Salt production can be traced back nearly 6,000 years to ancient times usage included seasoning, food preservation and even payment, which is where the word, salary, comes from. Nowadays, surprisingly only 6% of salt is used for culinary purposes, the rest is for industrial, agricultural or road gritting use.
Produced either from salt mines or by evaporation of sea or spring water, edible salt comes refined as table salt or as varied as the multitude of sea and rock salts Many table salts are fortified with iodine, especially in the US where the government is driving to reduce cases of mental retardation that results from iodine deficiency. Unrefined salts from seasalt or spring water contain traces of minerals like calcium and magnesium. These natural salts will have different mineral content, colour, flavour and texture.
In an attempt to investigate the subtleties of flavour and preferences, I arranged a get together with friends to taste test a number of different salts. I prepared and barbequed unseasoned chicken breast, beef kebabs using rump steak and a beef rump roast to try them out on different types of meats. Salts 1, 2 and 3 are plain while 4, 5, 6 are blended with herbs. Each taster was given a sheet to document their preferences and comments.
1. Nezo Table Salt
2. Maldon Sea Salt
3. Maldon Smoked Salt
4. Baesurisal Flower of Salt for Salad
5. Baesurisal Flower of Salt for Meat
6. Sel Fin Façon Toscana
The most popular on both chicken and beef was salt 6 the Sel Fin Façon Toscana. This seemed to work really well on both types of meat. For chicken 2, 3, 4 and 5 all scored equally overall, which surprised me given the extreme preferences for or against each one as written in the comments, somehow they cancelled each other out on scores. For the beef, salts 3 and 4 drew in overall second position. It is interesting that Baesurisal produce salt 4 as a salt for salad. Joint third was salt 2 and 5 and salt 1 came in as a clear last with both chicken and beef.
Refined table salt was least attractive looking and lacked depth of flavour. Rather than use at the table, keep for baking, boiling and stewing. It blends evenly in doughs and works well in recipes where there’s strong flavours from the spices where the subtle flavour of other salt could get lost.
Both Maldon sea salts look great and the large salt crystals crumble nicely between the fingers. I enjoy cooking with these because of the crunchiness of texture and for the flavour bursts it brings to the dish. I also find the flavour less bitter than milled table salt so I use on grilled meat and roast vegetables. The smoked salt works really well on grilled salmon and steaks, cheese dishes and any other dish that would benefit from a smokey flavour.
The three salts blended with herbs can be used in many ways but mainly after cooking. Sprinkle directly onto salad, use on focaccia, bruschetta and garlic bread or simply add to grilled meat, chicken and fish at the table. The two Baesurial Flower of Salts are mixed with herbs in different blends while the Sel Fin Façon Toscana is mixed with herbs as well as dried tomatoes and olives giving it the most flavour out of all six hence its popularity in the taste test.
Samples of the Baesurial were provided complimentary by the Organic Foods and Cafe