How much is a stick of butter? M. Burston
You have been looking at those American cooking websites again, haven't you? American butter is sold in pound and half pound packs each divided into quarter pound units called sticks. One stick weighs 110 grams. Butter there is pale white as US cows are mostly raised in barns and don't get to eat grass which is full of beta carotene – it makes butter yellow. US cows may be given hormones to make them lactate longer. A stick of butter is perfect for deep frying as Abel 'Fried Jesus' Gonzales jnr proved at the 2009 State Fair of Texas when he won the most creative food prize for his novel buttery treat. God bless America.
Can I make glace cherries? P. Loughnan
My baking mate Phillippa Grogan refuses to buy glace cherries. "Look at the number of artificial chemicals that are in them," she says. She makes really good sugar-preserved cherries. She takes 500 grams of cherries, stalks on, and simmers them over very low heat with 500 grams of castor sugar and a tablespoon of water for 30 minutes with the lid on. She takes the lid off, gently stirs them and simmers them for another 30 minutes. She removes the cherries, reduces the syrup by half and returns the cherries then puts them and the syrup in sterilised jars.
We are having crayfish for Christmas. How do I kill it humanely? P. Baxter
What southern Australians call crayfish, the RSPCA, and almost everyone else, refer to as southern rock lobster. It recommends rendering the animal insensible in a freezer. The length of time will depend on their size. They go limp when they are insensible. Kill the animal using a large knife and cut in half lengthways starting at the head, then thorax and finally tail. The perfect way to cook a split lobster is on the barbecue grill. Season with salt and finish with extra virgin olive.
Letters, corrections and apologies
Recently, in regards to Christmas pudding, I commented that trying to get hold of suet was harder to find than Clive Palmer's waistband. I would like to unreservedly apologise to Mr Palmer and acknowledge that his weight has plummeted from 153 kilograms to 104 kilograms, as he stated in a recent newspaper puff piece. In it he claims he was eating 60 per cent meat in each meal but now, thanks to a pre-packaged home delivery service, he eats only 20 per cent meat. If any friends of Mr Palmer read this, may I recommend giving him a copy of My Year without Meat for Christmas. It is a truly entertaining read about giving up meat and the benefits to health and gaining an understanding of animal welfare in a non-judgmental way.
On slicing salmon one reader wrote, "I was shown by a Hasidic Scotsman at Blooms in Brick Lane to always slice smoked salmon long and horizontally. Gives a different and, may I say, wonderful melt in the mouth experience. Counter intuitive but very good." Smoke salmon master Tom Cooper, however, recommends cutting smoked salmon vertically to make little morsels of fish that sit perfectly on the tongue.
Merry Christmas from us all here at the Brainfood Institute