The Many Colors of Cauliflower – Purple, Green, Orange, and White

Green, yellow, and purple cauliflower
Green, yellow, and purple cauliflower

Have you been seeing something in the supermarket or famer’s markets that looks like cauliflower but instead of the traditional white, the heads are purple, orange, and green?  Colored cauliflower started popping up in the markets about 10 years ago and have increasingly become more popular and readily available.    What are these colored cauliflowers?  How do they taste?  How to prepare them so they retain their color?

White cauliflower used to be the only option.  The colored cauliflowers, like the white variety, are members of the cruciferous vegetable family.  They have a similar texture and taste—mild, sweet, and nutty.  The major difference is their color and with color, a slight difference in nutritional value. 

White cauliflower matures creamy white if the head is void of direct sunlight.  Older cultivars need to be blanched (inner leaves are tied loosely over the small heads to reduce the amount of light penetration) to prevent the sun from turning white cauliflower to yellow.  Newer cultivars are self-blanching as the plants produce inner leaves that hug the heads tightly preventing light penetration.  No blanching is required for the colorful varieties.

Purple cauliflower gets its color from anthocyanin, a naturally occurring phytochemical that is also found in other red, blue, or purple fruits and vegetables, as well as red wine.  Carotenoids are responsible for the color in orange cauliflower; carotenoids are also found in carrots, squash, and other yellow vegetables and fruits. Orange cauliflower actually came about as a genetic mutation that allows it to hold more beta carotene than its white counterpart.  Green cauliflower, also known as broccoflower, is a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower.  Green cauliflower contains more beta carotene than white cauliflower, but less than broccoli.

Colored cauliflower can be eaten raw, roasted, grilled, sautéed or steamed.  Cooks Illustrated experimented to find out the best method of preparation for holding color.   They found that the orange cauliflower proved to be the most stable; the orange pigments are not water soluble or sensitive to heat.  The chlorophyll in the green cauliflower is heat sensitive just like broccoli; overcooking will cause the cauliflower to become brown.  The anthocyanins in purple cauliflower leach out in water which dulls it’s color; color is better retained with dry heat such as roasting, grilling, or sautéing.   

There are lots of recipes available online for preparing the colored cauliflowers.  Enjoy the color!

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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October is Pork Month!

Pork loin chops

Although we are already part way through October, there is still plenty of time to celebrate Porktober19.  Pork is a very versatile meat and can be prepared many different ways.  Pork has been a part of my family’s life for many years as we raised a lot of hogs on our farm.  My husband and I continued the family tradition of raising hogs from farrow to finish (birth to market). After we made the tough decision to get out of the hog business, I worked for a neighbor as a herdswoman for an additional 5 years.  We always had pork in the freezer as we took a hog or two to the locker plant in town every year.  It is easy to make a quick work night supper with some ham steaks or pork chops or a special family meal with a pork loin roast. 

Whole pork loins

If you are in a rut and need some new and interesting pork recipes, the Iowa Pork Producers have plenty of new recipes that you may enjoy. If you are a new cook or have not had a chance to cook pork for a while, the National Pork Board has some great, quick videos covering multiple ways to cook or work with pork.  They demonstrate how to cook pork chops or how to cut down a large tenderloin into cops and roasts.  There is also a demonstration on how to correctly use a thermometer to check if the pork has been cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Enjoy some pork tonight.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Substituting honey for sugar

We get calls all year long from consumers wanting to substitute honey for sugar.  Some people prefer the taste of honey, some feel that honey is a more “natural” product, and some think that honey is healthier than sugar.

Honey pot preserved with honeycomb on wood background

We help callers understand the facts surrounding honey and sugar substitutions.  If the substitution is in a baked product, you will substitute half of a cup of honey for one cup of sugar. Remember to decrease the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup for every cup of honey used.  Sometimes this substitution will affect the overall quality of the product.  The best option would be to start with a recipe designed to use honey. 

If you wish to substitute honey for sugar in a drink, such as lemonade, use half the amount as listed above, but do consider using a bit of hot water to help the honey dissolve into the drink.

Honey is a natural product produced by bees using the nectar from flowers to make honey.  Raw honey contains pollen grains but is usually available in the store as processed honey.  This product may have been heated or filtered.  Sugar is also a natural product made by processing sugar beets or sugar cane.  We should avoid using an excessive amount of either product.

