Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sticky Buns ... And Then a Health Kick!

Last week, one of my sisters (the one I call The Eyes) called me out. I had been complaining about gaining five pounds, and she said, "Well! Maybe the problem is all the opera cake, white chocolate peanut butter cookies, beer, oatmeal cookies..."

Okay! I get it! I'm in need of a health kick.

But before I reform my eating habits for a few weeks and say goodbye to my gooey, sticky, delectable lifestyle, I wanted to have one last fix. Sticky buns.



Sticky Buns
Yields 12 buns.
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
2/3 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
5 tablespoons butter, melted and divided
7.9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 cups), divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Cooking spray (butter-flavored preferred)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar, divided
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons milk (any kind)
1/2 cup soaked and drained raisins
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


Dissolve granulated sugar and yeast in 2/3 cup warm water in a small bowl; let mixture stand 5 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons melted butter.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 6.75 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) flour, salt, and nutmeg in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add yeast mixture to flour mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 4 minutes); add enough of the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent the dough from sticking to hands. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Combine 1/2 cup brown sugar, syrup, and milk in a small saucepan; bring mixture to a boil. Remove pan from heat; stir in raisins. Sprinkle walnuts evenly into a 13x9–inch baking pan coated with cooking spray; spoon raisin and syrup mixture evenly over nuts in bottom of pan. In a separate bowl, combine 1/4 cup brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

Punch dough down and roll it into a 12x10–inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Brush remaining 2 tablespoons butter over dough. Sprinkle dough with cinnamon mixture. Cut dough into 12 1-inch wide strips.

Roll up each strip and place into pan, leaving a little room between the buns, which will rise and spread before baking. Smoosh them down gently if they are imperfect and unbalanced looking. Cover pan loosely with plastic wrap or with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, at least 30 minutes minutes or until doubled in size. I recommend leaving them on or near the oven while it preheats.

Preheat oven to 375F at least 10 minutes before putting buns in oven.

Bake at 375F on middle rack for 12-15 minutes or until buns are lightly browned. Cool buns slightly in pan, but while still warm, use a metal spatula to transfer them to wax paper. (Waiting too long might make the syrup harden and stick to the pan too much, making it difficult to remove the buns.) Serve warm.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Butter

I opened my email yesterday and saw a message from my sister. "Write a blog about butter," is all she said.

What I know about butter is this: It is the difference between why home-cooked food tastes like home-cooked food, and restaurant food tastes like heaven. When restaurant cooks use butter in a saute pan or skillet, they're adding, I'd guess, on average about three to four tablespoons of butter per serving. Often it's more than that. You could easily ingest a half a stick of butter just by eating one really good restaurant entree.

It gets worse, health-wise, if we move into bakery and dessert territory.

At least with desserts, the amount of butter used in a homemade recipes is fairly close to what's being used in a professional kitchen. On the other hand, many home bakers will reach for a tub of Betty Crocker frosting or a prepackaged brownie mix, both of which have chemicals galore but no real butter to speak of. Those folks may not, in fact, realize how much butter is in, say, true butter cream or a flourless chocolate torte (in both cases, just envision eating a stick of butter rolled in sugar and chocolate).

For most of my cooking, I turn to olive oil. We don't use much butter in the house at all, come to think of it. The only time we really go through it in any measurable quantity is when I'm making desserts, usually oatmeal cookies. If cookies aren't on the agenda, we might go three or four months without even thinking of buying any butter.

A lot has been said about the physical and chemical properties of butter when making cookies or bringing together a pie crust. While I do read that stuff, I usually just remember some of the basic principles rather than all the rules people have deduced. I don't really care if cookie dough comes reaches its optimal state if the butter is 68 degrees and then the dough has rested in the refrigerator for two days rather than 24 hours because in all likelihood, five years down the line another food scientist is going to reopen that case and invalidate all the former findings.

