Category: Food

FoodHistoryScienceUncategorized

Eminem isn’t the only thing salty to come out of Detroit…

Detroit, Michigan USA is known by a lot of names. Mo-town. The Motor City. The Cautionary Tale of Auto Industry Decline Meets Institutional Government Corruption. The D (ed. note: No, really). The Birthplace of the Coney Dog (ed. note: that’s another topic for another day).

One more name it might deserve is Salt City, USA. You see, nearly a quarter mile BENEATH the gritty streets of Detroit are an entirely different collection of dirty boulevards…ones made up entirely of salt that is more than 400 million years old.

And that’s where our story begins. Back in the Devonian period, the chunk of real estate that eventually became Detroit was under water, part of mid-west America’s cycle of being covered in inland seas and then drying out, which continued for a couple hundred million years. This cycle of wet-dry-wet-dry left tremendous deposits of evaporated seawater on the remaining land, which means salt. Loads and loads of salt.

devonian map

Looks like a crab claw has grabbed a mitten.

 

In pre-colonial times, native american tribes in the area, extracted the salt from salt springs, but it wasn’t until the early twentieth century that companies first began looking at commercially extracting the salt. Only one problem though – the salt could only be found underground. Like WAY underground. More than 1,000 feet down in fact. So in 1910, the Detroit Salt and Manufacturing Company completed a shaft down to the luscious and tender salt (ed.note: those are not good words to describe salt. Neither is “succulent” now that we think of it. Pretty much just go with “salty”).

The shaft down to the salt mine was reportedly so narrow that all machinery sent down

mine map

Image credit: Detroit Salt Company

had to be sent down in pieces and reassembled on the mine floor and and equipment that was brought down was left to remain in the mine for perpetuity since it was impossible to bring anything but salt and miners back up. The same went for the donkeys originally sent down before powered mining gear existed. (ed. note: presumably he means that they were left down there forever, rather than sent down in pieces and then reassembled. Because, eww).
Over the past century, ownership in the salt mine below has changed hands several times, but the currently very active mine is currently owned by the Kissner Group. Although the salt mined beneath Detroit is no longer used for human consumption, tons of the stuff are still mined for use as road salt each year, with an estimated 71 TRILLION tons left to be mined.

So, the next time someone tells you that Detroit Rock City is a decaying post-industrial wasteland, you can tell them a very good pun about rock salt while complimenting them on their spot-on analysis of Detroit (ed. note: For realsies though, Detroit has been undergoing a renaissance over the past several years and downtown Detroit has become a destination for travelers again and Detroit is the ONLY city in the US where all four major sports franchises are all houses within a four-block area. If you get the chance – check it out.)

For more information, check out the history of Detroit Salt.

FoodScience

Cooking without cooking…

…part one of whatever.

It’s summer here in the northern hemisphere (ed. Note: Motto: “Pretty much everybody lives here”), and that means it’s sometimes just too damn hot to stand over a stove, slaving away at a meal. And sometimes you just can’t stand ordering another pizza (ed. note: Bet me).

Turns out, there’s several ways to ‘cook’ your food without actually applying any heat to it. And one of the easiest and most affordable ways to cook seafood without heat comes to us courtesy of the southern hemisphere (ed. note: Motto: Only twelve percent of the global population, but responsible for 100% of all Crocodile Dundee and Yahoo Serious movies). The dish is ceviche and its home is Peru. Sure, Peru may or may not have created it, but they sure as sh*t made ceviche part of their culture, with ceviche considered the Peruvian national dish, much like bulgogi in South Korea or the Double Value Meal in the US. 

In Peruvian ceviche, fish gets cured with an ingredient called ‘leche de tigre’, which translates as ‘tiger’s milk’, but really means ‘just some limes and stuff’. This tells us that somewhere in Peruvian cooking history, there’s probably a real unfunny practical joke involving an assistant chef and a tiger. With super sexy terms like ‘leche de tigre’, ceviche can feel both exotic and inaccessible for your typical home cook, however ceviche is simply seafood that has been cured in citrus.

