The salt box is a container with a lid used to store coarse salt. It is typically hung near the fireplace or stove to keep the salt dry. Salt could also be stored in earthenware salt jars or in wooden tubs.
The box could be made of wood, pottery, pewter, or copper. Although they are called salt boxes, the container could be any shape.
For members of the Edmonton settlement in the 1880s, salt was primarily used as preservative. It was used to store eggs over the winter, to brine cure (or corn) pork and beef, and to pickle vegetables.
But salt also had many other uses. It was used medicinally for treating sore throats, dyspepsia, and other ailments. Salt was also used to complete household chores: remove spots on clothing, keep cut flowers fresh, make candles dripless, and put out grease fires. These are just a sampling of the many uses of salt, more of which can be found in any household encyclopedia of the time.
Salt-Rising Bread Recipe
Salt-Rising Bread could be a useful alternative when yeast was not available. It did require two things: time and patience to let the bread starter work, and a nose able to stand the smell, which is apparently similar to sweaty socks or rotten cheese.
Here is a recipe for Salt-Rising Bread from the Five Roses Cookbook (1915), a copy of which is in the City of Edmonton Artifact Collection [Accession Number 2005-22-22]. Modern bakers without a cow might find it a bit challenging.
Salt-Rising Bread No. 1
At 6 o’clock a.m., mix 1 cup cornmeal with enough cold water to wet it. Stir this into 1 pint boiling water. Let boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Set off the fire and add 2 pints fresh sweet milk (yet warm from the cow), 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let cool, then stir in enough Five Roses flour to make a soft batter. Keep in a warm place (should be kept lukewarm, for it if gets chilled it is ruined). At about 10 or 11 o’clock, when it seems thin, stir in ½ pint more flour. It should be ready to finish mixing by 1 o’clock. Add 1 pint fresh thick buttermilk and 1 teaspoon soda, with enough flour to make a rather soft dough. Mould into loaves, put in greased pans, let rise 1 hour, then bake. I think Five Roses flour the best I’ve ever used.
- Mrs. R.N. Lay, Sanderville, Alta.