More vine time doesn't make a red pepper from a green one


September 21, 1994|By Rita Calvert | Rita Calvert,Special to The Sun

Q: I've read that red bell peppers are just green peppers that have had the added benefit of sitting on the vine to ripen and soak up more sun. However, a friend said that she bought seeds for red bell peppers. Which is the case?

A: Red bell peppers do not come from the same seed as green bell peppers. All bell peppers, regardless of the color they are destined to become, start out green in the immature state. Depending on the variety, they will turn red, orange, yellow, purple,brown, or remain green upon ripening. With the color change comes increased sweetness, higher vitamin content and softer texture. Basic green peppers are cheaper than the other colored peppers because they don't require such a long ripening period on the vine.

Q: I always thought the rule of thumb for cooking poultry was 20 minutes per pound. I recently cooked a 5- pound turkey breast for three hours until the meat was coming away from the bone. The center of the roast looked pink. Why? Was it undercooked or was the blood not drained after slaughter?

A: The National Turkey Federation addressed these questions by first advising a different baking technique to judge the doneness of turkey. For a 4-7 pound turkey breast, bake for 2-2 1/2 hours at 325 degrees. Most importantly, use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the muscle. The turkey is cooked when the thermometer reaches 170 degrees. Using these techniques, a very slight tinge of pink meat may be found next to the breastbone. Your roast was done since the meat was pulling away from the bone and in fact, the National Federation says that the biggest problem they hear is over-cooking turkey.

Q: Can you please tell me if it's possible to make soup from canned peas?

A: Most books do not recommend using canned peas as the base for soup. "The Joy of Cooking," by Irma Rombauer, however does suggest making a quick pea soup by starting with canned pea soup and adding broth and some seasonings. The classic French green pea soup, Potage St. Germain, calls for fresh hulled peas. You might try experimenting with frozen green peas which retain more fresh flavor than the canned variety in soup recipes. The trick would be not to overcook the peas so that they are still bright green.

We'd like to hear from you. Send your questions to: What's Cooking, c/o Food & Home, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. Or leave your questions by phone by calling Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800 (268-7736 in Anne Arundel County, 836-5028 in Harford County, 848-0338 in Carroll County). Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6180 after you hear the greeting. Although personal replies are not possible, questions of general interest will be answered in this column.

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