Question: I've been buying hummingbird nectar for my feeder at a pet store. Is this something I could make myself?
Answer: A neighbor who has a hummingbird feeder tells us you simply need to combine four parts water with one part sugar in a saucepan and heat it until the sugar dissolves. Cool, then add red food coloring, if desired.
Q: What is the difference between tomato sauce, tomato puree and tomato paste?
A: The late Helen McCully gives this explanation in her book "Nobody Ever Tells You These Things" (Holt, Rinehart and Winston: 1967).
"They are alike in two respects: they are all made from fresh tomatoes, and they are all used as an ingredient in cooking. They differ in concentration of flavor, consistency and seasonings.
"Tomato sauce, which is of pouring consistency, is seasoned with salt, pepper and spices; tomato paste, the most concentrated tomato product produced, has only salt added; tomato puree, with about the same consistency as tomato sauce, is unseasoned.
"All three products can be used interchangeably if flavor concentration and consistency are taken into consideration. For example, one (eight-ounce) can of tomato sauce can be used instead of one cup puree; one (six-ounce) can of tomato paste mixed with one cup water is about the equivalent of two (eight-ounce) cans of tomato sauce."
Q: Our plum tree is absolutely overloaded with fruit. We've given it to everyone we know and still have lots more. Is there a simple way to freeze plums?
A: "The Ball Blue Book, the Guide to Home Canning and Freezing" (Ball Corp.: 1986) gives the following alternatives:
"Select firm, ripe fruit, soft enough to yield to slight pressure. Wash, halve and pit. Prepare in one of the following ways:
"Sugar Pack: Mix five parts fruit with one part sugar. Allow to set until sugar is dissolved. Pack in can or freeze jars or plastic freezer boxes. Seal, label and freeze.
"Syrup Pack: Prepare 50% syrup. (For medium or 50% syrup, use 2 1/2 cups sugar to two cups water.) Pack the fruit in can or freeze jars or plastic freezer boxes and cover with syrup. Seal, label and freeze.
"Whole (No-Sugar): Pack the washed and drained plums in plastic freezer bag, attempting to fill all space. Seal, label and freeze."
Q: I've been reading the articles cautioning against consuming recipes with raw eggs and it brings a question to mind. My children like nothing better than to taste cookie dough or clean the bowl after I make muffins. Is this now unsafe due to the raw egg in the dough and batter?
A: Recent outbreaks of food-borne illness caused by raw eggs contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis have prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to issue a bulletin recommending consumers avoid eating raw eggs and foods containing raw eggs. This would include raw doughs and batters as well as such recipes as Caesar salad, homemade blender Hollandaise sauce, homemade mayonnaise, ice creams made with uncooked batters containing raw eggs and homemade eggnogs made with raw eggs.
Address questions on food preparation to You Asked About ..., Food Section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Personal replies cannot be given.