For our callers that think of honey as a healthier option, it does have a small amount of minerals but overall it is not really much healthier than sugar. The American Diabetes Association states that there is no advantage substituting honey for sugar in the diabetic diet.  Most of us would benefit by limiting our sugar intake. 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Pumpkin Puree Leftovers

I was recently doing some baking with pumpkin. My recipe called for only 1 cup of pumpkin rather than the whole can which left me with about half a can of pumpkin puree leftover. Some of you may have experienced the same thing. If you have, there are some options for you to consider. First of all you might want to double the recipe you are making and share the additional baked product with a friend:) One 15 ounce can of pumpkin is just shy of 2 cups. If you definitely want the full cup for the second batch you are making just add 1 tablespoon of applesauce to the leftover pumpkin puree. I think you will also find being a tablespoon shy of a full cup of pumpkin will not affect the outcome of your recipe.

If you are using commercially canned pumpkin puree you can refrigerate and use any leftovers within 5-7 days. If you have made your own pumpkin puree you will want to refrigerate and use it within 3-5 days. The leftover pumpkin is wonderful stirred into oatmeal or yogurt or added to a smoothie. Libby’s has posted on their site recommendations for substituting pumpkin puree for eggs, oil or butter in your baking.

 

You may also freeze any leftover pumpkin puree. An easy way to do that is to lightly spray a muffin cup and spoon 1/4 cup or 1/2 cup measurements of pumpkin into each cup. Freeze in the muffin pan until solid then remove the pumpkin mounds/scoops from the pan and transfer to freezer bags. Make sure to label your bags with what it is, the amount in each mound and the date. It is easy to remove the amount you need for a recipe later on. If you thaw the pumpkin puree in the refrigerator, which is the recommended way, you have an additional 3-4 days to store it in the refrigerator and use it. If you thaw the pumpkin in the microwave or with the cold water method you need to use it immediately. Once the pumpkin has thawed if there is any liquid pooling just drain it off before using. For best quality, use frozen pumpkin puree within 3 months. It will be safe indefinitely however if continuously frozen but will lose some quality over time.

There are so many delicious pumpkin recipes out there. I hope you will enjoy baking with pumpkin puree this season!

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Induction Burners

My son recently purchased a portable induction burner. I have friends who have them and love them but I do not have one so decided to do a little more research on them. Maybe I need one!

The units plug into a standard outlet so it is easy to use on your countertop or even outdoors if you have a deck or gazebo with outlets or an outdoor kitchen. An electromagnetic field below the glass surface provides heat that heats up the pan you are using. The cookware is considered the transformer so the surface of the burner cools down immediately after a pot is removed.

Because the cookware is the transformer not all cookware can be used on the induction cooktop. Aluminum, glass and ceramic will not work. You don’t necessarily need to go out and buy new cookware though. To test yours, see if a magnet will stick to it. If it does, it will work on your induction cooktop.

Using magnetic induction heats pans up more quickly than either gas or electric. This saves energy and time. Induction burners also respond immediately to temperature adjustments. If you raise or lower the heat you will see results right away.

As I mentioned before, the induction burner will not work if the transformer (the pot/pan) is not on top of it. That is especially advantageous if you have small children present. It is also a plus if you happen to spill something on the burner. Since the burner does not get hot the splatters do not burn. Many induction burners can also sense if there is nothing in the pot and they will turn off after 60 seconds.

Before I go out and purchase one there are several things I need to consider:

1 – how much do I intend to use it?

2 – how much counter space/storage space will it require: will I leave it out or tuck it away when I am not using it

3 – how much power do I need: some burners have more power levels built in and can reach higher temperatures

4 – what size: how many people do I regularly cook for? will I need double burners or will a single burner suffice

5 – budget: the sticker shock I initially experienced may reduce depending on how I answered the other questions about an induction cooktop

I was looking at portable induction burners but you can also purchase them as a built-in cooktop. I definitely think they are energy efficient and I like the fact they heat up quickly yet the burner itself does not get hot. I will wait and see how well  my son likes his and maybe even try his myself then decide if I think it is a worthwhile purchase for me.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Christmas gifts for Canners.

