curing salt

Curing Salt: More Than Just A Preservative

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.

Read more

Confectioners' Sugar Vs. Powdered Sugar

Confectioners’ Sugar Vs. Powdered Sugar: SPICEography Showdown

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. 

Read more

lemon zest vs lemon peel

Lemon Zest Vs. Lemon Peel: 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.

Read more

lemon zest substitute

What’s A Good Lemon Zest Substitute?

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.

Read more

nutritional yeast substitute

What’s A Good Nutritional Yeast Substitute?

Nutritional yeast is a great way to add cheesy, nutty notes to a variety of dishes. It is a dairy free seasoning that also happens to be highly nutritious. You can use it as a vegan substitute for Parmesan cheese and as a nutritional supplement; however, it may not be available on your local grocery store’s shelves. If you are having a hard time finding it and need some in a hurry, try one of these nutritional yeast alternatives.

Read more

cacao vs cocoa

Cacao Vs. Cocoa: SPICEography Showdown

Cacao and cocoa powder both come from the same plant. The difference between them has to do with how they are processed. The process for making cocoa powder involves raising it to much higher temperatures than those to which cacao is exposed. This results in two products with different characteristics, but how different are they? Do they taste the same? Can you use them in the same dishes? We will answer these questions and more in this edition of SPICEography Showdown. 

Read more

tomato powder

Tomato Powder: Sweet And Tangy

Tomato powder is made from dehydrated tomatoes, which are ground to powder. While the identity of the first person to make powdered tomatoes may be lost to history, what is known is that it the Aztecs were sun-drying tomatoes as early as 700 AD. The Aztecs salted and dried tomatoes to remove their moisture, which helped to preserve them for longer periods. Dried tomatoes were able to provide nutrition during seasons where it was impossible to grow and harvest fresh fruits and vegetables.

Tomato powder made from sun-dried tomatoes was widely used in Italy in the 19th century and was seen as preferable to canned tomatoes due to the risk of lead poisoning from the cans. Modern methods for making tomato powder include spray-drying, oven drying and freeze drying. Today, tomato powder is produced commercially in many places around the world including Israel and Niger. It is popular for the same reasons that the Aztecs dried tomatoes—long shelf life and versatility.

Read more

hibiscus powder

Hibiscus Powder: A Tart And Fruity African Spice

When discussing hibiscus, it is important to note that there are two different plants with that name and both of them have culinary applications. There is a flower of Asian origin that is used as a food coloring in Malaysia. This hibiscus is Hibiscus rosa-sinensis and it belongs to the mallow family. The hibiscus that is more common in the west and that is used as a powdered spice, tea and as a food coloring is Hibiscus sabdariffa. This hibiscus also belongs to the mallow family and most likely originated in Africa. Hibiscus sabdariffa is thought to have been domesticated in the Sudan 6,000 years ago. It was introduced to India and the Americas in the 17th century and to Southeast Asia at the start of the 20th century. The plant was cultivated for its fibers, which were used in making sugar sacks for the Indonesian sugar industry.

Read more