Question: In this column on Oct. 9 you answered a query about calamari steaks. You said they are filleted and tenderized squid. Could you possibly expand on this? I have never seen a squid large enough to make one of the calamari steaks sold in the supermarkets. Are they some kind of special squid, or is the process similar to the one where they make the imitation crab? Many thanks for any additional light you can throw on this subject.
Answer: Dixie Blake of Ocean Garden Products Inc. in San Diego tells us there are almost 400 different species of squid. The Monterey squid often seen in markets only weigh about eight ounces, but calamari steaks are cut from much larger varieties, weighing four to five pounds. After removing the heads and tentacles, the cylindrical bodies are cut vertically and opened flat. Machines cut the oval shape and tenderize the squid before freezing.
Squid cutlets are similar in appearance to the steaks, but are made from the small pieces of squid left after the steaks are cut, along with other fish. The seafood is minced, then formed into the cutlet shape by machine. According to Blake, neither the steaks nor cutlets contain any imitation ingredients or additives.
Q: I would like to know where I can purchase or how to make raspberry and other types of fruit vinegars. Many recipes call for them and I have not been able to find any in local stores.
A: Fruit-flavored vinegars are available at Williams-Sonoma and other specialty stores throughout Southern California, including Irvine Ranch Markets and Gelson's Markets. The best time of the year to make your own fruit vinegars is summer, when fresh fruit is available. Tuck away this recipe from "Fancy Pantry" by Helen Witty (Workman: $11.95, 1986) and you'll be ready when fresh raspberries are available. The book also has several other recipes for fruit vinegars.
RED RASPBERRY VINEGAR
8 cups raspberries
3 cups white wine vinegar, rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar
Seal 4 cups raspberries in freezer container and freeze. Rinse remaining 4 cups berries and drain well.
Crush rinsed raspberries and place in sterilized, well-drained, heat-proof 2-quart jar. Add vinegar and cover. Set jar in deep saucepan and fill pan with water halfway up jar. Set over medium heat and bring water to boil. Reduce heat, but keep water simmering 20 minutes. Remove jar and set aside, uncovered, to cool contents.
Cover jar of berries and vinegar with lid and store at room temperature 2 weeks, shaking daily.
Thaw reserved berries. Place in bowl and crush. Strain vinegar from jar through fine sieve over crushed berries, pressing old batch of berries lightly to extract juice. Discard pulp in sieve.
Return vinegar and new raspberries to jar and repeat scalding operation described above. Let vinegar stand at room temperature 2 weeks, shaking daily.
Strain vinegar from berries through sieve lined with fine-meshed nylon net or 2 layers dampened cheesecloth, pressing berries lightly to extract juice. Discard pulp.
Line funnel with filter paper. Dampen paper and set funnel over sterilized, dry jar or bottle. Filter vinegar through funnel. Cap or cork container and store in cool, dark cupboard or pantry. Vinegar may develop harmless sediment during standing. Filter again for sparking-clear product.
Note: Raspberries may be purchased 4 cups at time, if desired.
Address questions on food preparation to You Asked About . . ., Food Section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Personal replies cannot be given.