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

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

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
–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
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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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

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