The Washington Post

The key to getting perfect roasted broccoli every time


Each Wednesday at noon, The Washington Post Food staff field questions about all things food at live.washington­ Here are edited excerpts from a recent chat.

Q: I’ve been canning (boiling water bath) since 2007, and I find myself beyond frustrated this summer. We have two favorite recipes that I can in large quantities (about two dozen of each): a pasta sauce and a salsa. I can fit seven jars at a time in my canning pot, and this year I’m averaging two failures for every five lids that seal. Reprocessi­ng the failed jars with new lids has so far only had a 50 percent success rate. I use Ball lids, which have always given me good results in the past with virtually no failures. But not this year. What’s going on? And can you suggest anything that I might do to improve my results?

A: I sent your question to Julie Garden-robinson, an extension food and nutrition specialist at North Dakota State University and previous chat guest. Here’s what she had to say:

How were the lids prepared prior to placing them on the jars?

Most lids do not require heating in water prior to applying them to the jars. If they are overheated, often they will not seal. Most of the time, washing and rinsing them is all you need to do. If the package does not say to heat them, then I would not suggest heating the lids.

Another issue that can cause seal failure is over-tightening of the lids. The person with the question has a lot of experience, so this probably isn’t the issue. The rule of thumb is “fingertip tight” using your thumb and ring finger.

I hope this next idea is not the issue . . . but we did hear about some “counterfei­t” lids labeled with commercial manufactur­ers’ names. I believe some of these were sold online. We also heard of a lot of nonbrand name lids resulting in many seal failure or even “crinkling” during canning. Some of these were sold in retail stores.

You have 24 hours to reprocess canned goods. If this problem continues, I would suggest freezing in freezer bags or freezer containers. — Becky Krystal

Q: I recently made a batch of limoncello. I froze the whole peeled lemons for later use, candied the peels and saved the resulting simple syrup. I’m wondering what I could use it for; it is sweet, but has a good lemon flavor. Also, how long does simple syrup last in the fridge?

A: What a perfect way to use the whole lemon! The syrup should last you at least six months, very tightly covered and kept away from any strong smells, such as onions, garlic or cheese. Use the syrup to sweeten hot or iced tea, make lemonade, in cocktails, make lemon soda by adding soda water, thin it out with a bit of water and drizzle over pancakes or waffles, or use it as a glaze for cakes or muffins. — G. Daniela Galarza

Q: I cannot, no matter how hard I try, get roasted broccoli to work. It either chars and is totally raw inside, or I cook it into a brownish mess. What am I doing wrong? I can roast peppers, eggplants and mushrooms, but not broccoli.

A: I find that I like to blanch broccoli briefly before roasting it. It makes it a little more yielding and tender. In case that’s helpful.

— Olga Massov A: I find the key is to make sure the pieces are not too big and roasting at a relatively high temperatur­e, 425 to 450 even. That gets me some really great crispy bits, but not burned, and also cooks them through well. Also, preheat the pan. — B.K.

Q: I watched Food Network’s “Battle of the Brothers,” and Michael Voltaggio was showing his protege how to make fondant potatoes. They used a biscuit cutter to make perfectly even portions from the sliced potatoes. But it seemed like at least half of each potato would go to waste. How would you salvage those potato scraps and repurpose them? I’m thinking potatoes O’brien or a hash, but how would you preserve the scraps till you were ready to cook them? Toss them in salted water for a while, then drain, blot dry and freeze?

A: It’s not recommende­d to freeze raw potatoes for texture reasons. However, you can cook them however you’d like and then freeze the cooked potatoes for later. — Aaron Hutcherson

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