Q. I boiled a turkey carcass to make some broth. After one hour of simmering my white enameled saucepot was stained with a pink line. Could it be an additive in the feed, like a colorant? Only bleach removed the pink line.
A. Marigold petals are incorporated into chicken feed to make subcutaneous fat yellow. Purdue chickens are one example: yellow, raw birds look healthier to the consumer than do pale birds. There is no need, however, to attempt to make flesh pink, as it already comes that way.
The pink color you have witnessed is more likely from nitrosomyoglobin. This is a derivative of the pigment myoglobin we animals synthesize in each muscle cell. We use it to transfer oxygen from the blood into the areas of the cell where respiratory reactions occur. What has happened is probably this: you roasted the bird in a gas oven. When organic substances such as natural gas burn, they produce nitrogen oxides. These react with the myoglobin in the cells just under the skin of the animal. That's why turkey breast looks pink at the surface. If you do not have a gas oven, then the nitrogen oxides are coming from another source.
As you boil the skin and bones for soup, these pigments are gradually extracted from the cells and, being more fat-soluble than water-soluble, they float in the fat layer at the top of the pot. The enamel, being composed of metal oxides that are by nature reactive, binds those pigments. Bleach is a strong oxident and would cause the disintegration of the pigments and consequent loss of color.
Q. The Crock-Pot has been in constant use in our two-person household for years now. We use it for making stews of all kinds. We eat two portions, then freeze the remainder in boilable plastic bags. When reheated, however, the originally smooth gravy invariably turns watery and thin. Why?
A. You are faced with a problem that the food industry solved years ago. The solution, however, is not available to anyone but a food company.
What you need is a modified starch. Food chemists discovered years ago how to cross-link starch molecules. This prevented a reaction called retrogradation, which is responsible for your watery, reheated stews.
The starch molecule -- if it were visible -- would resemble a tree. Portions of it are linear and unbranched, like the trunk. Other portions are heavily branched, like the treetop. When starch absorbs water, a process called gelatinization, the branched portions bind water molecules and thicken the sauce. If you freeze, then thaw the sauce, however, the trunk of linear portions stack on top of each other and the branched portions lose their ability to hold the water. The water leaves the starch molecules and the entire solution turns thin again. It has retrograded.
Cross-linking the starch molecules prevents the trunk portions from stacking when the sauce is thawed. The ability to resist freezing and thawing is called "freeze-thaw stability."
The starch industry -- jealous of its secrets and not seeing a lucrative market -- won't sell the starch unless it's combined with other ingredients. Bakers, for example, use instant custard mixes with starches that have freeze-thaw stability.
The only solution I see is to use a starch-thickened, canned soup. But you'd have to use so much that its flavor would predominate. By the description of the stews you enjoy, I don't think you'd seriously consider using canned soup.
Q. I don't drink alcohol, nor do I want it in my fruitcakes. Every recipe seems to call for rum or whiskey as a "marinade" for the candied fruit. Is there some way (an extract, perhaps) of getting rum or whiskey flavor without the alcoholic "kick"?
A. The alcohol -- rum or whiskey -- is quite unnecessary for softening candied fruits; they come soft enough. Furthermore, I haven't tasted a fruitcake into which or whiskey was baked that showed the liquor's flavor. There are so many other, more powerful flavors, such as ground cloves and allspice, that mask the rum and the whiskey. Instead, the liquors contribute to a flavor blend. Leaving them out would -- at the worst -- alter flavor a tad. Hence, no use using extracts, whose flavors are deficient, to say the least. If the amount of liquor used is more than 2 tablespoons, substitute another liquid -- say a fruit juice such as apricot nectar.
Some diehard fruitcake bakers wrap their products in cloths soaked in liquor. Then, of course, the alcohol makes a tremendous difference in flavor. For that purpose, there would be no effective substitute.