Friday, August 1, 2008


Salt: Without it, you wouldn't taste a damned thing.

Salt is amazing. I don't know if you guys realize how vital salt is to our existence. I don't need to go into much depth, but everything that we know in the history of the world was affected mostly in part of salt processing, distribution, and use. Read Salt: A World History. It's totally worth your time.

Other than being an ingredient in almost every food imaginable, salt is a basic taste for our taste buds, and is something we commonly crave. Convienently, many popular snacks are high in sodium and hit that salt craving nicely when necessary.

Salt is very underused in our society's home cooking, and then most of our food is bland. Does your food taste like nothing even though there are great things in it? Add salt! It will bring out many of the flavors with a single pinch. Add it until you can taste the flavors of the dish, not the salt.

Kinds of Salt:

Basic salt (the one that you find in salt shakers everywhere) is usually iodized salt. It's processed with iodine, and they look like tiny cubes. It's salty. Not much here. I would use it to salt water for boiling

Kosher salt is coarse. It's flavorful and dissolves well in dishes that are being cooked. This is a readily available salt and I would recommend it, since it's easy to find and tastes pretty good. I like it for anything involving flavoring foods, especially soups, stews, and liquid heavy stirfries. It's also great for brines and for picking.

Sea Salt is usually coarse and chunky and a bit aromatic. It's large, and usually needs to be ground or crushed before it is added to a dish, unless you are dissolving it in warm liquid. Sea salt is also delicious. It can be used to help keep ice frozen for icecream making, or ground into any dish of your choice, though I would lean towards seasoning warm dishes unless you choose to grind it. I like sea salt best, because it has dissolved minerals in it, and is less processed than other kinds of salt.

There are many kinds of specialty salts, such as grey salt (from France), red salt (from Hawaii), fleur de sel (very fine sea salt), green salt (with algae); color and taste are all based on the minerals in them. There are also many kinds of seasoned salts (smoked, herb, bacon, etc.) These tend to be used for specific flavorings, or as a finishing touch to a dish. If you ever get the opportunity to eat them, do it. They're fucking fantastic.

Salt concepts:

* First of all, everything, from sweet to spicy to sour will benefit from the addition of salt. It enhances the natural flavor of everything.

* Salt veggies (fresh, raw, steamed, whatever), salt chocolate (sauce, cake, cheesecake, cupcake), salt fruit (in the south, people eat melon with salt and pepper. It's really good), salt meat. Salt anything.

* Salt does cause the rupture of cell walls, though, so keep it in mind when cooking. Salt will make anything juice, so if you want a dry vegetable, remember to rinse and dry after salting if you plan to cook it some other way. Because of this, salt can remove bitterness from eggplant, cucumbers, and many other vegetables.

* Salt can be used to raise the boiling point and lower the freezing point of water. Use it when making homemade ice cream (rock salt keeps the ice colder) or when boiling water. If food is cooked in a liquid, the food will take on the flavors in the water. Use this to your advantage (more detail later. This is one of my other food goals). Foods that are cooked in water, including pasta and veggies and potatoes, especially, will absorb salt as they boil in the water. It is very difficult to properly salt things after they are cooked.

* Salt is used as a preservative. Use it on raw veggies with a touch of vinegar and/or sugar to make quick pickles (I've done this with cucumbers, beets, daikon, radishes, carrots, or pretty much any raw hard vegetable; usually over a few days).

* You can also use salt to brine (brine: salt + water, and any kind of spices; since salt causes the rupture of cells, all the good flavors can dash inside) any sort of animal protein. Wash it off before cooking it as you would regularly seasoned meat. It is not recommended to salt legumes until they are fully cooked, however.

* Salt is also one of the simplest seasonings to use, since it's an enhancer. To make wonderfully flavorful roasted veggies, toss vegetables of your choice in salt, pepper, and olive oil, and bake until soft.

* To make tasty seasoning salt (also known as finishing salt; which are used in food at the end, usually sprinkled on top, as a touch of extra flavor. Adding salt to other taste dishes [sweet, sour, spicy] increases the levels of enjoyment), grind dried herbs such as rosemary, sage, or garlic (or any kind. They're all tasty.) with coarse kosher salt or sea salt. You can use this instead of any salt in savory dishes, or as a finishing touch to anything.

Oh noes! I put too much salt in a dish! What do I do?

Well... Martha Stewart swears that if you put in one peeled potato into the dish and continue cooking it, the potato will absorb the excess salt and you will have a desalinated dish. I've never actually had to do this, though based on the above theory, it should work. I TASTE TASTE TASTE when I cook, and add things gradually and to taste, rather than following a certain amount in a recipe (seasoning amounts are just guidelines, anyways), so I have never run into this problem. I also tend to salt near the end of cooking, since cooking things for a long time concentrates the flavors, and concentrated salt is just saltier.

Wow. There is a lot about salt. Hope some fragments of this were helpful.

No comments: