The Washington Post staff recently took to the web to answer readers’ questions about all things edible. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: I made marmalade recently, but it never set into a gel. I’ve canned it already, but I’m giving half a thought to opening the cans and recooking the marmalade. I have some fruit pectin on hand, so I could add that to the mix and then re-can it into clean jars once it’s a bit thicker. Do you think that would work? (If not, all is not lost — I’ll just serve it over ice cream or pound cake and call it a sauce.)
A: Sometimes the set is looser than you might expect to find in grocery-store marmalade. Be aware that citrus marmalade can take as long as a month to fully set, so you could simply wait. Or you could reopen the jars and cook it down further, which will set the jam. (Set is achieved when the water is cooked out of the mixture.) Cook it on high heat, with a steady boil, stirring carefully so it does not scorch. (I would not try to add pectin, at this point.)
Q: I have not eaten any type of meat in 45 years, so I wind up skipping meat-based recipes I’d otherwise like to try. Would it work to substitute a similar amount of tofu?
A: It depends on the recipe. Tofu is very different from meat, and there are many different types of meats — and many different types of tofus. If what you’re considering is a sauce-on-pan-fried-meat recipe, you could certainly pan-fry firm tofu (preferably after marinating it) instead. You can also try crumbling tofu and treating it like ground beef.
Q: How should I clean my new baking stone? I’ve used it for both pizza and bagels and they turn out great, but the bagels are picking up the olive-oil fragrance from the pizza dough.
A: Scrub your stone with soap and water to get those smells out. I’ve also rubbed mine with cut lemons. Once it’s clean, make a promise to yourself to bake your pizza and bagels on parchment paper.
Q: I have a couple of recipes that call for canned whole tomatoes, which I am then instructed to crush with my hands or the back of a spoon. Is there a reason it’s still preferable to use canned whole tomatoes, rather than simply canned crushed tomatoes?
A: I’m with you; it has never made any sense to me to purchase whole tomatoes when the next step was to crush them. However, some recipes will call for just the tomatoes, drained, without the juices in the can. In that case, I opt for canned whole tomatoes. (Someone in my household doesn’t like “big pieces of tomato” in his soup/chili/pasta sauce, so I use home-canned crushed tomatoes for almost everything.)
Q: I make my own niter kibbeh, an Ethiopian spiced clarified butter. Three pounds of a nice-quality butter plus spices turns into 3-plus cups of liquid gold. Because I hate to waste the rest of the butter — the spiced-milk solids and the foam that I skim off the top while cooking — I’m looking for ideas. I do strain out the spices themselves, but can you suggest a way to enjoy the lovely flavors in the non-ghee outputs of the process?
A: How about spooning the solids and the foam onto roasted vegetables? I’m thinking carrots would be nice. And/or onto rice or pasta?