Question: I have a recipe that calls for simple syrup and I don't know what it is, where to buy it or whether I can make it myself. Can you help?
Answer: The syrup is often available where liquor supplies are sold, but you can also make it yourself using this recipe from the Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, Vol. 4 (Fawcett: 1966).
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 1/4 cups water
Combine sugar, corn syrup and water in large saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved.
When clear, wash down sides of pan with brush dipped in cold water. Cover saucepan for 5 minutes to allow steam to dissolve any remaining sugar crystals.
Uncover and increase heat. Boil, without stirring, 5 minutes. Cool, pour into jars and cover tightly. Store at room temperature. Makes about 2 2/3 cups.
Q: Why is it necessary to use rock salt when churn-freezing homemade ice cream? I tried making it without the salt and it didn't freeze, then added the salt and everything turned out fine.
A: Not only is salt necessary, but the proportion used in relation to ice makes a difference in the quality of the ice cream. In her book "The Complete Book of Homemade Ice Cream" (Bantam: 1974), Carolyn Anderson explains that salt causes ice to melt faster and increases the amount of heat the resulting brine can absorb from the ice cream mix.
Mable and Gar Hoffman, authors of "Ice Cream" (HP Books: 1981), warn that too much salt causes the mixture to freeze too quickly and results in grainy ice cream. Too little salt results in a soft, buttery mixture.
Because ingredients and temperature of the ice cream mixture, atmospheric temperature and other factors affect the freezing, it is impossible to give an ideal salt-to-ice ratio. Through experience, the Hoffmans have found that one cup rock salt to six pounds crushed ice works well. They also had success using 1 1/2 cups table salt with six pounds whole ice cubes.
Q: I would like to start substituting fresh herbs for dried in recipes. Is there a guideline?
A: Most sources recommend using two to three times more fresh herbs, so if a recipe calls for one teaspoon dried, substitute two teaspoons to one tablespoon fresh. It's best to start with the lesser amount and add more if needed. If possible, add fresh herbs during the last 15 minutes of cooking so they retain their flavor.