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Seafood serves as a traditional Christmas meal in Georgia's low country and many other parts of the world

By for CAES News

While Christmas dinners in the South usually revolve around a glazed ham or a golden roasted turkey, families in other parts of the world turn to the sea for their holiday feasts.

Seafood is a great option for Georgians looking to add a new holiday sparkle to their celebrations, said Jackie Ogden, Family and Consumer Sciences agent with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension in coastal Chatham County.

Georgia’s seafood bounty peaks in the fall and winter when oysters join the state’s constant supply of blue crabs, flounder and shrimp. Adding Georgia seafood to holiday meals is a great way to add decadence to a holiday feast without guilt, and it supports local Georgia fishermen, Ogden said.

“There are many nutritional benefits to eating seafood, and it’s recommended that we eat two servings of seafood a week,” she said. “And many Americans, including Georgians, are eating far less than that.”

With Georgia fishermen bringing in 6.18 million pounds of seafood off of Georgia’s 100-mile coastline each year, there’s no excuse for Georgians not to be enjoying, or at least trying, more seafood.

For the last year, Ogden has teamed up with UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant to help introduce Georgians to the nutritious and delicious seafood harvested from the state’s coastal waters.  

The collaborative Ocean to Table program has developed a list of recipes to help cooks prepare Georgia’s best seafood, and UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant have developed a directory of where to find Georgia seafood. The partnership has also held how-to workshops where Georgians can learn to prepare seafood like shrimp, crab and oysters.

“At each of the Ocean to Table workshops, we focus on the same types of topics, whether it’s shrimp, oysters or crabs,” said Bryan Fluech, associate marine extension director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “We want to give some basic information about the biology and life history of the organism before diving into seafood safety and where to buy Georgia seafood.”

Participants in the workshops get to sample some of the seafood being discussed and meet the men and women responsible for the catch. The workshops also allow Ogden to remind participants about how to safely handle seafood.

People seem to think about food safety more when working with seafood, and Ogden uses this opportunity to reinforce the message that the same rules apply for all foods.

To keep foods safe and free of illness-causing pathogens, UGA Extension experts remind cooks to follow these four steps:

  • Clean: Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before preparing food and make sure that knives, cutting boards and utensils have been washed in hot, soapy water.
  • Separate: Always store raw meat, seafood and poultry away from ready-to-eat foods and use separate cutting boards and knives for raw meat, seafood and poultry and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Cook: Food should always be cooked to the recommended internal temperatures. Using a food thermometer is the best way to know when food is ready. Keep hot foods above 140 degrees Fahrenheit before serving, and always reheat leftovers to 165 degrees F.
  • Chill: Store food at 40 degrees F or cooler. Never defrost foods on the counter, and follow this motto: “When in doubt, throw it out.”

At the latest Ocean to Table workshop, about 50 people learned how to responsibly catch, cook, clean and safely prepare Georgia blue crabs.

“One of the biggest assets of this program is that UGA Extension, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant are partnering together,” Fluech said. “Even though we might not be doing the same types of programming all the time, when talking about seafood, it only made sense for us to combine our resources.”

In the spring, Ogden and Fluech’s team will provide training to UGA Extension Family and Consumer Science agents from across the state, so that they can teach Georgians how to prepare Georgia seafood.

For more information about this program, contact Ogden at jogden@uga.edu or (912) 652-7981. For more information on where to find Georgia seafood, visit georgiaseafood.org.

If your looking for inspiration for adding crab to your holiday festivities here is one of Ogden's favorite recipes from the Ocean to Table series: 

Crab and Corn Chowder

¼ cup chopped green onion

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon cayenne

2 tablespoons margarine

2 cans (10.75 ounces) cream of potato soup

1 package (8 ounces) low-fat cream cheese, softened

2 cups 2 percent milk

1 can (15.25 ounces) no-salt added whole kernel corn, undrained

6 ounces crabmeat

  • Melt margarine in a medium saucepan and sauté onion, garlic, cayenne over medium heat.
  • Add soup, milk and cream cheese.
  • Stir and cook until thoroughly blended.
  • Add corn and crab, stir and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Recipe makes 6 Servings

 

Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
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