I have shortcuts to remembering all kinds of rules about health, nutrition, and cooking. For example, I can never keep straight the different names for good fat versus bad fat, or good cholesterol versus bad cholesterol. But I can remember it this way: If it's solid at room temperature (butter, shortening, lard), it's bad. If it's liquid (olive oil, fish oil), it's good -- or at least not as bad, as it's still high in calories.

The value of butter, to me, is in its flavor, and for home cooking, a little still goes a long way. You can start cooking something in olive oil and add butter at the very end to instill more flavor without cooking with a half stick of butter from the get-go.

But butter has no substitute when it comes to baking. I've even found that European style butters (which tend to have 2% to 4% more butterfat than American butter) deliver a much higher quality finished product in baking. I like Lurpak best (Danish), but also Presidente (French) and Plugra (also French, I think, but I'm not sure). Kerry Gold Irish butter, recommended by my friend Grace, holds up equally well in my cookie recipes.

My grandmother used to make pie crust with nothing more than Crisco, ice water, and salt, and when her recipe was passed down to me, I made it a few times according to her cues, but ultimately, decided to swap out a few tablespoons of the shortening for butter. Her crust is flaky as anything and takes a nice long time to brown, but adding just a little bit of unsalted butter boosts the flavor immeasurably.

Grandma's Pie Crust a la Granddaughter
3 cups flour, divided
1 cup, less 2 tablespoons, cold Crisco
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
ice water (use teaspoon at a time)

Whisk together 2 1/2 cups flour and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two butter knives, cut the cold Crisco and butter into the flour (or use a food processor). When the solids look like small peas or clumpy sand, add ice water one teaspoon at a time (it should be at least three tablespoons total, but likely less than seven) until the dough just barely comes together. Shape the dough into a ball. It should be a little crumbly.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and leave in refrigerator one hour or over night.

When ready to doll dough, use what you need of the remaining 1/2 cup flour to dust the work surface, rolling pin, and dough.

Makes two 8- to 9-inch rounds.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Postcard from Long Island: Smoking Sloe's

Nothing makes me feel attractive than feeling fat while taking a bath. Which is why eating at Smoking Sloe's in Northport (Long Island, NY) before going hot-tubbing at my friend's parents' house was a bad idea.

Smoking Sloe's has one big black mark for me: The barbecue is so delicious that's it's way too easy to overeat and end up feeling wracked with guilt.

I first fell in love with Smoking Sloe's at the Vanderbilt's Wine in the Courtyard food and wine tasting in 2007. The style of barbecue is either Carolina or Kansas City (all the published reviews simply call it "Southern style"), sweet and sticky, but with some overtones of vinegar.

Although the small restaurant on Fort Salonga Road has been on my radar since 2007, I only recently had a chance to get out there with a group of friends for a Saturday night feast.

The plan was to get some grub, eat up, then head back to my friend's parents' house for beer, movies, Frisky Dingo (adult cartoon show), and a dip in their hot tub. Everything started to go downhill when we arrived at Smoking Sloe's and the server told us, "The buffet is 15 bucks, and pretty much everything we have is out there. That's the way to go."

I was already not feeling famished, so I ordered a pulled pork sandwich ($9) a la carte, which came with a side, and I chose beans. My friend followed suit and ordered a barbecued chicken sandwich with the most gorgeously golden sweet potato fries I've ever tasted. The four others in my group descended upon the buffet, piling brisket, pulled pork, ribs, mac-n-cheese, potatoes, collard greens, and hunks of cornbread as big as a Kaiser roll on their plates.

We gorged ourselves stupid, which greatly interfered with my ability to relax later in the hot-tub. Smoking Sloe's plus bathing suit equals poor body image.

Some people prefer dry-rub barbecue, but I am a sucker for the sweet saucy stuff. The pulled pork was not overwhelmed with sauce, but the meat definitely took on much of the flavor. The side of beans seemed soupy and were served in a Styrofoam cup, though I managed to eat them with a fork and not leave much behind, so there couldn't have been that much liquid.

