All about salt
There’s a shaker of salt on almost every table in the land. Our quickfire guide about salt is full of interesting facts and useful tips set to catapult you to a new level of salty expertise!
There’s a shaker of salt in every kitchen and on every restaurant table across the land. Our favourite recipes, including pizza and pasta, would be nothing without a small pinch of these white crystals. Unlike plant-based spices that change the flavour of food through their own aromas, salt intensifies the ingredients’ original taste. One reason why salt is used so generously in baking and processed foods.
Our bodies need salt too. Unlike sugar, we couldn’t survive without it. However, the jury’s out on exactly how much salt is actually good for us and at what point it becomes unhealthy. Since 2016, salt is one of seven ingredients that must be clearly labelled on food packaging.
But before we dive straight into the most popular varieties and reveal some useful salt-based tips, let’s take a look at salt’s historical role.
The Romans regarded salt as “the spice of the Gods”. As well as using salt to conserve food or to add flavour, they also used it as a currency. Salt played a part in sacrificial ceremonies too as it was believed the gods liked their offerings to be seasoned.
A number of European cities also owe their prosperity to a roaring salt trade during the Middle Ages. “Salzburg” in Austria is one, and “Bad Reichenhall” in Germany is famous for its same-name salt brand. The word “hall” in the name comes from the Celtic word for “hall” that, yes, you guessed it, means “salt”.
Cooking salt, table salt & sea salt – what’s what?
There’s a whole host of salts to choose from in the supermarket, but what’s what? In principle they’re all the same: salt intended for human consumption. Basic sodium chloride. Unlike sea salt, table and cooking salt is generally mined underground before it’s industrially refined and made fine enough to pour. For years, Germany was deemed an area with high levels of iodine deficiency. We now know that iodine can be absorbed through table salt, which helps prevent an underactive thyroid.
And what about sea salt?
Yes, sea salt really does come from the sea and our Vapianisti use it for cooking and seasoning on a daily basis. It’s created by allowing sea water to flow into specially created flat pools, known as salt gardens. When the residual water evaporates in the sun and the wind salt is left behind. Sea salt generally comes from France, Spain, Portugal or Hawaii and is packed with minerals and micronutrients from the ocean.
Fleur de Sel – the queen of sea salts
The most expensive sea salt is called “Fleur de Sel”. A perfect interplay between sun and wind creates tiny flower shapes that float on the surface of the water in salt gardens. These flowers are harvested by hand and contain higher moisture levels than standard sea salt, giving them a milder flavour. If you’ve ever clambered over rocks at the seaside you may have seen salt deposits first hand? Fleur de Sel has large, decorative flakes and is usually only added to dishes immediately before they’re served. As well as resembling delicate snowflakes, these crystals dissolve just as quickly so timing is key.
Rainbow coloured grains
Kala Namak, also known as black salt, originates in India and Pakistan where it’s used for masala and mixed spice blends. Granted, it’s not really a bright rainbow colour but when finely milled it appears pink. Murray River Salt is also pale pink. It comes from salt basins at the foot of the Australian Alps and gets its colour from the added seaweed that contains carotene. Himalaya salt is another close relative. High levels of iron give it a reddy tinge. It’s mined in large rocks, which are also used to make the salt lamps you may have seen at some point.
Tricks & tips about salt
• How about making your own herb salt to take along to the next dinner party. Find out how easy it is here.
• Accidentally oversalted your food? Don’t panic. Here’s how to save the day.
• Ditch the rice. Nowadays salt has been specially engineered to prevent it sticking together.
• Spilt red wine on a white tablecloth? Scatter a handful of salt over the stain to absorb the moisture.
• Kiss a hangover goodbye by eating something salty the next day. Alcohol robs the body of valuable minerals. Salt helps readjust the balance.
Salt sure has a few tricks up its sleeve! We’re toasting our favourite table topper with a glass of wine and a piece of salted chocolate. Try it for yourself at home!