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From Barbara's Kitchen Amish, free range, organic — not all chicken is raised the same

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Posted: Friday, February 22, 2013 7:53 am

Dear Barbara: What is an Amish chicken? — Jim from Lockeford

Dear Jim: Normally an Amish chicken refers to chickens that are raised in parts of the country that have a large population of Amish people. The Amish are one of the many Mennonite groups who have a very strong faith and live a strict and simple lifestyle.

People will drive long distances (my sister is one) to buy an Amish chicken.

We automatically think of small family farms with chickens roaming free to eat what nature provides. This is not so! We conjure up an “aura of naturalness” that isn’t necessarily there. Unless it says that it is free range and organic, it certainly isn’t. Only a portion of chicken farmers claiming that they sell Amish chickens are actually Amish, and even the Amish don’t all raise their chickens organically. It mostly refers to the area that the chickens were raised in, such as Pennsylvania, but the birds are treated just the same as your standard grocery store chicken.

Let’s go back and talk about “free range” for a minute. To call them free range chickens only means that they must have a way to get outside. Now, picture thousands of chickens in a relatively small area. They still can’t live on what nature provides, so the feed isn’t natural. It contains antibiotics and other things; it just cannot contain hormones. No chicken, raised under any circumstances, is allowed to be fed hormones.

“Organic” chickens must be fed organic food. It cannot contain antibiotics or any chemicals at all.

You have to make up your own mind, but personally, I would choose organic.

Dear Barbara: I have a recipe that calls for a cup of dried fruit. I have an 8-ounce package of dried fruit, so would that be the same as a cup of fruit since there are 8 ounces in a cup? — Tracy from Lodi

Dear Tracy: You’re right; there are 8 ounces of liquid in a cup. When you are referring to dry ingredients, it all depends on the density of what you are measuring.

Your question makes me smile because I once had the same question. I was making Rice Krispie treats for the kids and the recipe said, “10 ounces of large marshmallows (about 40), or four cups of miniature marshmallows.” My miniature marshmallows came in a 10.5-ounce bag, so I thought I could just use the bag. When I poured them into an 8-cup measure, 10.5 ounces was more than 6 cups!

If the recipe calls for weight measure, be sure and use a scale. If it calls for cup measure, then use a cup measure. You can’t really tell by looking as to how much dried fruit will be in 8 ounces unless you measure it.

Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at bdspitzer@comcast.net. Please include your first name and city.

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