Citric acid is a weak acid with quite a few culinary applications. It is used in cheese-making to acidify the milk and it is added to borscht to give it a tart note. Citric acid is also an effective preservative that you can find in many beverages. Due to its very specific and important role, it is not an ingredient that you can simply omit. To replace it, consider one of the citric acid substitutes below.
Curing salt’s role is to prevent food-borne illness and spoilage by killing microbes in the food it is used to preserve. The sodium nitrate it contains breaks down into sodium nitrite, which draws out the moisture that the bacteria need to survive. While the different types of curing salt are very effective for preservation, there are times when you may need a substitute. You may unable to find curing salt in stores near you or maybe you prefer to cure your meat without the use of nitrates. In either case, consider the alternatives below.
Carob’s origins lie in the eastern Mediterranean. From there, Spanish explorers carried it to the New World where it thrived in Mexico and South America. The British would take it throughout their empire as well, to areas that included South Africa as well as India and Australia.
Carob was used as far back as ancient Egypt and then in ancient Greece. The carob pod was the representation of the word sweet in Egyptian hieroglyphs and the Egyptians used the resin as an adhesive for binding mummies.
Throughout history, carob has been used as a food during famines due to the tree’s ability to resist drought and to survive in low-quality soils.
Today, a handful of countries produce most of the world’s carob. These countries include Spain and Italy.
Citric acid was discovered around the 8th century. According to historians, its discoverer was the Persian alchemist Jabir Ibn Hayyan. It would not be isolated until 1794 when a Swedish chemist named Carl Wilhelm Scheele discovered how to isolate citric acid from lemon juice. Scheele was the first to isolate a variety of acids, including tartaric acid. In 1890, the Italian citrus industry would become the basis of industrial-scale citric acid production.
The next big milestone in citric acid history occurred in 1893 and would come as a result of C. Wehmer’s discovery that Penicillium mold could be used to make citric acid from sugar.
Salt has been used as a preservative for much of human history. The first recorded use of salt in meat preservation actually began with the ancient Sumerians around 3000 BC. The Sumerians were the first recorded people who salted and dried meat for curing purposes. Salt with nitrite was also used to preserve meat by the ancient Greeks; however, their use of it was not deliberate as they were unaware of the presence of nitrite since it was an impurity in the salt. The ancient Romans would learn of curing meat from the Greeks and would note the reddening effect of the nitrite but no one would understand its role until much later in history.
Curing salt is also known as Prague Powder or pink salt; however, it is not to be confused with pink Himalayan salt and should not be used in the same way. If you were to look up recipes containing it, you would find that many specifically refer to it by the Prague powder name rather than as curing salt. While there are many who speculate that Prague powder came from the city of Prague in the Czech Republic, its roots (and the roots of the name) are much less exotic. Curing salt was actually invented at the start of the 20th century as scientists identified the nitrites that could be used to preserve meats. Salt was also used during the Middle Ages in Europe, where salt beef became a popular food.
In some contexts, the term powdered sugar is used to indicate all forms of refined sugar that have been ground or powdered. In other words, it encompasses any sugar with a fine grain including confectioners’ sugar. Confectioners’ sugar is a powdered sugar though not all powdered sugar is confectioners’ sugar.
In other cases, confectioners’ sugar may refer to a specific fineness, or the extent to which the sugar has been ground. The fineness of sugar is denoted by a number between 3 and 10 followed by an X. The higher the number, the finer the grind. Confectioners’ sugar is 10x sugar. Note that not all packages of sugar will have the fineness of the grind indicated on the label. Let’s review more of the similarities and differences between confectioners’ sugar and powdered sugar in another SPICEography Showdown.
Lemon peel and lemon zest are both great ways to add the flavor of lemon to a dish. The lemon flavor and fragrance come from the oils in the skin, which include the compound limonene that is responsible for much of the smell and taste. What is the difference in flavor between lemon peel and lemon zest? How are they used differently? Read on for the answers to these questions and more.
Lemon zest is one of the best ways to add the flavor of lemon to dishes. Use it to flavor everything from lemon chicken to lemon meringue pie. While it is a versatile fruit, it is also perishable; as a result, you may not always have lemons on hand. If you run out of lemons and need to add lemon flavor in an emergency, consider one of the options from our list of lemon zest substitutes.