Finally, although we didn't take advantage of this offer, Smoking Sloe's has a no corkage fee policy. Designate a driver -- and be prepared for the cramped parking lot -- and go Thursday through Sunday anytime after 5:30 for the all-you-can-eat. Just don't plan to show off your bikini body afterward.

Smoking Sloe's
847 Fort Salonga Road
Northport, NY

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ben & Jerry's Announces 2009 Flavors

Ben & Jerry has announced its new 2009 flavors. This reminds me that free scoop day is about a month away. Free scoop day is my favorite day of the year. I believe it's officially called Free Cone Day, but I'm all about the scoops.

Mission to Marzipan is the flavor I'm going to try: sweet cream ice cream with almond cookies and marzipan swirl. I love marizpan.

The Beer Lineup



Last night I was cleaning up some files on my computer and found this photo from 2006. It was taken while on a trip to Brussels and marks the moment I first really got into beer. The filename I had assigned to the picture was 0906_BeerLineup_Brussels.

While planning the trip, Boyfriend and I had decided to spend about half our time in Belgium and the other half in Paris, with one day in Reykjavik. We had both been to France before, and I had been to Iceland, so Belgium was the main point of interest in terms of exploring a new place.

Our friends sometimes ask, "Why did you ever decide to go to Belgium? What's there to see?" The most truthful answer is we went for the beer and chocolate. Sure, we were interested in finding out how Brussels, the capital of the EU, felt in comparison to Washington, D.C. We had read about Brugges, a tiny village whose Medieval architecture survived the war. And on a subsequent trip, we ventured north to the trading city of Antwerp to find it's still one of the largest shopping districts in all of Europe. But the first time around, the primary draw was beer and chocolate.

I had read about a specialty shop called Beer Mania, and we set aside an afternoon to find it and really sink our teeth into some new brews. We browsed the shelves, talked to one of the employees and went back to the hotel carrying these 12 bottles and a Chimay goblet. We've since begun collecting beer glassware, too, and the Chimay glass was the first in that collection.

The only beer from this lineup that we still drink with any regularity is Maredsous. There's another that we would drink regularly if it weren't so rare and expensive, and that's the one without a label. It's a Westvleteren, one of the six true Belgian Trappist beers. (There are eight Trappist monasteries that brew beer, but only six are Belgian. The others are in The Netherlands and Germany, and the one in Germany is not allowed to use the Trappist logo on its beer. The abbey in The Netherlands was contested for a couple of years.) Not long before our trip to Brussels, Westvleteren had been named the best beer in the world by an American magazine (overtaking Chimay), driving up the price to an absurd amount. We paid 12 euros for this one bottle. The monks who make Westvleteren refuse to produce more than a certain quantity, which explains why the price skyrocketed.

The guy at Beer Mania explained that Westvleteren has never had a label. The bottle cap is the identifier. However, he said a few cases a year are exported to Canada, where laws require beer to have a label, so the monks made one up just for the stuff that's exported there.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Trouble with Nice

When I ask a food service person, "How is it?” I expect us to be speaking the same language. The question is an abbreviated way of saying, “Describe to me all the things about this dish that aren’t specified on the menu.” How is the thing prepared, or how is it cooked, or what cut of meat is used, or what else is in the dish, or which of the ingredients listed are dominant?

For example, “fried” anything could mean pan-fried or deep-fried. Are the “fresh vegetables” raw, or are they simply not from a can or dried, or are they seasonal? Is the base of the soup clear broth, tomato, cream? Does the “bean salad” have leafy greens or not? Was the pork grilled before or after it was cubed, and was the grill flame or charcoal?

Lesser-experienced wait staff, or those who don’t care, or those working at a low-grade place, will usually answer the question, “How is it?” with, “It’s good,” or “I like it,” which, despite the fact that they’re trying to give an opinion, is completely and utterly useless. They’re not answering what I’m really asking.

But the very worst response is, “It’s nice.”

