Soft Water in the Kitchen
By: Chef Cristian Feher
As a chef I spend a lot of time choosing the right vegetables, picking the right meats and carefully combining herbs, spices and seasonings to make the best foods I possibly can. I’m always working towards making better food. And I have realized that I’ve been overlooking the most important and most abundant ingredient, common in all food - water.
Water could be described as a clear, odorless, non-reactive liquid (unless you drop an electric toaster into it). So, how could water make such a difference as an ingredient? Because not all water is created the same - better put, not all water contains the same stuff.
The combination of contents in your water varies largely depending on which part of the world you live in. You may find anything ranging from dissolved rocks (calcium and magnesium), to traces of pharmaceutical drugs, and birth control hormones, to radioactive barium particles, to chlorine and other smelly additives. The combinations are endless, and the realization that these things are in my water make me a little hesitant to bathe in it, let alone cook with it. I also wonder how these contents could actually affect my dishes. Could they alter the consistency and taste? Common sense tells me, yes.
Today I embarked on a very exciting experiment. I installed a Kenmore elite hybrid water softener in my house. This is an appliance that attaches to the main water line of your home and turns “hard water” into “soft water” by removing dissolved solids like calcium, iron, and magnesium.
Because it is hybrid, this particular unit also works to reduce potentially radioactive particles (barium and radium), and dramatically lessens smells and tastes in the tap water caused by chlorine and similarly added chemicals.
Here in Clearwater, Florida, they have a habit of adding large amounts of chlorine to disinfect the county water system. And for several weeks during the year I am forced to cook with what smells and tastes like pool water! We also have a high amount of dissolved rock in the water, making a crusty mess of sinks, shower heads, and faucets.
Unfortunately, water softeners are not install-it-yourself appliances (unless you’re good at plumbing). It took a professional plumber several hours to connect this system to my main water line and run a drain pipe from the softener to my drain line. The unit will expel a salty brine of all the stuff it removes from my tap water several times per week, leaving me with fresh, soft water.
I am very excited to have this appliance in my home and am looking forward to seeing how this affects my household water usage and most importantly, my cooking. Removing dissolved rocks, chlorine and radiation from my soups, sauces, and foods makes me hopeful that I can improve my cooking on a very basic level. I will update you in a few weeks and let you know the results of the Kenmore elite water softener.
Until then, I wish you happy cooking!