Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Studio 5: Salt vs Salt

WINNER! Random number generator picked Kristine Day...congratulations!  Thanks everyone for participating!

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!

Leave a comment for a chance to win this
bamboo salt cellar filled with Maldon Flake salt

will pick a winner Oct. 2nd!
If you visit gourmet food shops, fine dine, or read Food & Wine magazine, then you probably know a lot about salt.  But if you're a home cook who loves to make a treasured casserole, spaghetti, meat loaf and a roast on Sunday then you may be wondering what all the fuss is about.

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!

2.  Finishing Salts
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.

Cons:  Expensive.

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.

Salted Butter & Bread

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.


Nikki R said...

Just watched your segment on Studio 5 and just had to check out your blog. I love it! Where can I buy the vanilla finishing salt you put on the apple caramel?

psychokitty5238 said...

I loved your segment on Studio 5. I can't wait to try alternative salts! Thank you for expanding my palate!

Melanie said...

I enjoyed watching the segment today! I use Pink Himalayan Sea Salt almost every day. But as Brooke said, my mind was also opened to many new possibilities! I'd love to win a new variety of salt to try! Thanks for the offer!

Susan Neal said...

Good question Nikki, that particular Vanilla Salt was purchased at Harmons, however, it wasn't there yesterday morning (at the Draper store), but I would call the other ones, maybe they have it. Otherwise, you could go with this one that I think I'm going to buy, as I go through this salt quickly, especially this time of the year!

This is a gourmet salt company from Oregan.

Tracey Jensen said...

I love salt & made the change to Kosher salt many years ago. But I had no idea there were sooo many options. Thank you for expanding my palate on something I enjoy so much. Now onto the hunt for the new favorites & the fun of tasting.

HR G said...

You could try making your own Vanilla Salt. I found this online.

Vanilla Salt

Just like extract and sugar, vanilla salt is a snap to make as well. Add the used vanilla pod to a clean jar, fill with sea salt and let it the scent of the vanilla pods infuse the salt for a couple of weeks. The one thing to take note is to not use regular iodized table salt. The iodized salt from the grocery store has a harsh chemical taste to it that won’t work well with the vanilla.

I use a grey sea salt (it has a little moisture already in it) but you can use whatever quality salt you can find. Obviously if you want to get fancy you can use Maldon or Fleur de sel, but I don’t think it’s that necessary. Thankfully most grocery stores nowadays stock a variety of salt to pick from, all at reasonable prices.

Susan Neal said...

Thanks for the link Heather, yes, there are SO many recipes for flavored salts and as I mentioned on Studio 5, I think this would make a great Christmas neighbor gift! I do agree, however, that a good base for flavored salts is one with more moisture than most, like Sel Gris, or Fleur De Sel. I think using a dryer salt (like Maldon) wouldn't absorb that flavor as well, but I'm not entirely sure about that. Only way to find out for sure...make it! :)

Julie Henricksen said...

I have been wondering about all these flavored salts and how to use them. Thank you for the information. I belong to a recipe club and I now know what i am giving them for their christmas gift.

Alison said...

Loved seeing you on Studio 5. I never knew about flavored salts. I think I may use your ideas for Christmas gifts. Thank you for the new knowledge. :)

Kristine Day said...

I missed seeing your Salt expo! Looking forward to watching the video when you post. I have just started experimenting with Salts. Thank you for all the information. I was not sure why I could not get as much saltiness with the sea salts. Kris Day

Susan Neal said...

Kris! Oh my goodness, so glad you left this message...I'm been furiously making slideshows for my next class and totally spaced putting the video on this post. It's up now! Thanks again!

Jill said...

Hi Sue! Loved the segment but was distracted by your beautiful scarf!! Can you share where you got it? Love the pops of pink.

Susan Neal said...

Ha! Thanks Jill. Sorry to say I got this overseas, but maybe it'll be a good excuse to visit Italy?? :)

Sandra Carrigan said...

Excellent segment on salts. Who knew. I had no idea there were so many to choose from. Wow! I have Himalayas pink salt and love it. Next time I am at the store I will be looking for new salts. Can't wait to try them out on our next meal. As always it is great to see you on tv.

Nikki R said...

Thank you! I checked Harmons here in St. George yesterday and they did not carry it, so I will order this one.

Linda Stavinoha said...

Susan you did it again. I don't know how you keep up with all of this. As usual this was great. Wonderful Job! Never knew that much about salts. Thank you.

Susan Neal said...

I wish this blog was like facebook where you can "like" something. Thanks for all your kind comments, glad I'm not the only one who finds salt fascinating!

judith zwierzycki said...

Susan, I finally got to watch you on KSL, loved the info on salt, I use several but my favorte is Maldon that I bought in Spain this spring. I hope I get to one of your classes this year, miss you. Judith

Ronda Bateman said...

Everything looks so yummy! and pretty! Wish I could cook like you!

Susan Neal said...

Judith! Good to hear from you! Yes, Maldon is a lovely flaky delicate salt... Hmmm!

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