On an unrelated note…

Mexico Bob wrote in on the subject of salt. He wrote:

What’s the big deal with salt. Salt is salt, right? Why do some recipes call for sea salt and others for Kosher salt, and others for pickling salt, etc? Can you really taste the difference?

Bob, I think you’re right that salt is salt. That’s no great insight on my part, of course. Any chemist will tell you that edible salt is all sodium chloride. The differences in “pink” salts or a “grey” salts are all in the trace minerals. Since those minerals make up such a teeny tiny percentage of “luxury” salts, the people who claim to be able to detect flavor differences between them — especially when they’re applied to food — are, to my way of seeing things, full of it.

Now crystal size and shape, that’s another matter. Those differences definitely do impact the way you experience the sensation of salt on your tongue. Big crystals of an “artisan” salt don’t have as much surface area as lots of separate grains of common iodized salt, so they can taste milder, but also deliver a sudden “burst” of saltiness when you bite down on them. Bigger crystals of, say, Kosher salt also don’t melt as fast when they’re applied to a roast.

Crystal size also effects how much salt you get in a volume measure. A cup of Kosher salt delivers less total salt than a cup of table salt, but pickling salt, because the crystal size is so much smaller, delivers more. In that regard the differences are quite important.

I’m no gourmand where salt is concerned, but I do keep a few different ones in my cupboard. Regular iodized salt for sure, picking salt, and Kosher salt for certain recipes and for sprinkling on salads. I confess I also have a little jar of fleur de sel as well, because I think the big, irregular crystals look pretty on some things. I use maybe a tablespoon of it a year.

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