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Cheese/spread in celery ribs: celery's too tough, too large; what to do?

Yesterday I brought home some chicken salad and some herbed cheese spread. Wife and SIL were having it on little toasty crackers that she'd bought.

I went to the fridge and pulled a few ribs off a head of celery. Rinsed and cut into 3" lengths, and stuffed with an amalgam of the cheese spread and chicken salad.

It's been years since I've had cream cheese-stuffed celery and the like. The celery I used was too thick, perhaps too mature. I guess next time I could buy celery hearts, instead. I'm also tempted to try blanching the celery to make it more tender. So what should I do, buy *smaller* celery, or can I blanch (or even peel?) celery to make it less toothy?

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  1. don't blanch, it'll get rubbery. just peel it with a vegetable peeler or a paring knife - i do it all the time with woody stalks.

    6 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      I've only peeled celery that was going to be braised. It never occurred to me to peel it for crudite (or this application).

      1. re: shaogo

        I often peel celery for many uses - let us know how it turns out.

        1. re: MMRuth

          I do too. I hate those tough strings!

          1. re: bayoucook

            When making soup or stock I don't peel celery but if using the stalks chopped in a salad or on a crudités tray I peel the stalks then soak in ice water to keep the crunch...so to speak.

            1. re: Gio

              i'm with gio -- always peeling for raw-eating applications.

      2. re: goodhealthgourmet

        Who knew? Add this to my list of "things I've learned on Chowhound." I will definitely have to try this.

        Gotta tell ya, I love cream cheese and remember licking out the cream cheese and trying to feed the celery to our German Shepherd when I was a kid. Unfortunately, Duchess didn't like it, either...and it didn't exactly blend as she gnawed it into the carpet. ;)

      3. Sometimes, when celery is picked too late or stored too long, the outer stalks become hollow and those are pretty much beyond rehab for tender raw use. I'm not exactly sure what others mean by "peeling" the celery. The method I use is to simply "destring" the celery. Wash the stalks and cut them to the lengths you desire, then, starting at the root (larger) end of each section, slip a paring knife under the strings and lift. Explanation: when you look at the end of a cut celery stalk you can see the threads near the surface of the outer layer of the stalk. You just slip the sharp edge of a paring knife a little way under these, then press the threads against the side of the knife and pull the threads away. Should some of the threads break, you can repeat the process from the other end of the celery stalk, but generally starting from the root end and pulling "upward" produces the best result.

        I have tried a vegetable peeler but found it often as not cut through the strings/threads and left some of them in place. The destringing method doesn't do that. When you work your way into the very tender white stalks in the heart, they rarely require destringing. Have you tried filling celery with peanut butter? '-)

        13 Replies
        1. re: Caroline1

          I was taught by my momma to string celery. I have a more refined version than her snapping it into pieces and pulling the strings off, much like you would shuck corn. I make a small incision on the inner side with a paring knife, but I don't cut through the strings. I start by doing this on each end of the stalk. I grab the small bit of end and pull it down, removing many of the strings. Then I do it in the middle. By the time you do this three to five times the strings are gone and the stick is cut into pieces.
          Nothing worse than a mouthful of celery fiber or finding it really difficult to bite off a piece.

          1. re: Scargod

            waaaay inefficient, scargod.

            ps, you never answered (another thread) about how many boiled peanut purveyors you'd tried....

            1. re: alkapal

              OK, I'll kill two birds with one stone! What is inefficient about this method? It is not difficult or time consuming. Do I need to draw you a diagram or come over and demonstrate?
              Peanuts: ate boiled ones once from a roadside stand in Georgia. I didn't care for them. Perhaps they were not fresh. I love peanuts.
              Any other things I've missed?

              1. re: Scargod

                testy, testy! ;-).

                how inefficient? i quote the inimitable scargod: " By the time you do this three to five times the strings are gone and the stick is cut into pieces."

                1. re: alkapal

                  Hey, I do it the same way, and it doesn't take as long as it takes to describe it, so lay off!!

                    1. re: alkapal

                      I too thought it sounded kinda tedious but maybe we just don't understand. Do you think it's the water ?!?

                  1. re: alkapal

                    I see. Now I'm a freak because I don't like to waste celery? ;~)
                    It's not the water... Yes, just a spike in testosterone.
                    I can do one by the time you dig out your peeler.

