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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Salt and your Senses


Pink ones, blue ones, white ones, black ones…

Big crystals, little crystals...

...and varieties from Japan, Bolivia, Australia, Iceland, USA, France, Spain...and more. 

So, how do you select the right salt for you and your gastronomic creations?

  • Whichever salt seems intuitively right to you?  Yes
  • Salts that have the same provenance as the food? Yes
  • Is there more to it? YES

To me, a good finishing salt adds another layer of flavour to your food creating interest, depth and texture.

Salt is the most important, universally used ingredient that adds dimension to your food for all of the five senses:

Select the right finishing salt using your 5 senses
For the perfect salt experience, get all five senses involved when tasting

1.      TASTE

Not all salts are the same old salty flavour. The salinity, minerals and marine life present changes the flavour of the salt.  Just like the quality of soil impacts the flavour of the grape.  Is the salt harvested near a coral bed?  Does the salt take in some of the minerals of the salt pond clay such as the French Sel Gris which gives it a fuller, more mineral flavour that is great on a roast?

We are also tantalized by flavours that are added to the salt after harvesting.  Different cultures have their own ways to produce and use the salt.  Alaea salt from Hawaii is mixed with alae clay, which is red (containing iron oxide) and considered sacred.  The salt is used for traditional food dishes as a Kalua Pig and Poke as well as to cleanse and purify homes, canoes and tools.

Other flavours include smoked woods, or other natural flavours infused into the salt such as wild porcini mushrooms, habanero chillies or vanilla bean.

2.      AROMA

We all know that aroma heavily influences our sense of taste.  It is understood that salt helps to release aromas in your food, or finishing with a salt that ass a sea freshness to the food or the aroma from a natural flavour such as smoked salts, black truffle, roasted garlic or rosemary.

3.      CRUNCH

Depending upon the food you create, sometimes you might want a satisfying crack or crunch, say on a pretzel, on top of soup or in a salad.  Flake salts, and larger grain salts will give you the crunch at the same time as releasing a burst of salty flavour.

4.      FEEL

From fine grains that melt on your food, to large pyramid like flakes that have size and substance, the size of the crystal and whether it melts on your food or not, impact the feel of the salt and food in your mouth.


5.      LOOK

Food presentation is an important factor with which salt can add colour, and the crystal structures can add visual interest to your food – red, white, black, pink, blue , large or small. It could simply be Cyprus Black Lava salts with avocado on toast, or a red Alaea salt dusted over pineapple (a great combination).

  

If you are still skeptical about the impact of different salts on your food (and I am sure there are a few who will say “Prove it”), my next blog will be on How to Conduct a Salt Tasting….and you can find out for yourself.


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