This week rendered many questions, some related to the column last week on peach ice cream, and other questions readers have on their minds. Today I will answer your questions. Please feel free to e-mail me with your culinary problems or questions — I always enjoy hearing from you and will attempt to answer them in a timely manner.
Q. Your recipe for ice cream called for fresh peaches, peeled and pitted. What is the best way to peel a soft fresh peach? Paring knife or vegetable peeler?
A. If I only have one or two peaches, I often will use a serrated vegetable peeler that is designed for tomatoes, peaches and other fresh fruit. If I have a larger quantity, I will dip them in boiling water for 30 seconds; then place in ice water to stop the cooking. The peeling will slip right off with the help of a small sharp knife. This hot-water method also works well for peeling tomatoes. Before dunking tomatoes in the boiling water, make a small “x” on the bottom. This helps in releasing the skin.
Q. Fresh peaches often turn dark after peeling. I have read that lemon juice will stop the dark color from forming, but it seems it makes my peaches taste lemony. Any other suggestions?
A. Peaches and many other fresh fruit such as bananas, apples and pears will oxidize once they are peeled and exposed to air. Lemon juice is effective in preventing dark coloration, but there is a commercial product sold usually with the canning supplies called Fruit Fresh. It is ascorbic acid and is very effective and basically is flavorless. Ascorbic acid is vitamin C — actually a natural product, harmless and good for you.
Also, you might try covering fresh-cut fruit with a lemon-lime carbonated drink. I’ve done that in a pinch. It contains ascorbic acid and will hold fruit for a short while. It is not quite as effective as the commercial product, but children will love apple slices dipped in their favorite lemon-lime beverage.
Q. Can you tell us what kind of ice cream maker you use? I have the old-fashioned kind, and it is fun, but it is too much trouble to use just for the two of us now that the children are gone.
A. There are several good brands of ice cream makers, and they are very similar. I happened to purchase a Cuisinart 2-quart ice cream maker with the bucket that goes into the freezer for several hours before using. These machines are available at the large warehouse stores and kitchen supply stores and retail between $49 and $79.
Q. I am making salsa from fresh tomatoes, and they are supposed to be seeded. Why is that important?
A. As you know, some tomatoes have more seeds and juice than others, depending on the variety. If the tomatoes are very juicy, the seeds will lend a bitter flavor to the salsa. Excess juice will thin down the salsa and may make it watery. To seed a tomato, cut it around the equator and gently squeeze to remove seeds and surplus juice.