Dear Readers: Guess what I found lurking in my pantry? A bottle of NATURAL RICE VINEGAR with algaelike growth floating in it.

The manufacturer was very helpful with answers to my questions. First and most important: It’s NOT harmful!

The feathery looking blobs floating around are called “mothers,” which the manufacturer says are harmless, and the vinegar is still safe to use. The representative said a mother is a healthy bacterium that grows after packing. Apparently, many types of vinegar found in stores contain “mothers.” A mother forms when the vinegar contains nonfermented sugar and/or alcohol. It is more commonly found in unpasteurized vinegar.

You can still use the vinegar with the “mothers” in it, or simply strain them out before use. I have at least five large gallon jugs around and never had a problem with these -- only the exotic types. -- Heloise



P.O. Box 795000

San Antonio, TX 78279-5000

Fax: 210-HELOISE



Dear Heloise: I have a new recipe that calls for cake flour. All I can find in the market is all-purpose and self-rising flours. Any suggestions on what I can use to make cake flour? -- Lillian H., Joplin, Mo.

Absolutely! Here is an easy recipe for cake flour: Take 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 tablespoons of the flour and add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Mix together using a whisk or a fork. Now, simply use as directed in your recipe! -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: Recently, you had a letter about someone who opened cans of beans from the bottom to make it easier to get all the beans out.

Instead, I put all of my canned goods on the shelves upside down. It is still easy to read the labels, and it eliminates digging the product out of the bottom of the can. It also keeps the top of the can much cleaner.

When I pick up a can, I automatically turn it right side up before I open it, and some cans can be opened only from the top. I run a dishcloth around the rim to clean it, but there is never any accumulated dust down in the crevices. -- Wally G. in Ohio


Dear Readers: Where do you keep a can of vegetable shortening — in the refrigerator, or in the pantry? You can keep it in either place, but it is recommended by major manufacturers to store it in the pantry.

If it is very hot where you live and the pantry is warm, you may prefer to store it in the refrigerator. Just remember to let it warm to room temperature before using it. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: Since this is the age of the mug, saucers are not used very much. I use my saucers as spoon rests. The recessed area is perfect for the spoon, and after using one, I just put it in the dishwasher, and it is ready for the next time. Thank you for your great work on behalf of modern-day people looking for new ideas. -- Debbie Y. in Texas

Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Please include your city and state.

, King Features Syndicate