i heart learning

i heart learning

Monday, June 06, 2011

alum & allium

A visit to my parents house is never complete without looting some of their goods from Costco. I call it 'groceries chez ma and pa.'  Today I grabbed tomatoes, popcorn, yogurt and strawberries and stuffed them into a garbage bag to go. I was rooting around in my mothers pantry hoping to find some applesauce or crackers she wouldn't miss when I discovered a spice I have never heard of before. It was in a jar with the label 'alum.'
It looked like baking soda and smelled like nothing. (I have to smell everything - I also whiffed Tanya's new bathing suits today). The super ancient looking container was still full to the brim - a telltale sign that this 'alum' was for safekeeping only, and had never if rarely been used.
I asked Mama what 'alum' is, 'cause Mama knows best - and it is after all in her cupboard. She said 'it is used as a thickener like starch.' But then quickly followed her starch statement with a cautionary 'Don't blog about that until you look it up and confirm it though....because I'm really not too positive.'

And all this time I have been wondering where my knack for making up facts has come from...

When I looked it up I learned that 'alum' has many uses - but in the culinary sense it is used in the pickling process to preserve crispness. All I know is that the last time my mother pickled something was in 1993 - when Paul and Sue my parents pickled a pack of pipping pickles to pig out on pre moving to Quebec. Many many moons ago.

With further research I learned that the manufacturer 'clubhouse' had changed that ancient label found on the 'alum' back in 1989. Many many moons ago.

from this old label....

.....to this newer, more modern label

Did you read me? 1989. I was 6 the last time this 'alum' label was supposed to be in existence, and yet there it is hanging out on the spice rack, camouflaged as a useable spice, waiting to poison someone with its 20 year old dusty goodness. The alum in my mothers pantry is older than email, 'Dumb & Dumber,' and the invention of DVD's.

Excuse me while I return the applesauce and popcorn.

On another note, I also learned today about the flower allium - which is a word coincidentally close to the word of the day 'alum.'
My mother has alliums in her garden - and i assure you they are much younger than the spices in her cupboard.

allium and alum bonding


  1. "...when Paul and Sue my parents pickled a pEck of pipping pickles to pig..."

    Pickles are group in pecks, hence the saying: "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers".

    Captain Smartypants out!

  2. We just love Costco! There is no such thing as going into the "Big Box Store" and buying a couple of items. No wonder they are so successful. The average order is between $150 and $175. I just used a glass cleaner that we bought at Costco almost 7 years ago. Worked like a charm on the solarium. Even after all those years sitting on a shelf in our garage.

  3. i actually did not know that 'peck' thing. its like a gaggle of geese I guess.
    i just thought it was done for the PPPPP alliteration!

  4. Excuse Me!!! But I know for a fact that the " alum" is not more than 8 years old because it use bought for the express purpose of sprinkling it on Angus's food. I was told, can't remember by whom, that sprinkling it on his food would discourage him from snacking on his "dookie" as it would not be so tasty. Who would ever think that s%*t was tasty, but Angus did!

    There , now you know and so does everyone else , I was hoping not to air dirty family bussiness but youleft me no choice