I’ve heard this response mainly in restaurants in England, where the word “nice” is still used widely to refer to a thing’s mediocrity. So, in saying, “It’s nice,” not only does the server not answer my question, but he’s also signaled, “This establishment is second-rate.”

Please, if you own a restaurant or work in one, tell the people who interact with the customers what “How is it?” really means. Teach them by example, too. The next time someone asks, give a detailed description of the food.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter cookies


I love peanut butter, and I'm crazy for all the varieties of peanut butter that Peanut Butter & Co. makes.

One of them is White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter. It's a natural-style peanut butter blended with white chocolate, which under most other circumstances I find repulsive. No other food stuff calls itself "chocolate" and yet looks and tastes like Ivory soap. Yet, in the peanut butter, it melds beautifully, adding a strong sweetness while also acting as an emulsifier that holds the oil in the substance.

Today I bought a jar, and from it, I made these cookies. Enjoy.

White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter, minus 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon cannola oil (or other light oil)
3/4 cup White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter from Peanut Butter & Co.
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream together butter, peanut butter, oil and white sugar. Next, cream in the brown sugar. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Stir into batter in three batches.

Cover bowl, and put batter in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Roll into 1-inch balls (use a mini ice cream scoop for consistency) and put on baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper, about an inch apart. Flatten each ball with a fork, making a criss-cross pattern. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown. Be careful not to over cook them, as it happens fast!

Ratatouille for In-Between Days

March and April are rough months for cooks. The weather begins to warm, enticing one's taste buds for fresh fare, but nothing is ready for harvest yet, and likely won't be until late May or early June.

Ratatouille works well in times like these. The recipe consists mainly of zucchini and onions, and although squashes (such as zucchini) are ideally eaten in late summer and through most of autumn, the kind you can get year-round from greenhouses are just fine. Ratatouille is flexible and can bend toward either summer or winter, making it an ideal side dish in March.

My mother used to make this side dish often when I was young because zucchini grows in abundance on Long Island due to the sandy soil and hot summers. It’s cheap and plentiful.

My mother made a few different versions of ratatouille: sometimes using half yellow squash and half zucchini, sometimes with garlic powder, sometimes with lemon or lemon pepper and no tomatoes, sometimes with sliced mushrooms. You can easily play with this recipe (capers and a splash of white wine would be nice; grilled eggplant would work; red and yellow peppers; fresh diced tomatoes; a little vegetable broth in the bottom of the pan if it begins to burn.

Really, it's nothing more than sautéed vegetables that begin to steam in their own juices. In fact it’s a very juicy dish, which makes it all the more warm and comforting in the cooler months with cheese, but equally wonderful when served closer to room temperature on warm days, with a spritz of lemon and a handful of fresh parsley to brighten the flavors.

This is a step-by-step "for dummies" version of the recipe, rather than my usual short hand style, but I like it because it's fool proof and unintimidating to new cooks.

Ratatouille
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large onion, sliced into thin half moons
2 medium to large zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch thick circles
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 clove garlic, chopped
salt and pepper
Parmaggiano Regianno or lemon and parsley to garnish


Warm a large skillet over a low flame. Add the olive oil and onions. Let the onions sweat out their juices a little before adding the zucchini. From this step on, how you cook the ratatouille depends on how you prefer it. If you continue to cook on a low flame, cover the pan and leave it alone, and the dish will be very juicy with the vegetables falling apart slightly. If you turn up the heat to medium-high, the zucchini and onions will develop a golden crust -- but if you prefer to cook at the higher temperature, you will need to toss the ingredients every few minutes to minimize too much browning.

When the vegetables are softer, create a hot spot in the bottom of the pan by clearing a little room -- enough to drop in the 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Add the tomato paste, and leave the pan alone for at least two minutes so the paste can warm up and develop its flavors a little.

