Question: I want to make the peach mirror cake recipe featured recently in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, but it calls for kirsch, an ingredient I'm not familiar with. What is it and where is it available?
Answer: Kirsch is a clear, cherry-flavored brandy. "Brandies and Liqueurs of the World" by Hurst Hannum and Robert S. Blumberg (Doubleday: 1976) classifies kirsch as an eaux-de-vie , or true fruit brandy. In Germany and Switzerland those products are called wasser , so the bottle could be labeled kirschwasser. If the supermarket liquor department doesn't carry kirsch, check with a liquor store.
Q: I cooked some fresh tomatoes and added milk to make cream of tomato soup. It curdled. What should I have done to prevent that from happening?
A: There is always a risk of curdling when milk is added to an acid food, such as tomatoes. Sylvia Rosenthal and Fran Shinagel in their book, "How Cooking Works" (Macmillan: 1981), recommend adding hot tomatoes to hot milk to be sure of a creamy, smooth result. A small amount of thickening, such as flour, added either to the tomatoes or to the milk before they are combined also will help to stabilize the fat molecules and prevent curdling.
Q: Is there such a thing as apple butter without added sugar?
A: Judy & Toby's Apple Butter is produced with no added sugar and can be used, according to the manufacturer, by most diabetics as part of their fruit exchange. If calories are a concern, it has nine per teaspoon. The product is distributed by Certified Grocers in Los Angeles and is available at many specialty food stores.
Q: Recently you reported there was no such thing as a cholesterol-free egg. I have heard the eggs of the Araucana chicken, or Easter egg chicken, are very low in cholesterol. Is that true?
A: Once again we checked with representatives of the American Egg Board. They tell us this information is false, that the colored eggs of the Araucana chicken are actually higher in cholesterol than those of other chicken breeds.
The board cited several studies, including one by Dr. Frank Cunningham of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. Cunningham confirmed that his study showed a significantly higher amount of cholesterol in the yolks of Araucana chicken eggs.
Eggs for the study were collected from all parts of the United States. Although it should be noted that cholesterol levels of individual eggs can vary slightly, the study found 1,315 milligrams of cholesterol per 100 grams of Araucana egg yolk versus 1,163 milligrams for white-shelled egg yolk and 1,255 for brown-shelled yolk. White-shelled eggs were obtained, almost exclusively, from White Leghorn chickens; the majority of brown-shelled eggs were from Plymouth Rock chickens.
Q: Last weekend my son-in-law refused to eat pork fajitas because he felt they weren't cooked long enough to kill food bacteria. The meat market where I bought the meat has an excellent reputation and the pork was sliced very thin. The pork, along with the tomatoes, green peppers and onions, was cooked in a wok at 425 degrees for three minutes by the stir-fry method. We have had this several times and the pork appears to be cooked. Do you have any information about this?
A: The National Pork Producers Council is confident that very thin slices of pork cooked at 425 degrees for three minutes will reach more than the 137-degree temperature needed to destroy any Trichinella spiralis parasite that may be present in the meat. Today's pork is much leaner and cooks more quickly than in years past.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service now recommends cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, lowered from the former recommendation of 170 degrees. Cutlets and three-eighths-inch chops should become tender and juicy in 10 to 15 minutes. Thicker, one-inch chops will cook in 15 to 20 minutes. A pork roast should be taken from the oven or grill when the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees, since it will continue to cook before slicing.
Address questions on food preparation to You Asked About . . ., Food Section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Personal replies cannot be given.