Shell Hard Nuts with Hot Water, Keep Ginger Fresh with Sherry, and More Country Lore

Cook vegetables in chicken stock for better flavor, freeze ground beef in a bag for easy portions, try recipes for a homemade crackers and whole-wheat pancakes, clean spilled pie filling with salt, use the microwave to make cutting carrots easier, run hot peppers through a meat grinder when drying them, keep celery from turning gray, dissolve cloudiness from glassware, and other tips from MOTHER's readers.


Make tough nuts easier to crack with this handy reader tip.


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Cook Vegetables in Chicken Stock for Better Flavor

Vegetables taste much better when cooked in chicken stock rather than water, and a few tablespoons of the broth will enhance any stir-fried dish. Since such cooking calls for only small amounts of liquid, I no longer use quart jars to freeze homemade stock. Instead, I pour about a half cup of stock into each of 12 plastic sandwich bags that I've distributed among the compartments of a muffin tin. The tin goes into the freezer until the stock is solid, then the individual bags are kept frozen until needed. They take up very little room in the freezer, and if I want to thaw the stock before using it, that's easily done in the microwave oven.
—Laddie Nichols
, Lakeside, Arizona 

Shell Hard Nuts with Hot Water

I have a trick that makes it easier to shell black walnuts, butternuts and hickory nuts. I put them in a pail, cover them with hot water, lay a small rug over the top to keep the heat in, and let them stand for about two hours. After draining off the water, I put the nuts in a mesh bag (like an onion sack) and hang them to dry for half a day. The shells are thus softened, so they crack more easily, and I often am able to pick out the nutmeats whole, or at least in halves.

William J. Higgins, Little Valley, New York   

Freeze Food in Paper Cups

Have you ever looked into a cupboard that's overflowing with plastic storage containers and old glass jars, yet been unable to find a size just right for the food you wanted to freeze or refrigerate? I use various sizes of paper cups; they're inexpensive and disposable, and a wide selection can be stacked in a small space. I use them to freeze individual portions of ground meat, soups, stews and casseroles, as these defrost so much faster than large amounts. Frozen berries make a nice addition to a lunch box, keeping the contents cool while defrosting just in time for dessert. I use these cups for all sorts of storage, and though lids can be bought at restaurant-supply stores, I usually make my own with freezer-quality plastic wrap and rubber bands.
William H. Welsch, Lewiston, California 

Remove Grease Spots with Talcum Powder

My mother always kept a small tin of talcum powder in the kitchen. When any grease splattered on her clothes, she would sprinkle a little talcum on the spots. After 20 or 30 minutes she brushed off the powder, and the spots were gone too.Mrs. F. W. Brown, Nairobi, Kenya 

Freeze Ground Beef in a Bag for Easy Portions

How many times have you decided to have ground beef for dinner and realized that you waited too long and there's no time for it to thaw? Or maybe you pull out a solid two-pound lump, and your recipe requires only a pound. Next time you freeze any ground meat, put it in a large plastic bag with a zip closure. (A gallon-sized bag works well for up to three pounds of meat.) Flatten the meat evenly with a rolling pin, then squeeze out all the air and seal the bag. Make two deep creases across the meat, one lengthwise and one crosswise, dividing it into quarters. The thin patty will freeze and defrost quickly, and you can open the bag to break off a quarter if that's all you need.
Frances R. Ransom, Placentia, California 

Keep Ginger Fresh with Sherry

Chinese stir-fried meals make the delicious most of fresh vegetables, a small amount of meat and little oil—perfect for today's more nutritious eating. Many such dishes call for chopped gingerroot, which, though expensive, is used just a bit at a time. To keep it fresh for months, wash and peel a medium-sized root, cut it into one-eighth-inch slices, and place them in a clean glass jar, covered with dry sherry. Keep the ginger in the refrigerator, ready to use. The spiced wine also adds special flavor to marinades.
M. Waldsmith, Ridgecrest, California  

Whole Wheat Pancakes, Hot off the Griddle

I'll bet I flip the lightest, fluffiest whole-wheat pancakes ever made. I mix three eggs, two cups of milk, one-half cup of oil, one tablespoon of brown sugar and one teaspoon of salt in a blender for three minutes or until the liquid is frothy. Then I add two cups of whole wheat flour and one or two teaspoons of baking soda, and mix the batter by hand.Ralph Parillo, Bellflower, California  

Clean Spilled Pie Filling with Salt

A good fruit pie almost always bubbles over as it bakes, leaving the cook with a mess to clean up, whether on the oven floor or on a flat pan beneath the pie plate. While that juice is still sizzling, I pour salt over the spills. They then burn to a crisp and can be easily scraped up with a spatula.
Ruth E. Rhaesa, Overland Park, Kansas 

Make Cutting Carrots Easier

Warm whole carrots under hot water, or by putting them in the microwave for a few seconds, before making them into strips or slices. They'll cut more easily without cracking or breaking.
Mrs. Robert Spencer, New Carlisle, Ohio 

Hot Peppers through a Meat Grinder

A meat grinder is a great help when drying your own hot peppers. Just wash and de-stem the peppers, and put them through the grinder, using the largest blade. Wear rubber or plastic gloves if you touch the ground vegetables, as the juices will burn your skin. When prepared like this, the peppers dry quickly in a dehydrator, on a screen, or in a 135°F oven with the door partly open. Stir them occasionally while they're drying, and store them in airtight containers. Check the containers after a few days—if any drops of moisture have formed, repeat the drying process. For powdered pepper, put some of the dried chunks into a blender, and whiz them on high for two or three minutes.
Pamela F. Woodside, Lafayette, Louisiana  

Easy Homemade Crackers

It's easy to have "homemade crackers" on hand for guests and snacks. Just cut thin-sliced, dense bread (like Pepperidge Farm) into quarters, arrange the pieces in a single layer on cookie sheets, and bake them for one hour at 100°F. One loaf of bread makes dozens of crisp squares, which should be stored in an airtight container. These are delicious with all kinds of spreads, and they're economical too.Elizabeth Janes, San Francisco, California 

Keep Celery Green with Mayo

To save time when fixing meals, I keep chopped onions, carrots and celery on hand. When tightly covered, the onions and carrots store well in the refrigerator, but, within a few days, chopped celery will turn gray and unappetizing. My solution is to stir mayonnaise into the celery; it stays fresh for quite a while when refrigerated, and it's great to have that mixture to quickly turn out potato, macaroni, crabmeat and other salads.Ellene Christiansen, Owings Mills, Maryland 

Denture Tablets Clean Cloudy Glassware

Do you have vases, bottles or thermos liners that remain cloudy or dirty, even after being scrubbed with a brush? Try filling the container with warm water and adding two to four denture-cleansing tablets. When the fizzing stops, the glass will be clean and shiny.Michelle Kaptur, Bend, Oregon