Next, toss everything together and add the garlic and cook one minute more. Season with salt and pepper. The ratatouille is ready when the vegetables are evenly coated with tomato paste. Garnish with either fresh lemon juice and parsley or grated hard cheese, such as Parmaggiano Regianno.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pools of Color in SF Bay Relate to Food


(Image from Nasa's The Earth Observatory.)

If you've ever flown into SFO airport in daylight, you've probably seen those enormous and brightly colored pools right at the southernmost edge of the San Francisco Bay.

For years, I had wondered what they were. When I first moved to California, I remember asking people about them all the time, especially anyone who had grown up in California, and particularly while making small talk at parties. I would always described them as looking like pools of paint. Sometimes, they would be extremely different colors, traffic-cone orange or pink or green. They are magnificent, but also a unsettling, as surely they are not natural. You can't miss them. Most of them are bigger than a football field.

One person I met was sure they were cranberry bogs. Another suggested it was a sewage treatment facility, and that the different colors represented a different chemical stage in the process, which was the answer I had entertained momentarily before thinking, "But why are all the pools exposed to open air? Isn't that dangerous?"

Just the other day, I finally, and quite accidentally, came across the truth.

They're salt ponds.

I was reading the last chapter of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, in which he describes a grand meal that he is going to prepare for his family and friends who have helped to write the book by teaching him how to forage, hunt, and do other back-to-nature culinary tasks. His goal is for nearly everything served to have been a product of his own toil in some way. He's also looking to satisfy the last leg of the animal-vegetable-mineral trinity by putting self-scrounged salt on the table. And there it was (page 393):

"...I had learned that there are still a few salt ponds at the bottom of San Francisco Bay. You can see them flying into SFO, a sequence of arresting blocks of color -- rust, yellow, orange, blood red -- laid out below you as if in a Mondrian painting. The different colors, I learned, are created by different species of salt-tolerant algae and archaea; as the seawater evaporates from the ponds, the salinity rises, creating conditions suitable for one species of microorganism or another.

"After an interminable trek through acrid and trash-strewn wetlands, we found the salt ponds: rectangular fields of shallow water outlined by grassy levees. The water was the color of strong tea and the levees were littered with garbage: soda cans and bottles, car parts and tires, hundreds of tennis balls abandoned by dogs."



Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Four Very Different Beers

Notes on four very different beers I tried recently

Unibroue Éphémère
Not as sweet as a Lindemann's, this white ale from Canada (5.5% ABV) had a complex, spice-inflected apple taste, much like apple pie spice sprinkled on a tart Granny Smith. The apple flavors are present, but not overwhelming, just what I'm looking for in a refreshing fruit beer.

Dogfish Head Raison D'Être
I picked up this beer during a "special six pack" beer run that Boyfriend and I made to the Euromarket in Astoria a couple of weeks ago. I had read about Dogfish Head's so-called extreme brewing and, though somewhat turned off by the whole enterprise, I was curious to try something from the brewery. But to date, every type of beer I came across seemed, well, too extreme. However, the special brew Raison D'Être (8% ABV) was a Belgian style malty beer that promised flavors of green raisins. It tasted dark, malty, and full of caramel flavors, but not heavy. Think two steps below a sipping beer, the kind of beer you don't want to drink stone cold. What I did like was a very mild counterbalance of hops to the sweetness. I didn't taste the green raisin so much, and the head dissipated almost immediately after pouring. I would drink it again on its own (not with food), but wouldn't drink it all night.

Amadeus Biere Blanche
Lemon! Lehhhhhhhmon! Lemonlemonlemon! Another beer bought on the Euromarket run, there's not much more to say about this witbier (4.5% ABV) from Les Brasseurs de Gayant, France. It tastes and smells strongly like an extra citrusy lemon. To be more precise, it takes like lemon peel. Overpriced: I think we paid close to $14 for a 750ml bottle. Never again!

