Thursday, February 18, 2010

Black Salt, Bread and Other Treats

Many of my friends know that I have been experimenting with off label uses for supplements for plants and animals. Many of the things we take for granted, bread for instance, was surely an accident where some cereal grains started to ferment before being cooked over a fire. I can’t even imagine the excitement the very first time it turned out really good. Then there is my friend whose religious beliefs include the idea that it is a sin to eat anything that can be turned into a fermented malted beverage. I am guessing that it was bread that transformed herds of man beast hunters into villagers but it may have been the beer. I imagine that a lot of our early ancestors didn’t have to think too hard about whether they really wanted to go track down a dangerous wild animal when there was good bread to be had.

This week I decided to dry some of the SEA-90 that has become a part of our regular diet as it seemed like it was getting a little damp. I noticed of a jar of Celtic sea salt crystals I was given to sample was also starting to get water drops in the bottle so I put both of them with their little glass jars into the oven with a nice pork roast I was finishing up and left them for about an hour at 425 degrees. I couldn’t have been more surprised when I took them out. The SEA-90 turned a medium charcoal grey whereas the Celtic salt turned only slightly darker. The SEA-90 also glued itself together so I had to chip it back into crystals which were now slightly smaller, harder and crunchier. It grinds much better now, maybe because it is just drier. Black salt is the best tasting salt that I have ever tasted and clearly is far more than just salt. It also is much saltier tasting than SEA-90 and when I grind it onto eggs in the morning it is clearly visible because of it’s color so I say goodbye to white salt at least to put on my food. It’s kind of like white bread, not so good unless it is fermented.

The natural soy and corn free pork roast was fabulous. Braised on all sides with a little salt and pepper in a frying pan with just enough oil and butter to keep it from sticking to the pan until it was nice and crispy all over and then into the hot oven in a cast iron roasting pan with a lid where it could continue to develop it’s color with a little garlic and a little more salt and pepper until it is done all the way through. We cooked potatoes, onions, carrots, and garlic in a Pyrex roasting pan with a lid for the last hour until they were steaming. A quick roux gravy made with the juice from the roast and there was one of the simplest meals to make and one of my favorites. Searing then roasting the pork seals in the juices and makes for a very tender meat. Roasting it in a lidded roaster helps it cook without the outside becoming too dry as well.

I had been brought up to slow cook roasts but when I added “Roasting, A Simple Art” by Barbara Kafka to my collection of cookbooks I reversed that permanently. Kafka calls for 500 degree ovens which is doable but even with an exhaust fan going continuously it was just too smoky inside a house. I found that my personal limit was about 450 degrees and that 425 did just fine, although it takes longer and not quite as crispy. You get almost the same effect by braising. Kafka doesn’t just roast meat, however. One page shows Red Plums with Spiced Syrup, Pears with Asian Glaze, and Whole Roasted Peaches with Ginger Syrup. Another non-meat page shows Roasted Bread (gourmet toast basically) topped with Roast Shiitakes with Soy, Roasted Garlic Puree, and whole head of roasted garlic (all on the same plate). Maybe we can do a “roasted” tea party and get a consensus of what a few people can bring or help make that are all roasted to try some of these strange and wonderful looking things. The nicest thing about roasting is that it is so simple. The only downside I can see to this plan is portion control. That may be a problem.
On another note, I checked out “Hungarian Cookbook, Old World Recipes for New World Cooks” from the Ft. Vancouver Library and was really pleased to find a number of traditional European recipes. Although I question the use of tomatoes in some of Yolanda Nagy Fintor’s recipes, like some of the cabbage dishes, many of the recipes were similar to a lot of the food I enjoyed while visiting with friends in a village near Munich. Cabbage was always on the menu there and I developed a deep appreciation for that vegetable which is mostly abused and not served nearly often enough in this country. Probably the biggest abuse is that most of the cabbage you can find is trucked in so it has to be a variety that is suitable for mechanically packing and trucking thousands of miles then sitting someplace without rotting for several weeks. Thanks to this group I now drink tea that has more nutrition than the cabbage you can buy in a supermarket. I know because I left a couple of jars of tea on the counter for a week and they got moldy. I have never seen that happen with a supermarket cabbage. If you end up getting cabbage from someone you don’t know then look for a savoy cabbage and see how you like that. Savoy’s have really crinkly skin and as a rule are among the sweetest tasting. Sweet enough to add to a salad or just eat a leaf of it. It is luscious and tasty. I would also recommend planting savoy versions of most vegetables for another reason. I found that they are much more resistant to predation by insects and are just more interesting looking to boot. If you are looking to add something to your repertoire by adding some traditional healthy meals then this book is worthwhile checking out.

You can see what is going on in our food forest at
Tom Gibson
Ask your Congressman and Senators why the US Department of Agriculture subsidizes toxic industrial chemicals like HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) but not fresh vegetables!