DEAR SOS: As holiday and house-warming gifts I would like to give herb-flavored vinegars. I would appreciate a recipe.
DEAR MARLA: You can use a mixture of herbs or vary the vinegars by using one strong-flavored herb, such as rosemary, thyme, marjoram, tarragon or mint. You can use any red or white wine vinegar, as well.
2 cups loosely packed fresh herbs of choice (use only 1 cup for stronger-flavored herbs)
2 cups vinegar
1 to 2 cloves garlic
Additional herbs for bottle garnish
Rinse herbs and drain well. Pat dry with paper towels. Place in clean jar. Fill with vinegar. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or jar lid. Let stand in cool place (60 degrees) for flavor to develop, about 3 weeks.
Strain through cheesecloth or fine sieve, discarding garlic. Let stand overnight (some sediment may develop in bottom of container).
Insert fresh herb sprig in sterilized bottle. Using funnel, carefully pour vinegar into bottle, avoiding including sediment. Makes 1 pint.
DEAR SOS: Can you provide me with a recipe for the Italian eggplant appetizer called Caponata? There is a canned version but I'd like to make my own.
DEAR JERRY: We have a recipe. You'll get a lot of mileage from this inexpensive dip during the holiday season.
1 large eggplant
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup diced celery
1/3 cup diced onion
3 tablespoons red wine
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can Italian tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup pitted black olives, chopped
Assorted crackers or vegetables
Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. Boil halves in water until tender, about 30 minutes, then drain. Remove pulp from shell, leaving about 1/2-inch flesh attached to shell. Reserve shells. Dice pulp, season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in skillet. Add celery and cook 10 minutes. Add onion and cook 10 minutes longer. Remove celery mixture and set aside.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in skillet. Stir in eggplant, wine, lemon juice, sugar, tomato paste, tomatoes and olives and heat through. Add reserved celery mixture and season to taste with salt, pepper and oregano.
Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until mixture is thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
Cool mixture slightly, then spoon into reserved shells, cover with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly. Serve as appetizer with assorted crackers or crisp vegetables. Makes 3 cups.
DEAR SOS: At one time I had your recipe for homemade mincemeat but unfortunately it was misplaced. Can you help?
DEAR JUNE: We're happy to get the recipe to you just under the wire. It's a mincemeat recipe from Merle Ellis, whose column "The Butcher" we print weekly. Although the directions say to let the mixture stand a month, you can use it almost immediately. Remove what you need and colorfully bottle the remainder to give as holiday gifts, if it suits you.
MERLE ELLIS' OLD-FASHIONED CROCK MINCEMEAT
2 or 3 pounds rump or bottom round
1 beef tongue, about 3 pounds
1 pound beef kidney suet
4 cups seedless dark raisins
4 cups seedless golden raisins
2 cups currants
1 cup diced citron
Diced peel of 2 large oranges
Diced peel of 1 large lemon
1 cup chopped dried figs
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 quart brandy
1 quart Sherry
Tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped
Simmer beef and tongue in enough water to cover until tender, about 2 hours. Remove and allow to cool.
Remove any fat from beef. Skin and trim tongue. Cut both into cubes and run, along with suet, through coarse plate of meat grinder. Add raisins, currants, citron, orange peel, lemon peel, figs, sugar, cloves, salt, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Mix well. Then add enough brandy to make nice gushy mixture.
Cover and let stand at least 1 month in refrigerator. Check after 1 week or so. If mixture has absorbed most of brandy, add enough Sherry to moisten again. Add brandy and Sherry alternately, as needed, to keep mixture moist.
Add 1 cup chopped tart apples to each 1 1/4 cups of drained mincemeat before using for mincemeat pies. Makes 1 1/2 to 2 gallons.
DEAR SOS: Some years ago I was served a delicious white cake made with caraway seeds. I was told the recipe came from The Times.
DEAR HOPE: It might have, since we have several such recipes, including this old-timer from our 1972 files.
8 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon mace
2 2/3 cups sifted cake flour
3 tablespoons caraway seeds
Powdered sugar, optional
Beat egg whites with salt and cream of tartar in large bowl of electric mixer until foamy. Gradually add 1 cup sugar and continue beating until very stiff. Set egg white mixture aside.
Using same beaters, beat soft butter with remaining 2/3 cup sugar in small bowl of electric mixture until creamy. Add vanilla and mace and gradually beat in 1 1/3 cups flour.
Add about 1/4 egg white mixture to butter mixture and mix thoroughly. Pour batter over remaining egg whites and sprinkle remaining flour over all. Gently fold together, being careful not to over-mix. Fold in caraway seeds.
Turn into well-greased and floured 10-inch tube pan or 12-cup fluted tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees 45 to 50 minutes, until cake pulls away from sides of pan and cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 to 15 minutes, turn out and cool completely on rack. Sprinkle cake with powdered sugar. Makes 16 servings.