Salt of the Earth

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Salt often gets a bad rap these days, taking the blame for many of our health woes. The fact is, that salt is an essential mineral that our bodies need to properly function. It also adds flavor to food, and can be a natural preservative.

There are many types of salt on the market, each with it’s own distinct flavor and texture. Before you settle for that cardboard cylinder, learn a bit about the different varieties, and how to use each one.

Table salt: Refined from underground mills, this is the most common salt. It is often found in salt shakers, and those cardboard cylinders in the supermarket. Most table salt also contains anticaking agents and iodine, which is an essential  nutrient. The flavor is non distinct and can even be a bit on the bitter side. It is higher in sodium chloride than many other salts, and because of it’s pourable texture and bland taste, it is easily over used.

Kosher salt: The most all- purpose of the bunch, and the one used most frequently by chefs. It’s larger crystals dissolve easily, disperse flavor evenly, and it’s coarse texture works well for sprinkling.

Sea salt: Similar to kosher salt, it has a coarse crystal which dissolves easily, and can also be found finely ground. Sea salt can have a slightly tinged hue, depending on it’s origin, and the minerals it contains. Pink salt, for instance, is iron rich which causes it’s rosy color.
Expect sea salt to have a slightly briny, or even sweet flavor.

Flaked sea salt, or Maldon sea salt: This quick dissolving salt from England is considered a finishing salt.  It’s soft white flakes add a brininess to already cooked foods.

Fleur de Sel: This is the cream of the salt crop. Harvested by hand in France under perfect conditions which allows it to “bloom” on the surface of the water, fleur de sel is slow dissolving, allowing the eater to savor it’s delicate flavor. Crush it in your fingers, and sprinkle it on salads, vegetables and cooked foods.

Himalayan Sea Salt: Hand mined in Pakistan, this ancient salt is thought to be the purest possible. Often used in spa treatments, or as a slab to serve food, it is also useful as both a cooking or a finishing salt.

When using flakier salts, it’s best to add them at the end, and a little can go a long way. Given the coarse or flakier texture, and the increased flavor, you may find you use less than you would when using traditional table salt. Before you just pour the salt on your food, be sure to taste it, and decide if more is really necessary.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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