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Well Seasoned, by Becky Johnson

Vintage Leavening: Saleratus & Pearlash

Becky Johnson

From around 1740, a powder called pearlash was used as leavening in quick breads. Pearlash’s chemical makeup is potassium carbonate and it was created by baking potash in a kiln to remove impurities. The fine, white powder remaining was  pearlash.  When mixed with water, it forms a strongly alkaline solution.  Pearlash was used until around 1850, when it was entirely replaced by a new compound: Saleratus.Around 1840, saleratus was sold in packets, and was advertised as a leavening agent. Saleratus was a naturally occurring high alkaline mineral found in the western United States. Also known as sodium bicarbonate or sodium...

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Apple Pie Spice

Becky Johnson

They say there is nothing more American than an apple pie for dessert.  This is not exactly accurate as the English must take some credit, as well as the spice traders of Asia and the Middle East.  No matter what its origins, the pleasing smell of spices that fill the household while an apple pie is baking is enough whet anyone’s appetite for this delicious dessert. But for what else can you use apple pie spice?  What if you don’t like apple pie (gasp!) or made up a large amount of spice only to find you don’t use it fast...

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Chesapeake "Old Bay" Seasoning

Becky Johnson

Chesapeake Bay Seasoning was created by Gustav Brunn, a German-Jewish spice merchant who fled the Nazis in 1938. He immigrated to America, packing among his meager items his hand-cranked spice grinder. He and his family landed in Baltimore, Maryland, where he was hired at the Baltimore-based McCormick Spice Company. Unfortunately, after a few days on the job, McCormick told Brunn that his lack of English was an issue and he was let go from his position at the company. Brunn felt that he was fired because McCormick learned that he was Jewish. Unable to find another job, he did the...

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Using Rose Water in Cooking

Becky Johnson

In the 18th century, bakers used rose water as a flavoring, sometimes as a substitute for vanilla.  Rose water has a sweet and lightly spicy flavoring and it is a popular additive in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine.In my book Memories: Vintage Cake Recipes, rose water is used as an ingredient in Fruit Cake, and it is ground up with almonds to make a fragrant almond paste.  It took me a while to find rose water for cooking (okay, it was actually my husband who found it).  There are several types of rose water or rose “products” available, so when...

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How to Candy Citrus Peel

Becky Johnson citrus recipe technique

Wash your citrus well, scrubbing off any dirt or ink from the supermarket.  Using a vegetable peeler, peel off 1/2″ wide strips of the peel, careful not to include the white pith. Save the rest of the fruit for another recipe or meal.Combine 1 cup water and 2 cups sugar to make a simple syrup.  Heat over medium-low heat until sugar is completely dissolved.Add peel slices to simple syrup and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until peel starts to soften.  Remove from heat and dredge peel pieces in granulated sugar.  Arrange on a baking sheet and dry overnight.

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