Alum - Defined with Usage in Recipes
Alum—A white astringent salt, often used to whiten flour, to quickly clear gin, to improve the color of inferior red wines.
Alum in a powdered state has been extensively employed as an adulterant in bread; it has much the same effect as a slight tendency to sourness in the dough has in whitening the bread; it has some effect in preventing certain constituents in flour from changing into a gummy and transparent appearance, which makes the bread look dark.
Bakers - find that second-rate and soft flour is corrected by the use of alum, so that it produces a more saleable loaf than better flour would without such treatment.
Alum is, however, unwholesome, while not positively poisonous; it is a mineral salt, which, regularly taken into the stomach, causes great injury to health; the bread adulterated with it is damaged also in its keeping qualities, and becomes unduly dry and tasteless in a day after baking.
Stringent laws have been passed in various countries to suppress this practice; in Paris as many as forty bakers at one time have been fined, their shops closed and their business suspended by law, as a punishment for using alum in bread; prosecutions, convictions, fines and imprisonment have occurred in most large cities of the United States for the same cause.
The bakers’ journals deny now that this practice prevails to any considerable extent, and a state of opinion has been worked up in the trade which causes it to be considered disgraceful and dishonest to resort to the practice.
The adulteration of bread with alum seems to be on the decrease. In hotel bakeries there is no need of resorting to such expedients. Alum is one of the injurious ingredients in inferior baking powders.
It is useful in pickling, to make the pickles firm and brittle; it is used in makings cochineal coloring, in very small amounts, and dyeing, etc., to set the colors. Plain alum, and its derivative, the bisulphate of alumina, have a remark able effect in clarifying muddy water, and the former is extensively employed for that purpose.
A small quantity—a tablespoonful powdered—mixed with a barrel of Mississippi river water renders it quite clear after standing an hour or two, and the impurities are coagulated together by its action so that they can be removed by straining.
The immense filtering works which now operate to purify the entire water supply of some cities are based upon this singular property of the mineral salt alum. Powdered alum is useful in case of a cut to apply to stop the flow of blood.
Usage in Recipes
COLORING FOR JELLIES, Cakes, etc. For a beautiful red, boil fifteen grain of cochineal in the finest powder, with a dash and a half of cream of tartar, in half a pint of water very slowly, half an hour. Add, in boiling, a bit of alum the size of a pea.
Or use beet-root sliced, and some liquor poured over. For white, use almonds finely powdered with a little drop of water; or use cream. For yellow, yolks of eggs, or a bit of saffron steeped in the liquor, and squeezed.
For green, pound spinach-leaves, or beet-leaves, express the juice, and boil a tea-cupful in a saucepan of water, to take off the rawness.
APPLES, GREEN CODLINGS. Gather the codlings when not bigger than French walnuts with the stalks and a leaf or two on each. Put a handful of vine leaves into a preserving-pan, then a layer of codlings, then vine leaves, and then codlings and vine leaves alternately, until it is full, with vine leaves pretty thickly strewed on the top, and fill the pan with spring water; cover it close to keep in the steam, and set it on a slow fire till the apples become soft.
Take diem out, and pare off the rinds with a penknife, and then put them into the same water again with die vine leaves, but taking care that the water is become quite cola, or it will cause them to crack; put in a little alum and set them over a slow fire till they are green, when, take them out and lay them on a sieve to drain. Make a good syrup and give them a gentle boil three successive days; then put diem in small jars with brandy paper over them, and tie them down tight.
CUCUMBERS. Take large and fresh-gathered a »cumbers; split them down and take out all the seeds; lay them in salt and water that will bear an egg, three days; Bet them on a fire with cold water, and a small lump of alum, and boil (hem a few minutes, or till tender; drain them, and pour on them a thin syrup; let them lie two days; boil the syrup again, and put it over the cucumbers; repeat it twice more; then have ready some fresh clarified sugar, boiled to a blow; put in the cucumbers, simmer it five minutes; set it by till next day; boil the syrup and cucumbers again, and set thorn in glasses for use.
CAKES, PARLIAMENT. Put into a saucepan two pound« of treacle, and when it boils, add a quarter of a pound of butter, and pour it upon two pounds of flour; add a little alum, and a bit of pearlash about the size of a nut, and an ounce of ginger. Work it well with the hand till quite smooth; let it stand a day and a night, then roll it out very thin, and cut it into oblong cakes.