Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Salt of the Earth

Perhaps one of the most important seasonings
in the kitchen is salt.

Salt is a mineral and is essential to animal life
as it helps to regulate the water content,
or fluid balance, of the body.

Salt is also significant in culinary history,
as it was once the primary way to preserve fresh foods.
Salt was used to draw moisture out
of meats and other foodstuffs,
so that the foods could be kept without refrigeration
for a long period of time.

In ancient times a Roman soldier was paid a 'salary'
so he could buy his weekly ration of salt.
You've got it: 'salary' is Latin for salt.

As late as the Victorian times,
an obvious sign of wealth was for a saltcellar
to be present on the dinner table.
And the fancier the better.

All salt on earth once came from the seas,
no matter how ancient
and no matter where those beds are now found.

Different types of salt found in the kitchen:

Kosher salt
Rock salt
Iodized table salt (ptooey!)
French Grey sea salt
Himalayan pink salt
Mediterranean sea salt
Extra course sea salt
On the top left: Iodized table salt. 
This salt should only be on the table.  
And even that is questionable.  
Never use this salt in cooking.  

Middle left: Course sea salt.  
This is the salt that should be
on the table in a grinder. 
This salt has more flavor and you will find 
that you need less of it.
End of discussion.
Bottom left: kosher salt.  
This is your standard cooking salt,
except if you are frying eggs.  
Never try to substitute table salt
for kosher salt as the grains are different sizes 
and the saltiness will differ.
Kosher salt is not a table salt.

And now for a very important cooking tip:
when cooking something like potatoes or pasta 
(and yes, that includes noodles),
always! salt the water.  Add about a tablespoon 
of KOSHER salt to the water.
Remember, if you are draining the water,
most of the salt will go down the drain.
But some of that salt will be absorbed into the 
potatoes or pasta.
And that is a very good thing.
Because no amount of salt later can ever
redeem the dish.
In the end you will find that you will have 
added less salt to the dish.
And it will taste better.
It's a win-win.

Center top: ground sea salt.
This is the other cooking salt.
Use this when you need a finer cooking salt.

Center bottom: French grey sea salt.
This is strictly a finishing salt. 
Treat this like gold.
This is a good salt for homemade croutons 
or a salted caramel.

Right top: rock salt.
This is the salt you would use 
for old-fashioned ice cream makers.
You can also use it to salt your driveways and walks 
in the winter.
Don't eat it.

Right bottom: Himalayan pink salt.
This also is a finishing salt.
Bring this out when you want to impress your guests.
Pass around the grater and let each guest grate a bit
of the cube of salt over their food.
If you like them enough, that is.

And if you forget everything else,
remember this:
you do not salt food to make it taste salty,
you salt food to bring out the flavors of the food.


Rosie Hawthorne said...

May I just add my pet peeve here?

If you sit at someone's table for a meal, do NOT, I repeat, do NOT, salt your food before you even taste it.
The food is already seasoned properly.

I don't even keep salt on the table.

Marilyn said...

Yes, that is my pet peeve as well! Always taste the food before adding salt to it.