How my relationship with salt blossomed
Salt is the one ingredient that has really transformed the way I cook.I would go as far as to say that salt is my single most important ingredient.There’s a lot to know about salting that the home cook may not know about—chefs actually live and die by the rule of salt on a daily basis. Many top chefs carry a spoon in their top pocket to taste their dishes as they go. Knowing what type of salt to use, when and how much to add, and most importantly why we add it can change one´s cooking quite radically. It’s therefore vital to get to know how to salt food appropriately. So what's the ‘right way to salt’? you ask. Salt really is what enhances the flavour. I think it definitely depends on your experience. People are too timid with salt, especially when they’re first starting to cook! The first thing is seasoning a piece of protein beforehand. I know there’s a lot of controversy about that, but I really love the intensity of flavour it allows for. Salt pulls out some of the moisture in the protein—almost like a mini brining. This elevates the flavour since some of the water is removed.
"Where would we be without salt" James Beard
Salt is a mineral essential to the human body, yet we tend to think of
it as a spice essential to cooking. It sharpens flavour and stimulates
the tastebuds, helping make other food tastier and more appetising, and
is an important preservative. In countries where salt is not added
directly to food, other ingredients (such as soy sauce and other
fermented pastes and liquids) add a salty component. Salt (“Sal”) has been present in Portugal since the Roman occupancy of the Iberian Peninsula, focussed on
five big centres for salt production called “Salgados” (a group of salt
fields “Salinas”) in Aveiro, Figueira da Foz, Tejo, Sado the Algarve and especially here in the East Algarve where some of the finest natural salt in the world can be found. Techniques used in Castro Marim to produce the salt are still very traditional
part of the overall exploration of the salt potential in Portugal. Not on the map as a salt mecca like its twin town Guerande, or Maldon in England, the people of Castro Marim have been transforming sea water into a seasoning for millenia..Jorge Raiado is just one, a man with a mission who coaxes the best possible product from the sea.
Salmarim, Jorge Raiado´s second generation business still harvests salt manually to the
same traditions that were used in Roman times. Labour intensive and passed through generations, this trade is a secular one. In Roman times salt was a currency, you were literally worth your wage in salt.
Essential to any Portuguese dish, salt is a natural flavour enhancer and the most used seasoning in Portuguese food. The
different flavours of salt are important, too. If I am cooking using a
barbecue, I would use smoked salt. If I was cooking fish, I’d use citrus
salt, either lemon or with timmut pepper, my most used type of salt is
flaky crystals, blossoms of salt we call them here in Castro Marim.
Because salt is cheap and plentiful in many parts of the world, yet bulky and expensive to transport, it is a heavily regional commodity.Meeting Jorge Raiado, was a life changer for me.Up to the point of moving to Castro Marim I had always used the best salt that was available to me or at least what my small knowledge told me of the products available to me at that time. Brought up on the Essex coast of the UK I of course gravitated towards that regions main commodity, Maldon sea salt. Having been exposed to a knew knowledge of salt and living in the salt mecca of the east Algarve where Celery salt is my most successful to date. Now with Jorge´s inspiration I am creating recipes using Timut infused salt.There´s more to come.......
Saltiness is masked by sweetness and enhanced by bitterness and sourness. Adding a squeeze of lemon juice to a dish can make it taste saltier without the
need to add more salt. Remember that salt
needs to be dissolved in water for it to be detected, so when adding
salt to a dish, stir it through and give it time to dissolve. Dishes are
seasoned towards the end of cooking because liquid evaporates, and if
you season a dish at the beginning, the ratio of salt to cooking liquid
will become greater and the dish too salty. If you find yourself with a
dish that is way too salty, add ingredients to bulk out the dish to
rebalance this salt-to-food ratio. You can dilute the dish with more
water or stock. You can bulk it out with vegetables, adding chopped
potato or pumpkin, or any vegetable that will cook quickly so the meat
will not get overcooked. Alternatively, remove the meat from the
dish, bulk out the stew with vegetables and cook until they are done,
then add the meat back in.
Types of salt
Table salt (processed) is the most common
type of salt found in a domestic kitchen and in restaurant salt
shakers. The majority of today’s table salt comes from deep salt mines Manufacturers add anticaking agents
to their fine-grained refined table salt to create a free-flowing
product. They offer both iodized and plain, non-iodized types.Table salt has a noticeably
bitter taste compared to unprocessed salts. For this reason, chefs and
cooks prefer natural and artisan salts.
comes from evaporated seawater. At 3 percent salt by weight, the oceans hold a limitless supply of NaCl. There are two varieties of sea salt: ground (fine or coarse) and flaked. Most artisanal salts are sea salt. More costly than mined salt, sea salt is typically more flavoursome and less refined and additive free.
Salt Flakes (blossoms)
Flaked salt comes in two varieties: paper-thin flakes or pyramid-shaped crystals. Both result from evaporating seawater until the snowflake-like crystals form. Being both fast dissolving and pleasantly crunchy, flake salt makes an excellent garnish for vegetables, meats, or most any foods. Add flaked salt to butter to turn butter into not just ordinary butter.
Flor de sal “flower of salt,” is often called the king of salts. Flor de sal requires labor-intensive hand harvesting. Workers carefully rake the salt from the surface of the salt pans after evaporation. They gather the delicate young crystals once per year in the summer. With its delicate earthy flavour and moist texture, Flor de sal is a chef staple. Though expensive, Flor de sal is the best all around finishing salt for salads, vegetables, and meats. If you can afford it, choose it for all types of cooking.
Seasoned, Flavored or Infused Salts are salts blended with herbs, spices, pepper, celery, citrus or other ingredients.
Smoked Sea Salt Smoked sea salt and smoke-flavoured salts differ. The latter contains liquid smoke or similar added smoke flavour. Smoked salt is made in a real wood smoker. Producers usually smoke the salt for five to 10 days to achieve the unique aromatic flavour so tasty on meats and vegetables.
Hopefully you now have an improved palate
and here are few suggestions for recipes featuring flor de sal