                    1. re: Scargod

                      i don't "peel" -- i just break the bottom end, leave the strings attached, and pull upwards, so it is de-stringed in one fell swoop. then i'll cut to the purpose at hand.

                      ps, i don't like to waste anything, including celery, scargod.

                      1. re: alkapal

                        That's the right way. It's the outer layer (that is, along the outer side of the stalk) of strings that are thickest and toughest. The inner ones are not usually worth worrying about.

                        1. re: alkapal

                          Well, that's where I start, too, now that I think about it. I may be crawfishing...
                          I take a whole stalk and break it at the base and pull to the top. This gets the majority of strings. Then I make the incision about a half inch from the end and pull that down. That gets most of the remaining strings. Then, as I mentioned, you can score, break and pull from the middle and other points ad infinitum, if you choose to. This way you will get 99% of the 12 threads...
                          Oh, I forgot that I trim up the big end piece so it's not ragged. The logic of my method is that the side strings want to pop if you just break the pieces and they still need to be trimmed if you want them to look neat. When I pull from the base I don't do it all at once for the same reason. I do it in two or three finger-fulls. No vituperous talk, please!

                          1. re: Scargod

                            Hah... only on Chowhound would we get a 4 day discussion on how to destring a celery stalk.

                            Truth be told, sometimes I break the stalk in half and pull up or down... but the vegetable peeler does a good job of removing the tough strings when I'm not in a hurry.

            2. I love celery, and most of the time will remove the strings, however I'll eat it even with the strings. Actually I don't really care for fat stuffed celery pieces, so what I do is If the celery is too mature, (or not) I'll clean it and then cut it into smaller length wise sticks. Place them around the dip along with a several small spreaders and then just dip and stack the dip ever so carefully using the spreader. Pop in your mouth for a one bite appetizer. No napkins needed.

              1. A lot of people don't realize you're supposed to string large celery stalks. Far too many folks.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Karl S

                  I've only ever "strung" celery not peeled.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Yes, I string rather than peel, like a huge multi-stringed bean.

                2. I always peel celery, using a Lancashire or Y peeler (whichever I find first)

                  1. I peel my celery all the time, esp. for tuna salad for the kids. Makes it much less "tough".

                    1. Yes, Karl S, I'm ashamed that I'm one of the far, far too many folks who doesn't peel celery. But after the response here, I'll be a peeler/de-stringer for life. Tomorrow I'm going to go at a brand-new head of celery and I'll post about how things turned out.

                      It's particularly good that I'm pursuing "stuffed celery." I *know* I need more fiber in my diet, and more vegetables, so it's nice that I've re-discovered a comfort food that I used to love.

                      Say, anyone have any celery-stuffing recipes?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: shaogo

                        celery stuffed with peanut butter and raisins.. my husband's favorite snack!

                      2. Try celery stuffed with Pimento Cheese....
                        Here's my report on the Virginia Willis recipe from the Bon Appetit Y'All cookbook:
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6164...

                        Delicious!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Gio

                          Many years ago, Kraft used to offer flavored Neufchattel (sp?) cheese in a glass with a pry-off lid. Came in plain, pimento, and pineapple. Maybe another flavor I no longer remember, but the pimento AND pineapple were great celery stuffers! My mother collected the glasses. They were a perfect size for juice. Maybe it was a Depression Era offering. I haven't seen them in stores for many a decade!

                          Edit: The pimento cheese spread also makes an interesting pear salad. Put about a teaspoonful of home made pimento cheese in the center of a canned pear half, then top with grated cheddar, set a couple of them on a plated lettuce leaf and serve. A hospital where I used to work offered it in the dining room. You had to get there early to get one. Not high end gourmet, but quick and easy and tastes good!

                          1. re: Caroline1

                            Caroline, I remember Neufchâtel cheese... the American version of low-fat cream cheese. Not to be confused with French Neufchâtel cheese that is produced in a French village of the same name. In fact I remember the Kraft glasses too. IIRC, the designs on each glass were in different colors and the goal was to acquire a full set of one of each color.

                            Good Lord, I remember the pear salad too... LOL

                        2. One of my favorite things to eat with celery is fresh salsa especially when tomato season is in full swing, make it with tomatoes, garlic, jalapeno or serrano chilis, white onion or red, cilantro and plenty of fresh lime juice. Salt and heavy on the pepper. Sometimes a little dried oregano.

