Q: I have never frozen summer fruits before, but would like to try to this year. Most of the directions I have seen call for sugar syrup. Is it possible to freeze fruits without it?
A: Unfortunately, with the exception of fruits such as blueberries and cranberries, which can simply be washed, packed and stored, the results for most fruits are better if some sugar is used.
Sugar has several functions in freezing. It protects against oxidation, which not only brings undesirable changes in flavor and color but also inactivates vitamins. Sugar slows unwanted enzymatic changes which can occur during storage. And it retards the loss of fruit esters, which contribute to flavor. Ascorbic acid, incidentally, is also either mixed with sugar or added to the syrup as additional protection against oxidation and browning during storage and defrosting.
Since you are freezing fruits for the first time, you might want to call your county extension service, listed in your telephone book. It will provide more specific directions when you are ready to begin.
Q: The other day I made an impulse buy at a local take-out shop -- squid salad. To my utter amazement, even my son, who is less than 2 years old, enjoyed it thoroughly. Now I'm wondering what you can tell me about its nutritional value.
A: Perhaps the reason your young child took an instant liking to it was that he has never seen the animal whole -- or at least did not associate it with what he was eating. Admittedly, squid is not among the more glamorous creatures of the sea. Since it has a mild flavor and a texture not unlike that of clams, its unattractiveness may explain why it has never been popular in this country. Looks aside, it has much to recommend it.
Besides the fact that it is relatively inexpensive, squid is low in calories and rich in protein. It is also versatile. Four ounces of raw squid has only 95 calories (as many as you might get from a single ounce of fatty meat), one gram of fat, and more than 18 grams of protein, about one-third of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for an adult male.
Squid is served in many countries of the world, and in many ways. We suggest you turn to cookbooks featuring the cuisines of the Orient and the Mediterranean for ideas if you decide to prepare it yourself. (We advise, however, that if you are at all squeamish and can afford it, you pay to have the squid cleaned.) Once cleaned, it can be quickly and easily prepared. It can be stir-fried, Chinese style, with seasonings and vegetables, or stuffed with any number of ingredients and saute'ed or baked with white wine or tomato sauce. There are also recipes for squid sauce to be served over pasta.
While the more traditional dishes use onion, garlic, herbs and tomatoes, a quick version we saw recently included squid saute'ed with hot peppers and spinach. Squid can be added to fish stews. In a Genovese recipe it is simmered with herbs and potatoes. And there are numerous marinades and vegetable combinations which can be tossed together to create different taste effects.
For example, one recipe suggests seasoning the vinaigrette with mint and lemon and tossing the squid with lightly cooked green beans. With the warmer weather and the greater availability of fresh vegetables and herbs, now is the perfect time to learn how to use this most versatile of sea creatures.
Q: I was interested in your reply to a question about a new test for trichinosis. Can you tell me how common a problem it is in this country?
A: Fortunately it is not a major health problem in the United States, although it does cause a few deaths each year. In 1984 only 60 cases were reported to the Centers for Disease Control. But that is not the whole story. Most people who develop trichinosis attribute their symptoms -- which can last several weeks and include weakness, swelling, and intense muscle pain -- to the flu. Surveys of diaphragm muscles examined at autopsy indicate that the actual incidence of people harboring trichinella worms is about 4 percent of the population. And the true incidence of the disease lies somewhere between 1 and 3 cases per 1,000 people.
Until the new test procedures are in universal use, guaranteeing that our pork supply is 100 percent trichinella-free, the absolute safeguard against being one of the victims is to cook the meat to an internal temperature of 170 degrees.