By Anne B. Adams and Nancy Nash-Cummings
DEAR ANNE AND NAN: A friend of mine came back from Italy with a glob called a ''mother'' for starting red wine vinegar. How do I go about starting a mother for this purpose? - TED PUCCI, Kingsford, Mich.
DEAR TED: ''The New Food Lover's Companion'' (Barron's Educational Series Inc., 1995) describes the mother of vinegar as a ''slimy, gummy substance made up of various bacteria - specifically mycoderma aceti - that cause fermentation in wine and cider and turn them into vinegar.'' The book says the growth of the mother is best fostered in a medium-warm (60-85 degrees F) environment, and that it should be put in a new mixture or discarded once the liquid has turned to vinegar.
So it seems to us that the answer is to put an opened bottle or red wine in a warm place and check for a mother to form. Dear Readers, do you have any other ideas?
DEAR ANNE AND NAN: I would like to buy a waterproof rain barrel to save rainwater in, but I have not been able to locate one. Would you know where I might be able to purchase one? - PAM PAULSON, Grand Island, Neb.
DEAR PAM: An old-fashioned, paraffin-lined, 40-gallon oak rain barrel is available from the Cumberland General Store. It's item number 0242 and costs $130.75 plus shipping. To order, call (800) 334-4640.
A newfangled Slim-Profile rain collector is available from the Gardner's Supply catalog. It's rectangular (48 inches high by 17 inches wide by 8-3/4 inches deep) and sits right next to a wall. It's made of recycled polyethylene and holds 26 gallons of water; it's item number 31-642 and sells for $150. to order, call (800) 955-3370, or visit their Web site at: www.gardners.com
FEEDBACK: GETTING THE MUSTY SMELL OUT OF CLOTHES - Jean Scarlett of Grand Island, Neb., solved this problem by putting a few clothes in the washer and filling it with water. She then poured in a 46-ounce can of tomato juice and added detergent. ''It works,'' she writes.
STUMPED: NYLON SHEETS - We have readers with post-polio syndrome and bad backs who are looking for these. Our sources no longer carry them. Can someone come to our rescue?
STUMPED AGAIN: POTATO CRUST - Ruby Kenny of Myrtle Creek, Ore., is looking for this recipe. The ingredients Ruby remembers are cold mashed potatoes, flour and salad oil.
Write to ''Ask Anne & Nan'' at P.O. Box 240, Hartland, VT 05048. Questions of general interest will appear in the column. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.