                          Also, tuna salad and egg salad. Just fill the celery with the salad and chomp away. Not exactly diet food, unless you're using fat free mayo. I love crunchy food, and celery.

                          Also another nice soup, is cream of celery soup. There's several recipes but the basic one is like most other cream based soups. Chicken stock, a cooked potato that's very tender, salt and pepper. Saute leeks and the celery, puree in a blender, add cream(or half and half) and nutmeg. You can top with fresh celery leaves, pretty yummy.
                          This is good served hot or chilled

                          1. If you are planning to cut the celery in three to four inch pieces to serve, don't cut all the way through. Cut to nearly the outer layer and instead bend the celery back for a final crack while peeling the toughest, longest strings from the outside layer of the celery. Not cutting all the way through enables you to peel the strings much more easily.

                            1. My recently discovered favorite way to eat celery IS actually to blanch it. I've always hated celery but I loove eating it like this. I cut it into 3-inch strips, put it in a pot of boiling water for just 1 minute, and then rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Toss the celery in a little bit of soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, & sugar, and they become little bits of crunchy deliciousness.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: matikin9

                                are you making 3" long batons, or do you leave the celery its original width?

                              2. Looks like we've addressed the issue of the ribbed exterior xylem that leaves us with shards between the teeth. We've got snappers, stringers, and peelers, and hopefully all friendships are intact.

                                But what about the INTERIOR cavity? Ever had trouble fitting your stuffing down the narrow and often infolded fissure?

                                The solution is the apple corer. After you cut your 3 inch batons, use the apple corer to remove bulk from the interior in one clean sweep. The celery log is now thinner, more snappable by the teeth, and will evenly hold more stuffing.

                                Just stand a baton up, then drive the apple corer down, removing bulk. A pudgy life-raft has now become a sleek canoe. Trimmed material goes to the soup/stock bag, or the mirepoix, or the mouth.

                                Here's a pic of the tool:
                                http://foodservice.chef2chef.net/rest...

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: FoodFuser

                                  <"But what about the INTERIOR cavity? Ever had trouble fitting your stuffing down the narrow fissure?
                                  The solution is the apple corer.">

                                  I use a mellon baller for the same purpose.....
                                  http://kitchen-dining-review.blogspot...

                                  1. re: Gio

                                    Wow. That get's us thinking about alternative tools.

                                    ...there's those seldom used sculpting chisels out in the workshop, each has a different scooping radius, to accomodate the different diameters as the stem thins from base to top. As wood chisels, they are seldom used... maybe I should bring them into the kitchen for the upcoming celery feast season.

                                    Imagine.. the perfect stuffed baton, each with a sculpted channel that left just the right amount of celery for a snapping crunch.

                                    I'm off to the store for celery to practice up for the big T.

                                    1. re: FoodFuser

                                      Ah... but my mellon baller is a multi-tasking unit. You know how some folks just love gadgets. It scoops the seeds out of lengthwise sliced cucumbers and zucchinis; It detaches those pesky pumpkin and squash seeds. And it takes no time at all to make those oh so perfect balls of delectible fruit for the ever popular fruit salad for my ladies luncheon every other Tuesday. I do love my melon baller.

                                      1. re: Gio

                                        I too love my melon ballers, and barely a single cuke or cantaloupe has escaped my kitchen without the good ol' MB.

                                        But for me, when it comes to celery, I'm looking for a tool that has more sharpness and more directional force to move cleanly thru the stiffer material. With the apple corer I get a clean plunge cut, and I'm hoping, per the stimulation of this discussion, to get even cleaner results that trim out the various sizes of celery batons, using the ranging radii of the chisels.

                                        God yes for the love of gadgets, and tools are just gadgets and gadgets just tools.

                                        Lest we assume from my argument that it's a little OCD, it lovingly stems from a "church potluck" tradition as a youth, where Mrs. A,B,C's celery batons stuffed with pimento cheese were a hotly gossiped and compared item of ingestion. Along with the variety of deviled eggs. And now I'm eyeballing those chisels not only for improving the channel in celery, but also as a tool for exterior texturing of the deviled egg white component, to allow a better grip. But hey, why increase potential for faster snarfing... they go so quick anyway.

                                        What are some of your other uses for the melon baller?

                                        1. re: FoodFuser

                                          I use mine to core apples & pears.