No cupboard is complete without salt and pepper. But do you take these two basic flavors for granted? Cloverfields Farm & Kitchen's Janine Washle is showing the variety of flavors and uses of the world's oldest spices.
Salt and pepper, two ingredients that have stood the test of time since before Christ. Essential ingredients in just about everything that comes out of the kitchen, these two have a history not just in the kitchen but in religion, commerce, even wars around the world.
Salt has been a part of history since before Christ dating back to 6,050 BC. The first recorded accounts of salt's use in commerce, religion, even medicine date back to 2,700 BC. Salt was so important to ancient cultures that it was used as part of the pay for Roman soldiers. In fact, the word "salary" was derived from the Latin prefix "sal" and even the word "salad" ties back to Romans who made large platters of greens and salted them before eating. The words "sausage" and "sauce" have their origins in salt, as well.
Salt is essential to the success of many recipes especially baking recipes. Salt keeps yeast in check, promotes browning, acts as a bridge between flavors, enhances sugar by keeping it from being too cloyingly sweet. Salt acts as a binder in processed foods by extracting the proteins of meats and cheeses to make a cohesive mass like sausage and cheese. Without sale, it would be nothing more than meat bits and cheese curds without the interaction of salt.
Today there is much interest in different types of salt. Most of them have minerals that provide color and a subtle taste in addition to the salty flavor. Salt itself is a mineral not a spice. In fact, it is a rock; the only rock humans eat. Spices come from the bark, pods, seeds, of plants and herbs come from leaves. Some salts like gray salt gain their color from limited refinement plus the mineral content.
In addition to colored salts as determined by the natural elements within the salt, salt blends are very popular today. Salt blends work well because they can be customized to the style of cooking a family enjoys. If a family grills a lot, a hearty salt blend using red pepper, coriander, and parsley in addition to the salt would be nice to have on hand. Salt mixed with a bit of water then patted over meat like a whole chicken creates a moist roasting environment. Afterwards, the salt crust is cracked and removed while small salt particles cling to the flesh and season it.
Salt is even used in desserts with vanilla salt being particularly trendy. Caramel is a popular dessert component that benefits from salt. A few grains of salt on a candy or frosting cut the intense sweetness of caramel allowing the tongue to taste other subtleties of the dish. Salt's partner in the kitchen is pepper. Whereas salt stimulates saliva in the mouth thus activating enzymes that prepare for digestion, pepper's bite gives a person a quick hungry feeling in their stomach. Even though they may not actually be hungry, pepper's sharp taste sends a message from the brain to the stomach that it is time to eat.
Pepper is a spice that grows on a vine that originated off the coast of India. It is the oldest and most widely used spice having been cultivated around 1,000 BC. It is an essential ingredient in Indian cuisine, as well as many Asian dishes. Besides it's culinary importance, it was used medicinally as an expectorant and stomach remedy. Economically, it was so valuable it was used as currency. To stretch their pepper supplies, unscrupulous vendors would mix peppercorns with everything from charcoal to floor sweepings. Like salt, pepper has many different types that can be used in a variety of ways to create flavor. There are spicy sharp peppercorns, mellow peppercorns, there are even peppercorns that aren't pepper just to add a little confusion to the pot.
Black, white, and green peppercorns are from the same plant. Black are mature, white have been soaked to remove the outer covering, and the green peppercorns are immature. Pink peppercorns are not related to peppercorns at all. Native to South America, they are relatives of mangos, cashews, and poison ivy! Cubeb, grains of paradise, szechuan pepper, and Jamaican pepper are not related to Piper Nigerum but were used as pepper substitutes because of their peppery bite. In fact, Jamaican pepper is known to most of us as allspice.
Just like people, opposites attract. In this case, a rock and a spice create a combination that have seasoned history around the globe.
Cloverfields Farm and Kitchen also has a special Salt & Pepper Recipe Booklet available by email. To ask for a complimentary copy, just email Janine Washle at firstname.lastname@example.org
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CloverFields Farm & Kitchen
3720 Mt. Olive Rd.
Hardin Springs Area
Big Clifty, KY 42712
Janine Washle and her family live at the Cloverfields Farm and Kitchen in Big Clifty, Kentucky in Hardin County. CloverFields Farm & Kitchen, part of a century old farmstead, is our home and business. The McGuffin house, the original farmhouse, is a registered state landmark. CloverFields Farm has a prosperous farming history. They are continuing this rural story in their own unique way by the addition of CloverFields Kitchen a place to explore the past through food and merge it with our modern lifestyles.
CloverFields Farm is dedicated to the preservation of southern, especially Kentucky, food traditions. The kitchen is commercially-outfitted compliant with Health Department standards. In this kitchen I develop new recipes based on original ideas, inspirations from my culinary research, and most often according to what is in season.
On the farm, they make many gifts and specialty items. She is currently working on her first cookbook, but she also has a long resume developing recipes for several companies. She has also won several contests and cook-offs with her original recipes.