Salt is one of the most ubiquitous substances in existence. It is reliably found on most every restaurant table, spice rack and recipe ingredient list we come across each day. It has literally changed the course of history, motivating both industrious pioneers and exhausted soldiers with the promise of its sustaining potential. Even the word “salt” has found its way into our modern vernacular – a good person is “salt of the earth,” a valued worker is “worth their salt.” And the reason for its ubiquity is as simple as the chemical compound itself – salt is an essential mineral for all animal life and is one of our most basic human tastes. We humans learned quickly that we not only need salt for the health of our bodies, but we also like the way it tastes, as well.
Different Types of Salt
In Western cultures, the most common form of salt used in cooking has long been what we simply call “table salt.” Table salt is basically refined salt, which means that in addition to sodium chloride it also contains additives such as anti-caking agents, iodine and sometimes iron and fluoride. In recent years, consumers have become more interested in health, prompting a growing demand for natural, unrefined salts such as Sea Salt. Today, the salt category has grown even further now including varietals from around the world differing in color, texture and taste. What was once the most straightforward purchase on the grocery list is suddenly more complicated.
To shed some light on this issue, we went straight to our favorite salt and spice expert, Didi Davis. Didi is a chef, food writer, cooking teacher and owner of SALT TRADERS – a retail website featuring premium salts harvested from around the world. Didi is a pro at introducing home cooks to this exciting new world of salts and her favorite way to do so is by hosting “salt tastings.”
“A salt tasting demystifies the various choices out there,” says Didi, “and it’s a fun thing to do with a group.” Hosting a salt-tasting party is an easy and fun way to gather friends and learn about world of salt. A salt-tasting can be as simple as choosing 4-5 different salt varietals, lining them up in labeled vessels on the table and serving unsalted foods that allow for the nuances of the salts to be tasted. Some food suggestions that work best are things such as French bread with unsalted butter, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs and plain poached chicken breasts.
Stay tuned for another blog post on salt. In the meantime, please visit my website at SallysPlace.