Salt is a unique, useful and sometimes misunderstood seasoning ingredient.
Here’s a few reasons to take it with more than a pinch..
- Not all salt has the same nutritional value.
The best salt is the least refined. The genuine French Fleur de Sel is still hand-harvested on the central Western French coast and widely regarded as one of the best salts to use in the kitchen. Because of its minimal processing, all its valuable minerals are retained.
‘Table’ salt is the most processed. The heavy processing eliminates all the minerals, and often other chemicals are added as ‘anti-caking’ agents to provide a very white, free-flowing substance.
A little bit of natural salt is way better than a lot of processed salt.
Maldon sea salt and Celtic sea salts are both good alternatives if you can’t get any Fleur de Sel. The large flakes of salt provide a lovely, salty crunch when sprinkled, and their processing is minimal.
2. Salt is a magical flavour enhancer.
There’s good reason why salt and pepper pots are on every dining table in cafes, homes and restaurants in Britain and beyond.
Salt is one of our five fundamental tastes (and an essential nutrient of our bodies), so it’s no wonder that is has such a special place in our eating habits.
Salt’s unique culinary quality is to enhance sweet and pleasant tastes, and mask musty, bitter ones.
Take tomatoes for instance. They have a natural mustiness that is transformed into a sweet fruit with the addition of a sprinkling of salt.
Vegetables with a bitter edge such as kale, cabbage and spinach also become sweeter with a little salt.
3. Salt tenderises and preserves
If you want a tender, moist pork chop, place it in a bag of water with a teaspoon of natural salt. Leave it in the fridge for two or three hours, then cook. This ‘wet brine’ has a magical effect on the meat, giving you a delicious, tender dish. This works just as well with other meats too. The salt’s reaction with the meat’s proteins help the tenderising process.
Salt’s preserving qualities are also legendary for good reason.
Before fridges, jars and tins were available, salt was essential for preserving meat and vegetables throughout the season as it draws out moisture (in dry salt brines) and kills bacteria.
Our love of pickles and salted and cured meats are all testament to the historical role that salt has played, and continues to play, in our cooking, and its dual qualities of masking bitterness and preserving give it a role that no other ingredient can play.
Do you have a favourite use for salt? I’d love to hear from you.