It may seem early but I have some ideas for Christmas gifts for the Canner in your life.  We get lots of calls this time of year from people that need a resource that has tested recipes.  The So Easy To Preserve canning book from the Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Georgia is a perfect gift.  All the recipes were scientifically tested and if the canner follows them exactly, they are guaranteed to have both a good and safe result.  This book is available through the UGA Marketplace on-line store.  If you purchase through the University of Georgia, the cost will be $20.00,which includes shipping and handling. 

So Easy To Preserve, our go-to book at AnswerLine.

Almost anyone with a hobby can use more tools.  Your canning friend may need an updated canner.  New canners are readily available this time of year and may even be on sale for the end of the season.  Remember that if you purchase a pressure canner with a dial gauge that the gauge should be tested yearly. Many county Extension and Outreach offices in Iowa perform the yearly tests. Call us at AnswerLine and we can help you find someone to test your gauge. Weighted gauge canners never need testing. Wide mouthed funnels make filling jars easier and headspace tools make it easy to have the correct amount of headspace inside of a jar. You may find these and other tools on sale, too.  

Often recipes call for amounts of vegetables by weight. A new digital scale that is easy to use and easy to clean would make a great gift. A new thermometer, digital and instant read can ensure your canning friends get ingredients to exactly the right temperature. These thermometers come in several styles. You can purchase a folding thermometer that has a thin probe, or a smaller one that can easily clip inside shirt pocket. Either one would be a handy addition to your canning friend’s tool kit.

While there are many other options for gifts, this list may help you get started finding something special for someone special in your life. Merry Christmas.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Safe Edible Cookie Dough

Edible Cookie Dough Peanut Butter Bites

An interesting question came from an AnswerLine friend. This person had received a recipe for making homemade cookie dough ice cream. Being aware that raw flour should not be consumed, this friend was delighted to find directions in the recipe for supposedly making the flour used in the cookie dough safe by baking the flour in a preheated 350F oven for 5 minutes on a sheet pan. Question: Did this really make the flour safe so that the cookie dough was safe to eat in the ice cream?

Since edible cookie dough is now such a popular trend, there are several internet sites that suggest the same or similar DIY methods to eliminate possible pathogens found in flour. However, none of the sites are researched based. While it makes sense that heating flour in an oven could eliminate the potential food safety issue, there is no research-based DIY directions for consumers to support that theory. Food safety experts advise against any of these DIY methods as there is NO guarantee that the flour will reach the desired 160F needed to eliminate food contaminates for an appropriate amount of time. Further, baking flour could possibly denature the protein strands in the flour resulting in a less desirable product.

Flour is classified as a minimally processed agricultural ingredient and is not a ready-to-eat product. Through the growing process, wheat can come into contact with harmful bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella via wild animal waste. If pathogens get into the wheat plant, they stay with the seed head in the milling process. When flour is used in baked products, the baking temperatures will generally inactivate any pathogens in the flour. However, harmful bacteria remain active in uncooked flour and when ingested will cause illness or worse.

So if one desires edible cookie dough, what are the options for safe “flours?” There are a couple of easy options:

Purchase commercially processed heat-treated flour. Heat-treated wheat flour is not generally available at our local supermarkets. Page House is one such brand and is available online. It is, however, a bit pricey.

Substitute oatmeal or oat flour. Flour is used in dough to add structure, not flavor. Oatmeal or oat flour is a good replacement as it is not dangerous to eat raw. Oat flour tends to also be a bit pricey but can easily be made by pulsing oatmeal in a blender or food processor. (Two cups of oatmeal will yield about 1 ½ cups of oat flour.) In the process of making oatmeal, the oat grain is heated to stabilize the oat groats and then it is steamed to flatten into oatmeal thus oatmeal is classified as a ready-to-eat product.

The other ingredient in cookie dough that can render cookie dough unsafe is eggs. Pasteurized eggs or no eggs at is the way to go. Peanut butter can also be used to replace eggs.

Here are two recipes that I make with my ‘edible-cookie-dough-lovin’ grand kids.

Peanut Butter Bites
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup add-ins (chocolate chips, raisins, dried fruit,
peanuts, chia seeds, M&’s, etc)
1 cup old fashioned oats
½ cup ground flax seed
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine all ingredients. Roll into balls.
Store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

Edible Cookie Dough
½ cup butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk
1 ½ homemade oat flour (see above)
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup add-ins (chocolate chips, peanut butter chips,
M&M’s, raisins, nuts, Reece’s pieces, etc)
Cream sugars, vanilla, and milk until fluffy. Add in oat flour and salt. Mix until all is incorporated. Stir in add-ins. Shape into balls. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator for up to a week. 

