Thursday, March 10, 2011

Salty Like The Sea

Salts From The Sea
Sea salt is, at its most basic, just evaporated seawater. What makes the different types of sea salt stand out from each other are factors such as where it's harvested, how it's harvested, and what kinds of trace minerals and other elements it contains. All these things will influence it's color, moisture content and flavor (oh yeah, and price).

The one thing that all sea salts will do is make your food taste better. The larger crunchier crystals tend to dissolve slower than table salt and provide little bursts of flavor that make food really sparkle. If you've never done a side-by-side taste test of salts, now is the time. Start with the sea salt, putting a few grains of it on your tongue. Let it dissolve some, then start noticing the taste of it. Have a sip or two of water and then do the same thing with a bit of table salt. The difference should be pretty obvious.

A Few Of My Favorites

Kosher Salt is a medium/coarse-grained salt that is available in almost any grocery store, and it's a bargain too (kosher salt may be from salt water or underground sources). I use it in just about everything I cook. Kept in a wide-mouthed jar or box next to the stove, it's easy to add a pinch whenever needed. If I think the texture might be an issue, I use...

Fine-Grained Sea Salt is just what it sounds like, finer-grained than other sea salts, making it the perfect choice for baking. Table salt crystals are cubical in shape and pack very closely together when measured. Sea salt crystals, on the other hand, whether fine or coarse-grained, are somewhat pyramidal. These more irregularly shaped crystals don't pack together as closely as table salt crystals and as a result, there is not as much salt in the same measured amount of each. In other words, a teaspoon of sea salt has less salt than a teaspoon of table salt. The larger the grain, the bigger the difference will be. I never bother with adjusting recipes though. I figure it's an easy way for me to cut down my salt intake. And I'm lazy.

Himalayan Pink Salt comes from a deposit deep in the Himalayan mountains. It is a large-grained or rock salt that can be used in soups and stews as is, or ground finer to use as a finishing salt. It has a low moisture content and can be used in a mill or grinder. Use it just as you would table salt.

Sel gris or gray salt comes from the coast of France. Its coarse grains make it ideal as a finishing salt, sprinkled on top of foods just before serving. It tastes like the ocean and because of its high moisture content, is best pinched with the fingers, as it won't go through a shaker or mill. The higher moisture content makes it ideal for blending with other herbs to make a flavored finishing salt. Grind a bit of fresh herbs and some of the salt briefly in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, then sprinkle some on your food for extra layers of flavor.

More good and salty info...
What to do with your Sea Salt now that you have it...
About the post title: I say this to myself as a reminder to add the salt to the boiling water before I add the pasta. I went from adding none at all, to adding just a pinch, to a whole tablespoon... and our plain-old-everyday spaghetti has never tasted better. "Salty like the sea"... it's the secret to flavorful pasta.
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    1. My son and I made chocolate chip cookies tonight. When it came time to put the salt in I was tempted to put in a sea salt (my son suggested the pink kind) but decided I should go with the norm. Now reading your post I'm bummed that I didn't try something new. Next time I will give it a try. Thanks Stephanie! What kind would you put in a cookie?

    2. Hi Ann - I just made some chocolate chip cookies too! I'll post them soon, they were pretty awesome.

      I buy the large container of "Pure Sea Salt-fine grained" from Costco and use that for all my baking (or anywhere else a coarser grain wouldn't be ideal).

      Unless you're sprinkling the salt grains on top of the cookies, you probably won't notice a difference between the types of sea salt once baked. I'd save the pricey stuff for sprinkling. On the other hand, if the little one wants to put pink salt in the cookies, why not! :)

    3. I love salty pasta too! And Himalayan Pink Salt is wonderful!! :)

    4. Hi Sheila - That salt-water pasta trick totally opened my eyes (and my taste-buds). I confess that the thing I love most about the Himalayan salt is its color(!) but the color is from minerals so it's all good. :)


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