Dear Home Ec 101:
I know Kathy T usually sends you stupid questions, but I have a few for you, too.
1. What does salt do? I used to feel snottily superior about leaving it out of all my recipes, trying to be healthy, but realized that didn’t work when I tried to bake bread. So what are some of the top uses of this wonder seasoning? (It’s a seasoning, right?)
2. What is the best way to clean cast iron and stoneware? It’s my understanding that one should not use soap on these porous materials, but I’m a bit of a germophobe, and not using soap seems really gross.
3. Say I go to the store to buy bananas. They already are bundled in bunches of 6 or 7, but I only want four bananas. Can I separate a bunch, or am I supposed to leave them as they are? Same goes for grapes in the bag…..
~Curious in Clarksville
We love stupid questions, always feel free to send them our way. Kathy T has been pretending to be busy, because publishing a book isn’t time consuming or anything. If we don’t already know the answer, we will do our best to find it.
1. What does salt do?
In bread baking salt is essential for flavor in simple breads, helps control yeast growth, and plays an important role in gluten formation.
When cooking meat under high heat, salt aids in the carmelizing process. (It’s a beautiful thing.) Salt also affects the moisture content of meat through osmosis. Yes, even here, Biology rears its ugly head.
Salt enhances the flavor of food, like MSG, but without most of the side effects.
Salt raises the boiling temperature of water, this aids in the cooking of some foods.
Salt is vital to good health, but in our world overconsumption is much more common than under.
Judiciously seasoning prior to cooking will help stop you from reaching for the shaker at the table.
If you want to be smart about cutting out sodium avoid most canned and other prepackaged foods. Many soft drinks often contain a surprising amount of sodium.
While researching to double check my opinion I found this interesting tidbit, “Only 20 -30% of total dietary sodium consumption is discretionary– or consumer-controlled– through the addition of salt to food after it’s preparation.” Read your labels, if you have been warned about sodium intake. No, I’ll take that one further. If you are hypertensive it is crucial to avoid processed foods. If you are healthy, with normal blood pressure, restricting salt intake is typically unnecessary. As always, check your health care provider.
Part B) Is salt a seasoning?
Yes, anything added to food to enhance or alter the flavor can be considered a seasoning. This includes: salt herbs, spices, and condiments.
2. What is the best way to clean cast iron and stoneware?
With hot water and a nylon scraper. If you are terrified of germs you can kill any lurkers by sterilizing the pieces by heating them in your oven.
3. Can I separate a bunch, or am I supposed to leave them as they are?
Grocery stores are businesses, their goal is to make as much money as possible. What? You thought they only wanted you to feed your family nutritious, economical meals. Ha!
If you only want two bananas, take two bananas, just try not to damage the remainder of the bunch.
The same with grapes*, if you don’t want a huge bag, carefully remove some and place them in a neighboring bag. You can choose how much you want to purchase, unless there is a sign denoting otherwise.
*As proof of how dedicated I am to y’all. I called my neighborhood Piggly Wiggly. Ms. Rebecca assured me the grapes are just packaged for convenience.
Thank you for submitting your questions.