After a week of dipping my toes in the sand, I can attest to why we use salt to cure foods. The cure for anything, food or not, is salt water, sun and sweat. Promise.
This past week, if you are on my email newsletter list for my website, www.loavesanddishes.net, you know that my “Hot Cooking Tip of the Week” had to do with salting food. (P.S. feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org , I promise to answer because I love to chat).
Salting food seems so simple, right? Just sprinkle on some salt, or not, and serve dinner with a salt shaker on the table.
Nothing. I do mean nothing, could be further from the truth. Salt is the most important seasoning that you have in your kitchen. Salt is what stands between food you prepare tasting like it is fit for a king or fit for the trashcan. There is little else that affects food as greatly as salt does.
Besides that, there are so many salts to choose from. Have you checked out the variety of salts in your grocers lately? Table Salt, Kosher Salt, Sea Salt, Himalayan salt and Fleur De Sel and the list goes on and on.
Perhaps we should review a few of those, so we won’t be so overwhelmed at the grocery.
TABLE SALT – this is the salt that comes in teeny tiny crystals and is iodized for your health which keeps our thyroid operating correctly and also, iodine plays a function in brain. As it turns out, some diets aren’t complete enough with iodine, which keeps our thyroid operating an okay as well has plays a function in brain and bone development. So, the easy way to get some iodine in the diet is to have it in the table salt.
When cooking, table salt isn’t always the best answer. The crystals are so small that it is difficult to control the amount that goes in the dish and frequently can cause over salting of a dish. When a dish becomes over salted, it is difficult, if not impossible to correct.
KOSHER SALT – Kosher salt is a larger flake salt that you’ll find under the names “Morton” or Diamond Crystal” at the store. Diamond Crystal has a larger flake than Morton. This type of salt may or may not be iodized. The original purpose of Kosher salt was to cure meats (draw the water from meats thus following part of the ‘koshering” process for the Jewish faith). Kosher salt is not actually Kosher at all, it is used in the koshering process instead.
SEA SALT – Sea salt is often used for cooking because it is purely natural and is produced through an evaporation process in the marshes where it is found. After cleaning the salt, the Sea salt has many trace minerals left in it and some say, richer deeper salt flavors. The final product has a variety of salt grain sizes and many people favor this for cooking.
HIMALAYAN SALT – A few years ago, the pink Himalayan salt became a popular hit in the cooking community. Last week, I noticed that we even carry this pink sprinkling salt in the local grocery in Walnut Cove now. Himalayan salt also comes in a block formation that many people cook meat on top of. This interesting pink colored salt is used just like the other salts for cooking and is mined from Pakistan.
FLEUR DE SEL – I’ll tell you something funny. A few years ago, I was making a recipe that called specifically for “Fleur De Sel” which I promptly drove all the way to Winston Salem and purchased from Whole Foods paying more than $10.
On arriving home and opening my package, I thought, “this looks just like the sea salt that I already have”. A quick Google search explained to me that Fleur De Sel Is just a sea salt, but one that is collected during a certain point of the evaporation process.
Honestly, I believe that my dish would have been just fine with my typical sea salt, so, lesson learned.
Fleur De Sel is collected under special conditions and with special equipment to take care with its delicate crystal. That said, it is still salt.
So, there you have it. A short compendium of the salt varieties you’ll likely find at the local grocery store. Personally, I use Kosher salt in my kitchen. Because of the large grain, it is difficult to over salt with and it sprinkles nicely from your fingertips.
And what about those TV chefs who you see sprinkling salt from a foot or more over the dish? Is that just theatrical flourish for the benefit of the cameras? Nope, studies show that salt sprinkled from high up over the dish causes a nice spread pattern of the salt thus flavoring the dish better.
So, the next time that you are preparing a dish, simply let your inner Julia Child’s loose and sprinkle salt from head high because at the end of the day, you can not compete with Mother Nature. There’s nothing better this time of the year than a tomato sandwich with a little salt and mayo! Enjoy!