Krušovice Cern (Dark)
I had a hefty mug of this beer at Zlata Praha, a nearby Czech restaurant, for only $5. Correction: I had two huge mugs of the stuff, and they were great, with tall fluffy heads, alongside my meal of stuffed cabbage rolls. Because I prefer malty beers, I tend to only drink more bitter ones with food, most often German or Eastern European food (though I'll have a lager with Asian food here and there). The Krušovice Cern is from a the Royal Brewery Královský Pivovar Krušovice and has 3.8% ABV.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Postcard from Belize: National Dish



Andre, the guide who took us into the interior of Belize to see Mayan ruins at the site known as Lamanai had brought lunch. He and his partner laid out a spread of plastic containers on a set of picnic tables just on the edge of the jungle. Behind us was a wide and placid lagoon, the docking point for the motor boat that had taken us upriver The thatch on the gazebo barely rustled because the air was still inland, unlike the strong and persistent Caribbean breeze out by the ocean and on the islands.

One by one, the travelers lined up to fill their plates with food, buffet-style. I scooped some of the rice and beans onto my plate, nestled a piece of stewed chicken next to it, added a sweet hunk of plantain, dabbled in the coleslaw, tossed on some shredded lettuce salad and papaya spears, and topped it off with a chunky onion salsa that we had been warned might be too hot for some people's palates.

When everyone was ready to tuck in, I asked Andre and his partner about the rice and beans. The night before I had eaten them in a restaurant and fell in love. Unlike other rice and beans, which are served separate, with the beans in a thick slurry of their own sauce, this dish was fully united as one. The was more rice than beans -- black beans -- but they were all the same consistency and uniformly integrated.

But there was a flavor in there, too, something new. At the restaurant the night before, it took me a few bites before discerning it was coconut. But it didn't taste like cream of coconut or coconut milk, exactly. Did they use coconut water to cook the rice? Or maybe it was a combination of coconut water and milk?

Now, I had a chance to ask.

"We're going to have the national dish of Belize: rice and beans, plantains, and mystery meat."

They told me that in Belize, people go out into their lawns and pick up a ripe coconut from the ground -- coconuts are that plentiful. The coconut is split open, and the liquid is reserved. Then the insides of the coconut are scraped out and ground and mashed by hand together with the liquid. The mixture is then rung out in cheesecloth, and the result is what's used to cook the rice and beans.

They also told me, "It's never 'beans and rice' or 'rice with beans,' but always, 'rice-and-beans,' more rice than beans."

I attempted an approximation of the Belizean rice and beans at home using half coconut milk and half water, white rice, and black beans (from dried). It came out much stickier and wetter than I would have liked, but wasn't half bad.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Pint is Not a Pound the World Around

An "Imperial pint" (also just called "pint" in many parts of the world) is 20 fluid ounces.

[Updated December 16, 2012]
Have you ever heard the saying, "A pint is a pound the world around?" It's not really true.
In 2009, I published a blog post that started with that line. It was about an email I got from Ben & Jerry's describing how one of its "competitors" (Hagen Daz) had downsized their ice cream pints from 16 ounces to 14 ounces. That post, and the comments that followed, are reprinted in full below because I do not want to sweep under the rug anything anyone said. It would not be fair to the commenters, and it was an insightful conversation.
I essentially said that the saying "A pint is a pound the world around" is misleading and "wrong." I hold by that statement, although I did get a few points wrong, or at least not right enough. I'll explain in a moment.
An "American pint" (also just called "pint" in the U.S.) is 16 fluid ounces.
The real take-away for me was this: A "pint" is not universal. It's location dependent.
First, there is the confusing difference between ounces and fluid ounces. Ounces measure weight (mass) and fluid ounces measure volume. This distinction can become confusing when converting units of measure, and it is the primary distinction that I did not make clearly or get right in the original post.
Second, what many Americans miss is that we say a pint is 16 ounces, but the English say a pint is 20 ounces. In America, we distinguish between the two by calling the English pint an "Imperial pint."
Rest assured, the English just call it a pint. Order a pint in any pub in the U.K., and you'll get a 20-ounce beer. They don't call it in an Imperial pint. It's just a pint.
Baskets of "ground cherries" in Montreal.
Then there are "punnets." I didn't even talk about punnets in the original post. A punnet is a term used in the U.K., and it doesn't have an exact unit of measure. It's basically a small basket-ful. You know those cardboard containers that might hold cherry tomatoes or blackberries? Those are punnets. The actual size varies, but from my experience in markets, the American "basket" is typically smaller than the English "punnet." But very generally speaking, a punnet hold somewhere in the neighborhood of a pint... a dry pint, that is.
Just to really confuse you, the picture shown here of baskets of ground cherries is from Canada.
So what does the saying "A pint is a pound the world around" mean?

