Don’t tell me, you haven’t heard of Hervé This? The man who decodes all the chemical and physical processes taking place during cooking or baking, from beating egg white to browning meat. Isn’t everybody talking Maillard these days? I keep one of his books (a paperback version with dog-eared pages) in my tote, so I can entertain myself while taking the tram, waiting at the doctors’ or simply when I have a spare minute. Welcome side-effect: My culinary knowledge is about to grow with every page I turn, at least in theory. I’m far from reaching the final pages, but getting ready to put theory into practice.
Take his chapter about kitchenware. Continuous exposure to air is very likely to tarnish the precious silverware you inherited from your beloved grandma, who you never caught cursing about endless hours of polishing it for special occasions? Up until now I used a rather expensive bottle of silver polish to get rid of any unwanted patina, but Hervé This’ recommendation is as simple as it is effective. I remembered the box of heavily tarnished silver and silver-plated cutlery pieces I bought for about €3 (~$4.40) at a recent flea market – it’s been waiting for a special treatment!
Here is how to make your silverware look shiny and flawless
You will need a somewhat larger bowl, ordinary aluminum foil, plain salt and some boiling water. That’s it! Ahh, and some dish cloth (or soft sponge) as well as a soft cloth for toweling the cutlery after treatment – don’t use your favorite cloth here, as it will get stained.
Line the bowl with aluminum foil (it doesn’t matter which side is on top), add one layer of cutlery (it’s important that each piece has contact to the aluminum foil) and sprinkle with a tablespoon of ordinary salt.
Now fill the bowl with enough boiling water to completely cover the silverware. You may soon notice a whiff of rotten eggs, a sulfur stench, which is the result of the chemical reactions taking place in your bowl.
Let chemistry do its job and set the bowl aside for a couple of minutes, even up to some hours. I completely forgot about my last bowl, so the silverware enjoyed a longer stay of about three hours, didn’t make much of a difference though.
Remove the silver pieces (they will still look tarnished!), rinse thoroughly under water while gently rubbing off the unwanted patina with a dish cloth or soft sponge. Finally dry any remaining water marks and polish with a soft cloth. Has your silverware ever looked so shiny?