Homer called it a divine substance.
Plato said salt was near to the Gods.
It's hard to imagine feeling that strongly about something we've had in our cupboards for years at minimal cost. Yet, in the history of the world, salt really was a precious commodity and at one point was worth its weight in gold.
It's in almost everything we eat, but we rarely think about it. However, as with many other foods, there has been a heightened awareness about salt, thanks in large part to the growing food trend on television and in print. We see chefs dip into salt cellars with their fingers and scatter big salt crystals on food and we want to do it too!
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bamboo salt cellar filled with Maldon Flake salt.
will pick a winner Oct. 2nd!
Here are three salt categories to help you decide just how much you want to venture into the world of salt. But before I start, let me just say salt is salt. Chemically, 98% of salt is Sodium chloride. But it's surprising just how much that 2% of other minerals can change the taste of salt. Other things besides taste affect salt though...
1. Color: usually caused by other minerals (red clay in Hawaii, basalt in Hawaii for Black salt, etc...)
2. Shape: usually caused by how it is collected (pyramid, flake, nuggets crystals)
3. Moisture: the less refined a salt, the more moisture it will hold, which means it will hold its shape without dissolving, adding a nice crunch to food.
4. Additives: Anti-clumping and iodine can affect the taste of salt, although it's subtle.
1. Everyday Salt
Table Salt is the salt we are most familiar with. Fine grained, iodized with an anti-caking agent so that it pours like rain (hence the cute umbrella Morton girl).
Cons: Very processed & highly dense, you do not want to get some of this in your mouth...ewww, yuck! Because of this, easy to over-salt.
Pros: Great for quick dissolve needs, like baking & brining.
Kosher Salt is the workhorse in my kitchen. The biggest difference between table salt and Kosher salt is the grain size. It really should be called koshering salt, as it was first used to draw moisture out of meat to follow Jewish food laws.
Pros: No additives. Less dense and easier to control the saltiness of foods. Salt by touch. Good crusting on meats, but dissolves in liquids (like soups, sauces & stews) as well. inexpensive.
Note: A Tbsp of table salt is equal to about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 Tbsp of Kosher Salt. Store in a salt cellar.
Using Kosher salt instead of Table salt will completely change the way you cook & season your food. It's that magical "pinch & scatter" technique that chefs have been using for years.
Why, you ask? This technique forces you to rely on the very thing that makes good cooks great. They taste their food. Using this technique will help you to trust your palate. It will take a bit of time to get used to, but before you know it that salt cellar will be your best friend in the kitchen!
This category has LOTS of company, literally hundreds! Finishing salt is an unrefined, hand harvested salt from all over the world. Almost every country has their unique salt, most famous being Fleur de Sel from the Brittany region of France.
Pros: No additives. Moist crystals that last on food, or delicate flakes that lightly salt even the most delicate greens. Crunchy with a clean burst of mild salty flavor. Beautiful presentation.
3. Flavored Salts
Typically these are finishing salts that have been flavored or mixed with other ingredients. Most common are mushroom/truffles, lemon, herbs, spices.
Cons: They can be expensive, but not necessarily. Limited use.
Pros: No additives. These are not seasoned blends, but more of an infused salt. (You can smell truffle salt without even opening the bottle!) Fun & creative uses. You can make your own, there are many recipes on the internet. Would make nice Christmas gifts.
Here are a few wonderful ways to use these special salts on your food.
Such a simple, but elegant way to serve salt is on soft sweet butter
and a crusty loaf of bread.
But wait...a drizzle of honey takes it over the top!
Or you can create a gourmet butter & salt board (photo at top) for a fun dinner party appetizer.
Vanilla Salted Caramel
Probably the most surprising salt to me is Vanilla Salt and it's perfect on sweet/salty foods like Caramel.
I just bought a new sweet salt the other day at Harmons, Vermont Maple Salt! Yum!
Watermelon, Tomato & Basil Salad
Sweet fruits & vegetables are served well with a finishing salt.
Try using oil, vinegar and a sprinkle of Pink Himalayan Salt or herb infused salt...
and what's better then a vine ripe garden tomato with some Fleur de sel? Not much!
Steak & Porcini Fleur de Sel
Steak (and other meats) is a great canvas for strong flavored salt,
like a porcini or truffle salt.
Finishing salts work best on whole, clean foods. Salt can make foods taste more like themselves!
Shrimp & Hawaiian Red Salt
Another very popular finishing salt is Maldon (from the UK). Very light and flakey and nice on delicate foods like salads, but also good on everything else as well. About $10 a box. Hawaiian red salt is very coarse and pairs nicely with shrimp. (deeply colored salts will bleed, so keep that in mind when pairing with lighter colored foods).
Roasted Garlic & Salt Chick peas
Typically salty snacks are a great way to try out your finishing and flavored salts. French fries, other fried foods, or these roasted garlic chick peas sprinkled with fleur de sel.
If you're looking for low-cal, satisfyingly salty and crunchy snacks, this is perfect. Because the chick peas are so meaty, I only need a few to satisfy.