the top parts for soup (some will be longer than others).

  • The center stalks of the celery are the tenderest, but some of them get to be very leafy. These look pretty in Bloody Mary's but I haven't found a liking for the leafy stalks otherwise, so if you do, enjoy. (My xh, who taught me all this stuff (and came from a fresh foods family), loved that part and ate it. Not me.)
  • So, now we have the parts of the celery we might actually want to eat. Let's clean them up and get rid of those nasty strings.

  • I use water and my hands to remove dirt - these parts are not that going to be as dirty as the other, so this is easy to do.

  • Then I remove strings. The strings can be found easily with your fingernails but they (the strings not the nails) will break off a lot if you do it that way. The fingernails will also get gunky, so now is a good time to get out your paring knife.

  • Putting your thumb on the back of the celery, you place the blade in the end of the celery (think how a vegetable peeler's blade needs to get underneath the peel) and cut in gently until you can pull back the celery flesh, squeezing it with your thumb against the blade. Your other finger is holding the blade firmly against whichever strings your blade located. Normally, you will find a lot of strings the first time, then look for stray strings later.

  • Pull firmly but gently all the way down the stalk and the strings will be the only part of the celery being removed, not the flesh. Once you've gotten this to work, you'll see how easy it is. Go back and pull the other strings out.
You will find the toughest parts/stalks have the thickest strings. The tenderer pieces sometimes have next-to-nothing in the way of strings. Taste them to see which ones suit you best and now you know which celery you like the most.

The de-stringed celery may look a little odd to you, particularly if you mangle it a bit the first few - or dozens - of times you do it.

I recommend cleaning (de-stringing) the whole bunch of celery, then putting it back in a bag in the fridge so whenever someone wants one - straight-up or with PB or cream cheese (Atkins-friendly for Induction with CC or plain) - it's ready to go.

Put the other saved celery in a different baggy so you can just toss it in whenever you make a homemade soup like Chicken Noodle (which Mo made) or Chicken Soup. (Hmmm maybe we should go ahead and make chicken soup the same day and freeze it.)

Do you have any vegetables that you just don't like? Let me know and I'll publish some recipes or hints of ways that can maybe help you like it a little bit better, or maybe even learn to love it.

1 comment:

Susan said...

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