Enjoy cookie dough, but do it safely!

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Family Fun Making Apple Cider

The apples are getting ripe in our orchard and most of the varieties are producing nice, pest-free fruit this year. With an abundance of quality fruit, our family gathered over the Labor Day weekend to make ‘apple cider’.  Actually, for us, it was just fresh apple juice as we did not allow it to ferment.

We began by setting up the equipment (crusher and press) and making sure it was clean.  Then we headed to the orchard with buckets to pick apples from a variety of trees.  We like to use a mix of apple varieties as over the years we have found that the best cider comes from a blend of sweet, tart, and aromatic apple varieties. The grand kids were the taste testers to help determine if the apples on the various trees were ripe, firm, and sweet enough.  Green, immature apples give cider a flat flavor when juiced.

Apples for cider do not have to be flawless so apples with blemishes or of small size are okay.  We tried to avoid picking apples with spoilage.  However, if the spoilage was small and could be cut away, those apples made it into the cider press, too.  Spoilage will cause the juice to ferment rapidly and ruin it.

After picking the apples, we washed them in a big tub and then set about coring and cutting them into quarters.  For the most part this was a job for the adults and older kids.  As the apples were cut up, they went into the crusher.  After a sufficient amount of crushed apples had accumulated, the smaller kids help load the crushed apples into the press.  With the weights in place, the grand kids were allowed to take turns turning the ratchet handle and were thrilled to see the juice pour out of the press into a bucket.

Next we took the fresh juice into the house and squeezed it through a jelly bag to remove as many particles as possible.  Since it was our intention to not ferment the juice, we immediately pasteurized it by heating the juice to 160°F to eliminate the possibility of E coli or Salmonella poisoning.  After the juice had cooled for a while, we poured it into clean, recycled juice bottles.  There were lots of ‘yums!” as everyone sampled the warm juice before refrigerating it. Fresh juice or cider will keep in the refrigerator up to five days.  If there is more than can be used in that time, it should be frozen after chilling.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has additional information on making sweet, hard, or dry cider and turning apple cider into vinegar.

It was a great afternoon of family fun. In addition to making some great tasting ‘apple cider’, we made some great memories with the grand kids, too.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Salsa – Questions and Answers

With the summer gardens finally coming into season bringing an abundance of tomatoes, peppers/chilies, onions, and herbs, salsa making season is here! With it comes lots of questions to AnswerLine regarding how to make it safely. This blog will attempt to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

I made up my own recipe for salsa or got one from a friend. Can you tell me how long to process it? It is important to use a tested or researched based recipe when canning homemade salsa. The reason being, the ratio of low acid vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, onion and garlic) to acid (lemon juice, lime juice, or vinegar) has not been tested in a non-research based recipe. Recipes that have been tested will have enough acid to prevent the growth of the botulism bacteria and provide a safe product that everyone can enjoy straight from the canning jar. (Source: Homemade Salsa is a Science, Not an Art, Michigan State University)

Where do I find safe recipes for canning salsa? Creating a safe product that can be processed and stored on a shelf means having the correct proportion of acid to low acid vegetables to prevent the growth of botulism bacteria. The best way to ensure that the salsa is safe is to always follow a tested or researched based recipe. These recipes can be found at the National Center for Home Food Preservation, Land Grand University publications or blogs, The USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning, and So Easy to Preserve.

Can I make my own salsa recipe? Creating your own recipe is a possibility. However, instead of guessing at the processing time, freeze it or make just enough to be eaten fresh. Another alternative is to follow a tested recipe using the exact ingredients and processing time; when ready to use, add the black beans, corn, or any other ingredient that should not be used in a home canned salsa recipe.

Can I add more cilantro to my canned salsa than the recipe includes? Cilantro is best added to fresh salsa. It is not usually included in cooked recipes. Cilantro loses its fresh flavor when cooked and becomes dark and soft in the mixture. As mentioned in creating your own salsa, cilantro could be added at the time of using the canned salsa.

Do I have to use canning salt? Canning salt is recommended and should definitely be used with vegetable and pickle canning. However, in a pinch, one could get by with iodized or table salt with salsa. The product will be safe but one may detect a metallic or bitter flavor which may not be disguised by the spices or herbs used in the salsa. Also, table salt usually has an added anti-caking ingredient which may cause a slight cloudiness.

