Hi there, Kit Morgan here and today I want to talk a little about salt.
Did you know that the bacteria that causes meat to spoil can't live in brine? In the days before refrigeration, salt was one of the only safe ways to preserve meat. It was also used for other things. For example, eggs buried in salt would stay fresh and could be used for baking, although not for boiling or frying. Salt is also a good cleanser. Pioneer women often used it to scour wooden floors and tabletops. When teeth needed brushing, one could fray the end of a small twig, dip it in some salt, and scrub their teeth with it. Golly gee, as often as once a week! Pioneers also used salt to clean animal hides being tanned to make leather.
But where did Pioneer families and frontiersmen get their salt?
Most folks bought barrels of it from a
general store. These barrels were sent by canal and wagon from saltworks ( factories built next to salt springs) where the brine was boiled until the water evaporated, leaving behind salt crystals.
People that lived near the ocean made salt by evaporating seawater in large, flat pans. It took 300 gallons of seawater to make 70 pounds of "solar salt", as it's called. In other places, deposits of rock salt were mined from the earth. Every community, large or small, needed tons of salt each year. Lack of salt often slowed down the settlement of an area. People were less inclined to buy land unless there was a general store fairly close by to supply them with salt.
Back in the pioneer days, the salt bought by the barrel at the general store was damp and lumpy. Once the salt was brought home, a bowlful of salt chunks was placed near the fire to dry out. One of the children in the family was often tasked with crushing the dried chunks with a rolling pin. This fine salt was then stored in a small, soft box on the mantelpiece for everyday use.
So the next time you use salt on your food or in a recipe, imagine yourself having to crush it with a rolling pin first or have one of your children do it for you. I'd be worried what else would wind up in my salt if I saddled one of my kids with the chore. A Lego perhaps? A marble? Who knows? Just be glad that today we can go to the grocery store, buy a container of salt, take it home and stick it in our cupboard!
If you'd like to check out my books, you can find them on my website at http://www.authorkitmorgan.com Until next time, enjoy your work-free salt!