If this isn't salt, what the hell is it?
May 23, 2011 5:07 PM   Subscribe

If this isn't salt, what the hell is it? (photo inside)

Found this substance in my kitchen cabinet. Thought it was some funky crystal-shaped salt, but it's not. It doesn't have much of a taste. If anything, it gives a very slight burning sensation if I dab a bit on my tongue. Not salty at all, dissolves in water... other than that, I'm at a loss.

I've used it a few times thinking it was salt and I'm still alive, so apparently it's not poisonous (at least in small doses). I think I may have found it when I cleaned out my grandma's house a couple years ago, but I'm not sure. Anyhow it's definitely not salt because I tried to use it (before I realized what it wasn't) to make some sauerkraut and oh boy did that cabbage end up smelling nasty!

Guesses? Any good ideas on how to determine what it is for sure?
posted by buckaroo_benzai to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Silica gel? I wouldn't eat it.
posted by peacheater at 5:09 PM on May 23, 2011


I'm not sure if it ever comes in bigger crystals like that, but maybe citric acid/"sour salt"?
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:11 PM on May 23, 2011


I've never tasted it raw, so I can't attest to the burning sensation, but the beryl-like shapes makes me think it might be MSG? But the shapes in your picture look a little fatter and bigger so...Was it in a jar or any kind of container? Did it say "Aji no moto"? What do you mean by "smelling nasty"? My other guess was going to be silica gel as well, but I've only seen them be round.
posted by kkokkodalk at 5:11 PM on May 23, 2011


Is it slightly bitter-ish? Epsom salt looks exactly like this.
posted by halogen at 5:11 PM on May 23, 2011


looks like silica gel to me.
posted by wilful at 5:14 PM on May 23, 2011


The crystals look like MSG, but the described taste is nowhere near it. MSG tastes a bit salty (it's got sodium in it after all), and strongly savory. I doubt that's what this is.
posted by TungstenChef at 5:15 PM on May 23, 2011


You've got to work pretty hard to make silica gel dissolve, so it's probably not that. MSG or Epsom salts?

(On preview: crystals are way too big for citric acid.)
posted by Pinback at 5:16 PM on May 23, 2011


Epsom salt it is. I just compared it with a bag of epsom salt that I have in my bathroom. Same stuff (look and taste)... I never actually took the time to look at epsom salt before, even though I have used the stuff several times in my bathwater. No idea why my grandma stored it in an unlabeled jar in her kitchen!

Thank was easy. Thanks MeFi!
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 5:20 PM on May 23, 2011


Maybe it's boric acid? Try mixing it with a small amount of elmer's glue and see if it turns into a silly-putty like substance!
posted by aubilenon at 5:20 PM on May 23, 2011


By the time I found a source to confirm that Epsom salt is bitter, other folks got it. (Apparently some people consume it medicinally because there's a few sites telling you how to make it taste better.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:26 PM on May 23, 2011


Epsom salt is a laxative, which seems like a likely explanation for keeping it in the kitchen.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:31 PM on May 23, 2011


Likely Alum - often used in pickling.
posted by candasartan at 9:14 AM on May 24, 2011


I can attest that MSG does not taste salty or savory when consumed alone. I tried it once at a restaurant and it "tasted" like I just stuck a nine-volt battery to my tongue. I cannot recall what the crystals looked like but it sure sounds like you might have MSG.
posted by pwb503 at 9:33 AM on May 24, 2011


I can attest that MSG does not taste salty or savory when consumed alone. I tried it once at a restaurant and it "tasted" like I just stuck a nine-volt battery to my tongue. I cannot recall what the crystals looked like but it sure sounds like you might have MSG.

I don't know that they honestly gave you MSG to try. That sounds much more like you tasted citric acid, which is sometimes used in SE Asian cooking. The MSG I tried was from a package labeled Monosodium Glutimate (100% pure) at an Asian grocery store. The taste was closest to ramen, specifically Oriental flavor, but less salty. It was also similar to soy sauce without the soybean flavor, Funyans without the onion, or even Doritos without the cheese.
posted by TungstenChef at 12:51 PM on May 24, 2011


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