Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Journey How a Hard-Core Salt Lover found Redemtion

My Journey: How A Hard Core Salt lover found Redemption.

Today, I share my story of finding out that I have high blood pressure and the results that came about with that knowlege. As most of my readers know and for those who are not aware island pepperpot blog is the platform that I use to share the culture, lifestyle, and foods of the Caribbean. As a Caribbean chef who grew up enjoying salty and highly seasoned foods, This past two years have been a journey and one that I take the pleasure of sharing with you. One thing I have learned is " Good food, that's Good for you doesn't have to taste Bland."

Really I thought how did this happen? I exercised most days and was not overly over-weight, Okay I had accrued a few extra pounds over the years but that’s normal as we age right?

Two years ago I found myself in my doctors office having my yearly physical. After her routine examination she declared to me that my blood pressure was way to high, and she was putting me on blood pressure medications. And it did not help me that both my parents suffered with the disease. I was doomed so I thought.

After her medical ramblings she cautioning me to cut back on fat, fast foods, eat more vegetables and fruits and cut back on my salt intake. Salt my gosh she said I must cut back on salt how am I going to survive without my salt? Lets put all kidding aside I have been a salt lover all my life. I grew up on the Caribbean island of Antigua in a family of bakers and cooks, As a chef myself salt was one of the key ingredients in our baking and cooking. And not just any old salt we got our salt from the source “ The salt pond”. Let me explain a salt pond is a large pond where once a year it foams around the shore. After a few months with the aid of the sun the foam turns into large salt crystals. The locals including my family begins the salt harvesting. This was done by gingerly carefully removing the salt which are now formed into large slabs with sometimes sharp edges that might cause cuts on hands and feet’s. The slabs are broken and taken back to the shore where they are placed into heaps and left to drain and later placed into large sacks. This was the salt that we used in our cooking and baking.

For us kids being a part of this was like an adventure we will search and find the best shaped salt crystals which we pop into our mouth and eat them like candies. The best salt candy I might add. So you see my love affair with salt started a long time ago and to give it up was going to take a lot of effort. How does a hard core salt lover like myself cut back on her salt intake. Well as the saying goes where there is a will there is a way. And I was on the quest to live long by protecting my heart by becoming more healthy.

First my pantry required a readjustment, I started by checking all my spice labels for the salt content. I was amazed at what I found these people who made those spices were out to kill me can you believe it 350 mg salt were in some. My daily intake had to be about 1,500mg I had to replace them without loosing flavor. As a chef from the Caribbean we love our food seasoned to say the least I hate bland food so the salt got to go but I have to have to still have flavor.

I started by making my own seasoning blends this required going back to my roots and using more fresh herbs marinades, and rubs, seasoning my meats overnight to give the meats enough time to absorb the seasonings, a method that most Caribbean cooks still use today. When shopping I started paying more attention to food labels, I stayed away from convenience food and made most of my foods from scratch

Caribbean cooking included lots of salt pickled meats and fish such as salt cod, and mackerel, Pickled salt beef and pig tails, These I use to cooked and eat on a regular basic, I started cutting back on eating those dishes and when I did eat them I pre-soaked over a longer period of time to get rid of the saltiness. As I learned in my quest for healthy low salt living its all in the moderation, Dishes I use to eat every week I now eat 1-2 times a month.

In my baking I now use unsalted butter and lots of fresh fruit purees as the base and have not really missed out on the flavor or the absent of salt when I make breads and cakes.

I have also adjusted my salt intake at the fast food drive through one of my favorite occasional snack is BK French fries. As I placed my order I always request no salt and though I have to wait ( Its cooked fresh) Its worth the wait.

The medical community contends that diets high in sodium prove to be a major cause of high blood pressure. According to Dr. Stephen Havas (2012) of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, also a leading sodium expert, processed foods and restaurant foods contribute almost 80% of sodium to many Americans diets. Havas states: “High blood pressure and pre-hypertension significantly increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Today roughly 65 million Americans have high blood pressure and another 45 million have pre-hypertension.” The American habit of eating too much salt has placed many Americans’ lives in jeopardy

To say that I am totally over salt or have conquered my salt intake will be misleading. However I am doing much better and I able to keep my blood pressure under control. I am still on meditations but I am working towards an overall healthy eating habit, and is experimenting with more spices and flavorings that are not high in sodium. I am not fully redeemed from salt however I am on my way to building better and healthy eating habits.

In the upcoming months I will be sharing more of my journey, along with my revised recipes. I invite you to join me on the journey.

These are some of the Basic low Salt  Caribbean Seasoning blends that I now use when preparing meats, poultry, fish and seafood.

Caribbean Seasoning “Seasonin”

This recipe offers a great blend of flavors which enhances and perks up poultry, meats, seafood’s and other bland dishes without excessive salt.

1 head garlic, broken into cloves and peeled

1 medium onion roughly chopped

3 bunches of chives or scallions roughly chopped

1 green bell pepper cut in half remove seeds and roughly chopped

1 red bell pepper cut in half remove seeds and roughly chopped

1 scotch bonnet or other hot pepper cut in half remove seeds ( being careful to not get in eyes)

1 medium celery stalk

1 bunch parsley

1 bunch fresh thyme ( can also use dry about 1 tablespoon)

1 bunch Marjoram ( can also use dry about 1 tablespoon)

½ cup fresh lime juice ( about 4-5 limes0

Salt and pepper optional ( I use sea salt about ½ teaspoon)

In a blender or food processor coarsely puree the garlic, onions, bell peppers, celery, hot pepper, herbs and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper, This can be stored in a glass jar tightly covered and refrigerated, Will keep for a few weeks. Use for marinating meats, chicken, fish, and vegetables.

Great when used for Grilling or Baking. When using apply seasoning all over meats or poultry being careful to add inside of chicken and under skin, Let Meats and poultry marinate for 12-24 hours or overnight.


Ginger Honey Jerk seasoning.

The Famous Jamaican Jerk Seasoning is widely used both in local Caribbean and international cooking, There is a variety of ingredients used in the different blends as chefs and cooks adjust and add flavors to suit their preferences and taste.. This recipe for Honey ginger Jerk seasoning works great with my quest for cutting back on excess salt from my dishes, Without the loss of flavor.

Ginger Honey Jerk Seasoning

1 Scotch bonnet peppers

4 spring or green onions

2 teaspoon all spice whole or 1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

2 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon brown sugar

2 tablespoon honey

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper ( optional)

½ cup cider vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend to form a thick paste. Place in a small glass dish cover and refrigerate. This will last for a few weeks if stored correctly

This Recipe is great on Pork, chicken fish and seafood.


  1. Going low salt can be a tough battle. But giving up premade foods is a great start. Years ago when I worked at the spa, I had to learn how to bring out flavor without adding a bunch of salt. I look forward to seeing more of how you approach this journey.

  2. Thanks Jon appreciate your comment, As you so rightly state its a tough battle, but I am doing my best to stay on track. I do hope you will keep me acountable. Looking forward to your suggestions, and feedback

  3. Freda - As a foodie myself I know how hard it is to be on a low salt life style. Salt gives so much flavor to foods but that is not the only spice you can use. I love your recipe for the Ginger Honey Jerk Seasoning. I must try that one. :-)

  4. Thanks Susan for your comment, let me know how the recipe turned out

  5. Thanks Susan for your comment, let me know how the recipe turned out