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Old 11-28-2005, 07:39 PM   #1
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Sea Salts Questions

Having recently completed several raids on Marshall's I have amassed a small collection of Sea Salts.
pacific from California, Atlantic from Brazil, Mediterreanan from France and Trapani from the
Sicilian Sea. First I want to know if I will really be able, ok if I have good taste should I be able to taste a difference in these salts , have you heard of any other varieties and are they worth collecting and lastly I think, I will be using my salts, these salts on Salads or in dressings. What can I use to only grind a little of a given salt, short of having a rack of salt grinders, so that I can sprinkle a little on a dish or into a vinagrette?


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Old 11-28-2005, 09:35 PM   #2
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A subject that usually generates discussion.

I have heard of taste tests wherein experts could not tell the difference among salts - sea, kosher, table. Others are equally sure they can tell a difference. Michael Chiarello on the Food Network, for example, never refers to this seasoning as salt. He ALWAYS goes to the trouble of calling it Grey Salt. You can bet he's in the latter category.

When folks use sea salts, it is mostly as a condiment used just before service or at the table in order to experience the salt's unique taste. The differences, being suttle, would be lost when cooked in a dish.

Basically, all salt is the same chemical - 99.x % sodium chloride. The difference is in the other minerals that are present along with the salt. These combinations of other minerals are different from location to location, giving the different salts their different flavors.

Taste then and decide for yourself.

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Old 11-28-2005, 09:42 PM   #3
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I plan to get a salt mill to go along with my pepper mill. I would like to try sea salt and/or kosher salt over the standard table salt, to see what if any difference there is, and what the big to do is about.

Good tips to know, though. Cook with regulalr salt; season at the table before serving with the "exotic" salt.
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Old 11-28-2005, 09:56 PM   #4
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Any difference in the flavor will come from the minerals in the waters of a particular region - not the salt itself.

While some people claim they can differentiate between the flavors of the minerals in the salts in cooked foods ... usually the flavors are lost (significantly diluted) in cooking. But this gets into the debate about there being a 5th taste sensation (umami) and does it really make mineral flavors detectable? This is not to say that a very small percentage of people can not taste these very subtle flavors ... some can, but most people can't.

Generally, sea salt is a flake and doesn't need to be ground - just rubbed between the fingers to break it up as you sprinkle it over the dish. Mined salts are crystaline - so a simple pepper mill could be used to grind them into a finer particle - of course you could use table salt instead of kosher salt with the same effect. If you wish to retain any unique flavor it has ... sprinkle it on the dish after it is finished. This would be no problem for a salad without a dressing.

I do have some sea salt from off the coast of Greece a friend sent me that, if I sprinkle it on a raw spinach or a Greek salad, does have a slightly different flavor. If I use it to cook with, as in a soup or such, I can't taste anything different.

Going back to your original question: "First I want to know if I will really be able, ok if I have good taste should I be able to taste a difference in these salts ..." my answer is - if you can't, why spend the money? To paraphrase on old saying - "a gourmet and his money are soon parted." That's why they put gourmet on the label.
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Old 11-29-2005, 06:48 AM   #5
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Personally I have not been able to taste the difference between different types of salt. the difference, IMO, is the size and shape of the crystals and how that affect your perception of taste. My fleur de sel, for instance, is a large crystal, sort of like table salt, but much larger. Because of this it does not dissolve right away when applied to food (I only use it as a finishing salt right at the table, not for actual cooking). Since it does not dissolve as readily that means that I will get a salty bite when I hit the crystals. I can actually crunch on some salt from time to time whereas if I used table salt it would have dissolved to quickly for me to get that crunch and "shot of salt".

Do a blind taste test and see if you can tell the difference. Post back with your results!
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Old 11-29-2005, 07:04 AM   #6
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I only use Maldon sea salt at home, both for cooking and for the table - and I go very lightly with salt! I can tell the difference between that and other salts - but not between say a Camargue salt from a Greek salt. Guess my palate isn't refined enough!

I know that a lot of British chefs use Maldon, too.
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Old 11-29-2005, 10:14 AM   #7
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Here is a very interesting article on sea salts.

Jeffrey Steingarten once took sea salts to a professional food tasting lab where the tasters could tell no real difference.

I think that I can taste a subtle difference between fleur de sel and regular kosher salt.

At any rate, using expensive sea salts for anything but finishing a dish seems pretty pointless, as the distinctive tase and texture differences you are paying big $$ for are all but lost when the salt dissolves.
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Old 11-29-2005, 08:14 PM   #8
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Well from previous discussions on salt I knew not to cook with sea salt, for that you use table salt or some say Kosher is even better.

I will taste my salts and see if I can tell the difference over the next week or two. I would have never thought of rubbing salt between my fingers to dust it on my finish my dish. Great tip!

I taste some salt at my MIL's house over the weekend and it was down right icky. Tasted almost stale or maybe a slight metallic taste. More to come.
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Old 11-29-2005, 08:18 PM   #9
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I just recently bought a can of sea salt. I usually buy kosher salt or table salt. I found that sea salt is much more saltly than kosher and table salt. I would use sea salt sparingly. My sea salt is from France, the mediterranian sea.
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Old 11-30-2005, 12:06 PM   #10
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Scientists wil say that sea salt, kosher salt and table salt are all the exact same thing -- sodium chloride -- so technically they are equally "salty." But a lot of cooks (including amber and I) think sea salt tastes "saltier."

In the article I linked above, Robert Wolke explains this: "The difference in taste between sea salt and table salt is a matter of texture and time. The complex flaky crystals of sea salts make them dissolve on the tongue more quickly. That's why some people think they are saltier. "

Also, sea salt doesn't have additives, so it tastes "brighter" and the trace minerals and algea give it a different taste that many people define as "saltier."

But this is comparing salts when you taste them on your tongue. When they are dissolved in liquid there really is a significant difference.

If you dissolve a t of table salt in a cup of water and compare it to a t of kosher salt dissolved in a cup of water, the table salted water will taste saltier. That's because table salt crystals are much smaller than kosher salt's and more salt fits into the teaspoon. This is why you must adjust recipes when converting from table to kosher salt and vice versa. There is even a difference between brands of kosher salt. Diamond Crystal has the largest crystals of common kosher salts.

This is also true with many sea salts that come in large crystals (not pulverized).

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