Can I substitute peppers? One should never increase the total volume of peppers in a recipe. However, substituting one variety of a pepper for another is perfectly fine.

Must I use the suggested spices? Spices are the only safe ingredient you may change in a tested recipe to adjust for flavor.

Does it matter what kind of onion I use? Like peppers, one should not increase the amount of onion specified in a tested recipe. However, red, yellow, or white onions may be substituted for each other.

Is it okay to use any size jar? The size of the jar can also affect the safety of the product. All tested recipes are canned in pint jars and one should not substitute another size and assume it is safe.

For more information on preserving homemade salsa, check out Preserve the Taste of Summer Canning: Salsa.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Juicing Grapes and Other Fruits

America’s favorite juice and jelly grape, the Concord, is ripe now.   We have a single vine that was planted a number of years ago by our daughter who gave it to her dad for Father’s Day.  It took a few years before it matured enough to harvest grapes; now many years later and with the right early-spring pruning and weather conditions, we have a large number of grapes to harvest and enjoy.  When the harvests were small, it was possible for me to turn what we harvested into a batch of grape jam or jelly for family or occasional gift use.  As my kids left and the harvest increased, it was no longer possible to easily use what we were harvesting for jam and jelly and it took too much time to make juice. 

In my quest to conquer the grape harvest, I learned about steam juicers.  After researching them, I purchased a stainless steel unit and haven’t looked back.  Steam juicers have three pots and a lid that stack on top of each other–water reservoir at the bottom, collection pan with funnel opening in the middle, and steam basket on top.  They work by stewing the juice out of the fruit. Water in the bottom pot is brought to a low boil, the steam funnels through the middle collection pan up and through the fruit in the steam basket at the top.  The steam does all the work. As the fruit heats up, the fruit juices are released and run down into the middle collection section of the juicer.  As the collection pan fills, the juice begins to run out of the unit through a silicon tube on the front of the extraction section to a collection vessel placed away from the unit.  The juice is clear, free of pulp, and is ready to drink, can, or freeze after it comes out of the steamer.  So easy!

The steamer saves so much time and effort.  After the grapes are picked, I wash the bunches and as I do so, I pull off any green or unripe grapes, leaves, and other debris that might be attached.  There is no need to stem, remove seeds or skins, or crush.  They are then packed into the basket and placed atop the middle extraction section with slowly boiling water below.  With the lid in place, the steam slowly goes to work.  There is no chance of over steaming the fruit; one just needs to be mindful of keeping sufficient water in the lower pot so that it doesn’t boil dry.  Extraction is complete when the fruit has completely collapsed; it is a good idea to let the collapsed fruit sit for awhile after steaming as juice will continue to be released for a long while after steaming.  If there is need to move on with another batch, the collapsed fruit can be placed in a colander on the counter and allowed to drain while steaming goes on with additional batches.

Directions one might find online suggest that the juice can be drained right into hot sterilized canning jars, capped, and left to cool on the counter.  This is not a good practice if the intention is put the juice on the shelf; doing so would be fine if the juice was to be used immediately or frozen.  To be shelf safe, fruit juices need to be processed in a hot water bath.  (For more information see National Center for Home Food Preservation.)

Since I do not have room in my freezer for all the juice I get, I need to prepare it for the shelf.  Instead of collecting the juice in sterilized jars, I collect all the juice in a large pot or pots.  After all the grapes have been juiced, I reheat the juice to near boiling, fill the sterilized canning jars leaving 1/4-inch head space, cap, and place in a boiling water canner for the appropriate time for my altitude.

Once the jars have cooled and sat for 24 hours undisturbed, the juice is read for future jelly making or as juice to drink.  Sugar can be added prior to or after canning if needed; it’s all a matter of personal preference.  I usually don’t add sugar to our grape juice as we like it as is.  However, my grand kids like it a bit sweeter so they add a little sugar to their individual glasses to suit their taste.  We also like it mixed with apple juice.  After the juice has cooled and set on the counter undisturbed for 24 hours, it is ready to go on my shelf.

The juicer is good for far more than grapes.  Just about any type of fruit works with a steam juicer; cherries, plums, apricots, blueberries, cranberries, apples, pears are just some suggestions.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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