But before we get to the tasty bit, how does curing in citric acid actually COOK the fish? Truthfully, it doesn’t. Cooking requires heat. However, heat and acid both contribute to the exact same chemical process of ‘denaturation’, which begins to break down the structure of proteins, in this case, Mister Fishy. When an external stressor (like acid or salt or your Weber grill) is applied to protein, the tissues begin to break down and form a more solid structure – essentially firming up the meat, which ultimately makes it more edible and digestible to hungry mammals and alleged lizard persons like us. Denaturation isn’t the sexiest food word (ed note: that would be fromage. Say it with me.”fromage”. MMM), but that’s the science behind how meat gets cooked. And science you get to eat is the BEST SCIENCE.

So, let’s say you want to denature the hell out of some lovely fresh seafood for a summer picnic. Before you start remember: while it’s super easy to make ceviche, make sure you know where you’re getting your seafood. Use a high quality, firm fish or shellfish (scallops and shrimp are wonderful in ceviche) that has been commercially frozen. Maybe don’t get your fish from a gas station this time around, OK?

All you need for ceviche is fish, cut into bite sized chunks or strips and limes. After that, everything is down to taste. Here at the Lamprey Online Test Kitchen we used yellowfin tuna as the base and it turned out so well, I received six wedding proposals.

Ingredients:

  • 1 sh*tload of limes (ed. Note: Eight. He means eight limes)
  • 6 – 8 oz of yellowfin tuna
  • 1 roma tomato
  • ¼ red onion
  • ¼ cucumber
  • 1 jalapeno, seeed. Or not. I’m not your supervisor
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • Black pepper to taste

 

Juice the limes in a bowl and then just chop the rest of that stuff and pour it right into the lime juice. You want everything in a manageable size, and it’s important the fish has adequate surface area. Cover it and throw it in the fridge to let it set up until the meat is just turning opaque and firm. Less time for flakier fish like red snapper, longer for dense stuff like scallops. You’re definitely thinking in the 20 – 50 min range.

Serve it with avocado chunks and tortilla chips. Then, next time play around…change the protein. Add red pepper flakes. Try some garlic. Go nuts.

Then, enjoy the science. The tasty, tasty science.

BiologyFoodScience

Barbecue season ticks by…

Here in the northern hemisphere, summer officially started this past Thursday. For some people (particularly my kids), the last day of school is the date that gets circled on the calendar to represent the start of summer. And some Americans consider Memorial Day weekend the unofficial start of summertime.

But here at Lamprey Global Headquarters (temporary motto: “We suck everything interesting out of the internet“), summer unofficially starts the very day that evening temperatures allow for the ceremonial grilling of the meats without freezing my delicate bits. Burgers, brats, hot dogs, BBQ chicken, the savory deliciousness of a gigantic slow-cooked sous vide ribeye that crusts up over raging hot coals. All of it in its delicious, meaty goodness. Often in the summer, it’s too hot to cook inside, and it’s just too damn nice to not cook outside. Grilling meats is a summertime tradition dating back to early neanderthal man standing around the fire, arguing about the pros and cons of the designated hitter rule while mammoth steaks roast on the coals (ed. note: Citation needed, but where the f*** am I going to get a neanderthal to ask??).

However, in addition to the threats of eating underdone poultry, disease-ridden mosquitoes, and murderous grill scrapers, there’s a new menace to natural born grillers everywhere. There’s a species of tick in the US called the Lone Star tick and its bite carries with it a VERY unfortunate side effect. When bitten, some people develop an acute allergy to red meat, called alpha-gal allergy…which, contrary to its name is not sneezing a lot when encountering a really cool girl.  According to NPR’s The Salt, cases of alpha-gal allergies have increased exponentially over the past decade, with only a few dozen cases reported in 2007 and 2008 compared to over 5,000 known cases in the US today.

As its name suggests, the Lone Star tick originated in Texas, but its range has expanded annually to include most of the northeastern and central US:

tick range

Picture courtesy US Center for Disease Control and Prevention

There is currently no treatment or preventative for alpha-gel allergies, aside from not being bitten in the first place. Approximately ten to fifteen percent of all sufferers get the double whammy of also becoming allergic to dairy as well, which just goes to show that, yes – it can always get worse. However, some patients have reported that the allergy symptoms abated and people ‘outgrew’ their allergy after a period of time and not being chewed on by hideous spider-crabby things anymore. So there’s that to look forward to. Now we just need to breed a species of insect whose bite improves liver function and reduces the impact of these post-cookout hangovers.