I have not found any well documented information on where that saying originated (post a comment if you have a good source, please!), but I would guess it is American because it refers to the American "pint" of water (volume) weighing 16 ounces (mass). You could also read into the part about "the world around" being part and parcel of the American outlook, too, eh? (I'm American, but I do see that my countrymen assume that our nation is the center of the world.)

There's a second saying, though, that I'd have to guess is British in origin because it refers to the 20-ounce pint:

"A pint of pure water weighs a pound and a quarter."
If you would like to correct anything I've written here, I am happy to revisit this whole topic again, but please be kind in the comments. Writing with a nasty or condescending tone will not persuade me to listen to your argument. I am totally happy to recognize and call attention to the fact if I have made a mistake, but I will be much more likely to do so if you approach me in a kind manner. -Jill Duffy  

ORIGINAL POST AND COMMENTS
A Pint is Not a Pound the World Around
March 9, 2009
Have you ever heard this saying: "A pint is a pound the world around"?
It's not really true.
In the U.S., a pint is 16 ounces, which is indeed a pound. But that's not the end of the story.
Most people have heard that the drinks in the U.K. are bigger than in the U.S. It's true. An "English pint" is 20 fluid ounces.
But some "pints" are smaller.
This morning, I got Chunkmail (that's Ben & Jerry's email newsletter), implying that Haagen Daz was shrinking the amount of ice cream contained in its pint containers:
One of our competitors (think funny sounding European name) recently announced they will be downsizing their pints from 16 to 14 ounces to cover increased ingredient & manufacturing costs and help improve their bottom line. At Ben & Jerry’s we think downsizing pints is downright wrong. We understand that in today’s hard economic times businesses are feeling the pinch. We also understand that many of you are also feeling the same, & think now more than ever you deserve your full pint of ice cream.
We are even more committed today to lead with our values through the quality of our ingredients & how we source them to make the best ice cream possible. So, while our competitor may be experiencing a bit of shrinkage, rest assured that your Ben & Jerry’s will still be standing tall in the freezer. Enjoy!
I just happened to have a pint of Haagen Daz in my freezer, so I checked to see how much ice cream its "pints" contain.
It reads 437ml! Sneaky!
According to a conversion calculator, that's 14.78 ounces.
But really, that deceptive. Shame on you, Haagen Daz! Shame on your brand, and shame on your name.


COMMENTS ON ORIGINAL POST
  • LeighMarch 6, 2009 11:27 AM
  • Wait a minute. You're on the B&J's newsletter listserv?

  • Jill DuffyMarch 6, 2009 1:52 PM
    Yes. It's not a listserv. It's the company's marketing email.

  • GraceMarch 6, 2009 2:22 PM
    Oh my god thank you. I have a long, long story about why I hate Haagen Daz, but it will have to wait until we're actually just together in person.
    I've been baking all our bread! Is that moving from food-enthusiast-y to more house-wife-y? I don't care, it's delish.


  • LeighMarch 8, 2009 1:45 PM
    Okay...you're on the B&J's marketing email list?

  • Jill DuffyMarch 9, 2009 12:46 PM
    Yes. I'm on the Ben & Jerry's marketing email list. Is that odd?

