WHEN Hope Lee gets to work, she leaves her purse in the car. That way it won't end up smelling like garlic.
From craft fairs
to seasoned pro
Lee, owner of Hawaiian Kine, makes seasoned salts, rubs and sauces out of a small commercial kitchen in Waipio Gentry. It's a fragrant place, smelling of herbs, peppers, salt -- and, definitely, garlic. Lee adds it fresh to her line of seasonings.
Hawaiian Kine is a craft-fair company -- one of those grassroots businesses that began with a specialty item made at home and carted around to fairs with the idea of making a little money off a hobby.
Lee began with a mixture of salt, pepper, garlic and ginger, which she gave away to family and friends for 10 years. She had two types, one made with a refined salt, the other with rock salt, both used mainly to season meats.
In 1989 a niece asked her to make up some bottles of salt so she could sell them at a craft fair. "I thought, 'Ho, humbug, this kid,' but I said, 'OK, honey,' " Lee recalls. The niece sold out a 10-case supply.
Lee and husband Greg then tiptoed into the circuit, committing to just two fairs, but selling out everything they could make. "We went home the first Saturday with $2,000 and we thought, 'Wooo, we gotta do this more.' "
The next year, 10 fairs; the year after that, 25. At the Okinawan Center Christmas fair in their third year, they sold 10,000 sampler packs containing three 2-ounce bottles of salts in different flavors.
It's been a skyward ride ever since.
Lee now sells nine types of salt, three rubs and six sauces. Her latest flavors: seasoned salt with rock sugar and with lemongrass. She and Greg still do most of the work, but they do have part-time help, especially during the frantic Christmas season.
Several retail outlets now carry Lee's products, among them Compleat Kitchen, Executive Chef, Shirokiya and some Long's Drug Stores. And as if to mark her truly successful, a few other companies have sprung up marketing their own versions of seasoned salt.
The seasonings have countless uses, Lee says, and she cooks with them almost daily. Her customers come up with new ideas all the time -- sprinkling the Spicy Rub over buttered popcorn, for example, or the Tasty Splash dressing over hokkigai.
She advises using the salt mixtures sparingly to flavor meats, seafood or vegetables for any method of cooking. The sauces work as marinades, dressings or dips.
To make your own seasoned salt, Lee offers this basic formula: Shred fresh ginger and press a few cloves of fresh garlic. Mix both into rock salt and let it sit for at least two months. The salt will dry and preserve the ginger and garlic; colors and flavors will deepen over time. As for exact proportions, you're on your own. Lee does have trade secrets to protect.
She is willing, however, to share Hawaiian Kine's formula for Seasoned Oil, which was discontinued more than a year ago because it was just too expensive and labor-intensive to produce.
Colleen Kato wrote asking for that recipe now that she can no longer buy the oil. "I loved to use this for stir-fries and just making simple things where you needed a bit of oil, such as for omelets and simple frying."
Lee's daughter, Jennifer, plans to resurrect the oil to sell in her restaurant, Cafe Sienna, opening soon across from the Hawaii International Convention Center. Until then, for those who really miss it...
SEASONED OIL2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1-2 tablespoons vodka
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon multicolored peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon alae (sea salt)
1 chile pepper
3/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup macadamia nut oil
Trim the rosemary so it is as long as your 12-ounce bottle. Soak in vodka about 5 minutes, then shake off. (This kills any bugs or bacteria).
Cut garlic just small enough to fit through the bottle's mouth. Pour all ingredients into the bottle. Allow to age at least 1 week.
Use instead of butter on bread, in sautes or salad dressings.
Nutritional information unavailable.
Can you help?
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Helen S. wants to make mochiko shortbread cookies like those produced commercially by various Hawaii bakers.
Walter Arakaki lost his formula for a sore throat remedy that included lemons, rock salt and cider vinegar. He says this was not the Chinese-type preserved lemon, but rather a vinegared lemon used to treat colds and to promote "over goodness for body and health."
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