Dateline: August 2, 2003

We have a bunch of nice folk wanting recipes this month. Let's get to it.

V writes: Do have know a recipe for tomato preserves?

Hi V: Here's a German-style tomato preserve recipe I think you will like:

German-Style Tomato Preserves

Put tomatoes, sugar, sliced lemon and cinnamon in large, heavy pot and bring to slow boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. When foam rises to surface, add butter and continue stirring and simmering until preserves thicken, about 45 minutes. (To test, stick a fork into preserves. When preserves cling to tines of fork, it should be thick enough to can.) Pour preserves into sterilized jars, seal and process in hot water bath for 15 minutes. Makes 6 half-pints.
Dr. John

Burke writes: Dr. John! I've been entered in a chili cook-off. I have my recipe, but need to make 5 gallons of chili. What special equipment do I need? Big pot, burner. What else??? Help me, please!

Hey Burke: Nothing to it. You'll need a pot that will hold the five gallons and have room so it don't slosh out when you stir it. You'll need big spoon that will reach all the way to the bottom. Boat paddle works good. You don't need a real big burner.

You want to brown the meat in separate skillets or pans. You can handle two at once. Just do enough at a time so you can do it right. Don't overload yourself. Put the browned meat in the big pot and keep it simmering with a little water, Don't let it scorch on the bottom. Just keep doing this until all the meat is browned and in the big pot. Then you can add your spices and go from there.

The biggest pot of chili I had a hand in cooking was a little over two thousand pounds. By myself, I cooked two hundred pounds for a chili supper. Just take it easy and don't panic. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Benjamin writes Hi, Dr John. I live in France and cannot seem to find Monterrey Jack Cheese. Is there another name for it or what can be substituted? Thank you.

Hi, Benjamin: You can substitute Swiss or white cheddar for the Jack. The Jack doesn't have a lot of flavor. It just melts good and has good texture. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Marsielle writes: Hello, Dr. John. My grandmother made cakes every year for Christmas -- her version of fruitcake -- and called it Pork Cake. When she passed away, the recipe seemed to go with her. Neither of my aunts had the recipe and no one else made that type of cake. My mother had her own special fruitcake she made each year. Grandmother's Pork Cake was very dark and moist, and I always preferred it to anyone else's traditional fruitcake. Have you heard of this type of fruitcake?

Hi Marsielle: I found a pork cake recipe for you. It may not be exactly your grandmother's recipe, but it's a place to start. Here we go.

Pork Cake

1. Heat oven to 375F degrees. Grease an 8-inch square pan.
2. Place chopped salt pork in large bowl. Pour in the boiling water. Cool to room temperature.
3. Add baking soda to molasses, and stir until dissolved. Stir molasses mixture, sugar, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves into the salt pork. Add flour gradually and stir until just blended. Pour into pan.
4. Bake at 375F degrees for 1 to 1-1/4 hours or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Dr. John

Ross writes: I have experimented with a lot of fajita marinades, one that even called for Coke, soy sauce, garlic and lemon peeper. I have been to many restaurants in Texas and I live in Texas as well. Most Texas restaurants can serve up some pretty awesome fajitas. My main problem is that all of the marinades I have tried or found on the Internet have not been even close to what the restaurants serve up. Seems like the restaurants always comes up good and smokey and on the sweet side I also notice there may be a hint of spices in them as well. I would greatly appreciate it if you would give me some direction or a recipe to guide me because I'm almost at a loss now. And I have a bunch of people coming over to my house, and they want fajitas. So any recipes or recommendations would be great.

Hi Ross: That's a hard one. I'm not a big fajita fan. But first thing that comes to mind is next time you find some you really like, ask the cook what he uses for marinade. Most are happy to share their information especially if you compliment them on their product. I had a recipe for a really good marinade that I liked. Alas, it got lost over the years. From memory I can get you pretty close to it, though.

Put it all in a blender and puree it. Pour over the fajitas in a ziplock bag and let marinate at least four hours.

If this is close to what you want, you can add or subtract what you like and perfect the formula. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

LBESTMOM writes: I'm looking for a good picante sauce recipe for canning.

Hi LBest: Here's a genuine Texas recipe I think you will like.

Picante Sauce

Combine all ingredients and simmer 2-1/2 to 3 hours until thick. Pour while hot into sterilized jars and seal.
Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Bill writes: I am a great lover of food, have cooked for many years. Now I have decided to just cook on the grill. I have purchased a Brinkmann ProSeries Model 2700. It has six burners and is all stainless steel. I guess I need advise on baking cakes, pies and bread on a grill. I think that it is possible to use a grill for every aspect of cooking food. I live in northeast Arkansas, and I can grill all the year around. Would really welcome all the help I can get. Thank you.

Hey Bill: I don't see any problem with using your grill for baking as long as you can get the temperature up to about 350F degrees. The food doesn't know what kind of oven it's in. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

If you would like to direct a question to Ask Doctor John, e-mail it to John Raven, Ph.B.