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Old 10-31-2011, 05:33 AM   #1
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Layering flavors?

While waiting for files to upload the other day, I turned on the TV. The person was making a vegetable soup. What she did was start with the onions, sauteed those, and then added a pinch of salt. Then she added the carrots, another pinch of salt, the celery, another pinch of salt. At about this point, I was thinking--seems like a lot of salt. No sooner had this thought crossed my mind, and she went on to explain that by adding the pinch of salt after each vegetable, the salt would bring out the flavor of the veggies so you'd end up with the distinct flavors of each vegetable. I'd never heard this before. I am going to try this with the next soup I make.

On another show I watched last week, the person was making tomato sauce and offered if using fresh...blah-blah-blah, if using canned, add some sugar because canned tomatoes can be bitter and the sugar will draw the sweetness out of the tomatoes. I know a lot of people use canned tomatoes. I don't, I have enough jars/frozen/dehydrated that I don't need to use canned tomatoes. But, I thought that was interesting too--I don't usually add sugar to my tomato sauce. Do you? And if so, are you using canned tomatoes or fresh? And, why do you add the sugar?
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Old 10-31-2011, 06:11 AM   #2
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Yes I have hear of both of those. I do season like that as I go along, a little at a time. Especially when I am making soup, stews, chili, and things like that. I know the sugar is supposed to cut down some of the acidic flavor of the tomatoes but it never really bothered me and I really don't like "sweet" tomato sauce.
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Old 10-31-2011, 06:19 AM   #3
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I've seen several TV chefs mention to add a pinch of salt after each ingredient.
And it was recently mentioned here a couple times that adding just a little salt will enhance the flavor of whatever you are adding it to.
I've never done a side by side taste test, with/without, but it is something I typically do.

I never noticed canned tomatoes tasting bitter. I do add some sugar though, as I was told a long time ago it helps with the tomatoes' acidity. I don't believe fresh tomatoes are acidic.
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Old 10-31-2011, 07:46 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pacanis View Post
I've seen several TV chefs mention to add a pinch of salt after each ingredient.
And it was recently mentioned here a couple times that adding just a little salt will enhance the flavor of whatever you are adding it to.
I've never done a side by side taste test, with/without, but it is something I typically do.

I never noticed canned tomatoes tasting bitter. I do add some sugar though, as I was told a long time ago it helps with the tomatoes' acidity. I don't believe fresh tomatoes are acidic.
Actually, I read s/where that because of all the manipulation with tomato hybrids, today's garden variety tomatoes are more acidic than the heirloom varieties and have as much as 200x sodium than the heirlooms had. This was an article on canning. I'll see if I can find it--might have been in Mother Earth News or in Country Living. We grow mostly heirloom tomatoes...
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Old 10-31-2011, 08:28 AM   #5
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I have seen the TV folks do that, and I have tried it--but I guess I got carried away, because my food is too salty if I do that. And I am not sure that my tastebuds are sophisticated enough to discern the difference between salting each thing and salting once or twice during the process.
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Old 10-31-2011, 08:31 AM   #6
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Yes, it's important to season ingredients as you add them.

Add sugar to canned or fresh tomatoes to your taste. Sugar obviously doesn't neutralize acidity but it helps mask it.
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Old 10-31-2011, 10:44 AM   #7
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I've seen layering justified in ways that I find questionable. Sometimes, it's expressed as if adding salt with each ingredient is necessary because the ingredient will suffer if the dish is salted later. I've also seen it implied that the ingredients are in some kind of competition for the salt, again that they will be affected differently.

Both are kind of right, but it's often worded in a way that doesn't express why we really do it.

As already noted, a lot of good chefs are seen to do it. But remember that an important principle, often forgotten by some cooks, is to taste often. It's sensible to taste after each additional ingredient begins to be assimilated. And you're not going to get much of an idea of how the flavor is developing if the appropriate portion of salt isn't on board. You have to salt as you go. You can't load up in the beginning. That would throw off every taste along the way. You can't wait to the end, because then you might as well not taste until the end. So, it's really salting each stage, each intermediate combination of ingredients, to taste. No magic. No mystery. Just fundamental frequent tasting and the necessity of salting correctly for the stage you happen to be tasting.

"Layering" is a good term for it. By salting as you go, you can taste that layer or layers to that point. But, as pointed out, you have to make careful judgments at each stage, if you don't have a solid, experienced idea of about the right amount of salt each time. Good thing is that if you're over at one point, you can recover. Your tasting will be off for that stage, but you can recover with less salt as you go.
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Old 10-31-2011, 11:13 AM   #8
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I often find a dish made with canned tomatoes is unpleasantly (to me) acidic. When it is, I add just a little sugar (less than a teaspoon) and the flavor is immediately corrected.
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Old 10-31-2011, 11:13 AM   #9
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Well said, GLC.
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Old 10-31-2011, 12:20 PM   #10
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I save the salt for the end myself.

One thing to note with this salting technique is that it also draws water out of the vegetables you are sauteing, and can therefore interfere with the caramelization process. The veggies end up steaming in their own juice rather than browning nicely. This is especially true of mirepoix vegetables, such as onions, celery, and carrots.

Adding sugar, on the other hand, encourages caramelization. So rather than adding salt to onions when sauteing, I sometimes like to add just a pinch of sugar.
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