  • LeighMarch 10, 2009 7:14 AM
    I love it!
  • AnonymousMay 8, 2010 9:03 AM
    You do understand that the comment relates to water, and water only. Oil weighs less than water, hence the reason it floats to the surface. Pints are volume measures, and the saying only holds true with water.
    Now, about your ice cream. The weight depends on how much air is whipped into the custard. The more air, the less weight, but this will not affect the volume. Understand?


  • Jill E. DuffyMay 8, 2010 12:03 PM
    To the anonymous commenter, yes, I understand the difference between weight and volume. There are actually two kinds of ounces: one is a unit of mass and the other, the "fluid ounce" is a unit of volume.

    Still, I think you're missing something that I did not make clear in the post.

    There are also two "pint" measurements, just as there are two "gallon" measurements: an American pint (16 fluid ounces) and "imperial" pint or English pint, which is 20 fluid ounces. Similarly, there's an "imperial gallon," which is roughly equal to about 1.25 American gallons.

    Whipping air into ice cream is a good point, and I see what you are saying. The more I am reading up on this (I've been on Wikipedia for about 30 minutes now), the more confusing it gets.

    The pint containers hold 500ml (volume). I'm actually still confused now about where 473ml comes from. Is that the volume of the ice cream before air is whipped in?

    There are regulations about how much air (percent) can be whipped in before the maker can no longer label the product as "ice cream" in the U.S.

    Long after I wrote this post, I noticed that B&J's weight on ice cream is not 16 oz. either, and like Haagen Daz, it's given in ml. The size of the container is 500ml, but the product inside is 473ml.

    I've found Haagen Daz containers listing 473ml as well as 414ml (in a "14 oz" container).

    I think the most important thing to note here is how difficult it is for the consumer to get straight information!


  • AnonymousNovember 24, 2010 11:35 PM
    I know this is old, but it's awesome how you say that you understand the difference between weight and volume and then say:

    "I noticed that B&J's weight on ice cream is not 16 oz. either, and like Haagen Daz, it's given in ml."

    It's not weight. It's volume. That's why milliLITERS are involved -- that's a unit of volume. Ya know how you can buy a GALLON of ice cream? It's sold by volume.


  • Jill E. DuffyNovember 26, 2010 9:35 AM
    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Jill E. DuffyNovember 26, 2010 9:40 AM
    I wouldn't say it's "awesome." I would say I made another mistake. I should have said "unit of measure."

  • Anonymous January 3, 2011 12:25 AM
    Actually, you're both wrong. A pint of water is not a pound.
    1 pint = 16 fluid oz.
    1 pound = 16 (dry) oz.

    1 fl. oz. of water does not equal 1 dry oz. of water. To break this down, it's easiest convert it all into metric units.

    1 pint = 473.176473 mL
    1 pound = 453.59237 g

    Now, since the density of water is 1 g/mL (i.e. 1 mL of water = 1 g), you can see that 1 pint (473 mL) does not equal 1 pound (453 g).

    This has nothing to do with imperial measurements, the saying is simply wrong. A pint of water weighs approximately 1.04 lbs., and this is because 1 fluid oz. and 1 (dry) oz. are two very different measurements. People think that the density of water is 1, and, therefore, 1 fl. oz. of water = 1 oz. This is incorrect. The density of water is 1 g/mL, but not 1 oz./fl. oz. In the US customary system, the density of water is actually .9586 oz./fl. oz.


  • AnonymousJanuary 17, 2012 12:35 AM
    1st, Clearly people in general cannot understand the difference between units of weight and units of volume...
    2nd, The saying " A pints a pound the world around " is just a simple saying to help people remember the approximate weight of water, or any other liquid with a similar density.
    1.00lbs vs 1.04lbs would take a bit to make a difference unless you were in a laboratory- in that case you probably shouldnt be using the saying in the first place.

    AnonymousDecember 15, 2012 8:49 AM
    Thank you.! Finally someone gets it. Phew.