THE WASHINGTON POST – The Washington Post Food staff and cookbook author Cathy Barrow recently answered questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: I picked wild black raspberries that grow near my house and made jam with them. The jam hasn’t set. To make it, I followed the instructions for making raspberry jam that were included with the liquid pectin package. Because black raspberries have an abundance of seeds, I strained half of them. I was careful to measure everything precisely and didn’t add extra fruit or reduce the sugar. Any suggestions for fixing this?
A: Seedy berries are an issue for so many people. But getting the seeds out takes some care. Fruit pressed through an aluminium sieve will not set up in jam – it has to do with the fruit’s cell structure and natural pectin; metal sieves will compromise the acidity of the jam.
If you don’t have a food mill, use a cheesecloth lined colander and capture seeds by gently pressing on the fruit. Yields from seedless jams will be one or two jars less than jams with seeds.
Of course, if you have a wild black raspberry patch, it might be worth it to get a food mill. They’re also indispensable for tomato canning, to remove seeds and peels. (Cathy Barrow)
Q: When fruit gets fuzzy, as mine does overnight, do you throw away the whole thing (strawberry, nectarine, whatever) or cut away the bad part?
A: I usually cut away bruised spots, but if mold and fuzz are evident, I throw it out. But let’s address why your fruit is molding overnight. Are you leaving it out? Most fruit, if ripe, should be refrigerated or eaten. Ripen stone fruit on the counter in a basket, to keep air flowing. To keep berries fresh for a week, take them out of the counter and spread them out on plate lined with paper or cloth towels in a single layer and cover and refrigerate. One bad apple really does spoil the whole bunch, so remove any moldy or bruised fruit from the fruit basket. (CB)
Q: I’ve heard on food TV and elsewhere that you should boil and salt water, add raw shrimp and cook for three minutes or so. Does that three minutes begin as soon as you add the shrimp or after the water comes back to the boil?
A: This is how I do it, if I am cooking shrimp to use in another recipe: To cook the shrimp, peel and devein them, removing the tails. Bring a medium pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the shrimp and return to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and poach the shrimp until pink and curled, two to three minutes. Test a shrimp to see that it is done and opaque throughout, then drain. To stop the cooking here, you can briefly put the shrimp in an ice bath. Cooking time may vary with the size of the shrimp.
If I am cooking them in the shell to be eaten with sauce, for example, I would highly season the water and allow the shrimp to soak it in for a longer time to pick up that flavour. In this case, I’d add the shrimp in the shell, cover and bring back to a boil. Stir and check to see if shrimp are rising to the top of the pot. If so, take one and check to see if the shell is beginning to separate from the meat.
If not, allow to boil for another minute. Check again.
If so, remove the pan from the heat and let the shrimp soak, taste-testing for seasoning every few minutes until they are well-seasoned. When ready, I’d drain them. I would not rinse them or put them in an ice bath in this method. (Ann Maloney)