An Introduction to Cooking Salts

Locals collecting sea salt from the salt flats...
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Salt tastes the same no matter where it’s from, right? Wrong! If you have grown accustomed to the horrible and harsher flavor properties of regular iodized table salt you will be completely smitten with the different varieties of cooking salts available. They are usually softer, milder, and far more flavorful than standard grocery store varieties. They even offer a small dose of minerals and nutrients too.

For example, a high-quality sea salt will usually be entirely unprocessed, full of all its naturally occurring minerals and nutrients, and it might even be harvested by hand! It can be used to finish foods because it will dissolve readily under any conditions and is ideally suited for use as a meat or fish rub as well.

Some varieties of sea salt will require the cook to purchase and use a special grinder due to the fact that the salt is still in a very large crystal format. Generally, these sea salt crystals are entirely uniodized and full of the more delicate flavors of natural food. There are also “Fleur de Sel” varieties that are crushed and ready for use. These are the traditionally chosen styles for use as a finishing touch on everything from soups and meats to sauces and even some dressings.

If you are a “purist” and want the most natural salt on Earth, you should investigate options in Himalayan sea salt crystals. Generally it is considered to be an artisan-made food because it is hand crafted, unrefined, and has absolutely no additives. It tends to be pink in color due to the high number of minerals in the salt, and this only adds to the unique flavor. Many high-quality vendors will sell it in small, fine-grain shakers or they may also package it in specialized grinders that crush the larger crystals just before use. Some even sell the salt in large cubes that have been hand-carved by the artisans and which are accompanied by proper steel graters that allow the cube to be shaved for each use. This is a wonderful way to introduce guests or family members to the delicate flavors of all-natural salt while also reducing the amount of sodium in their diet!

Even more interesting is the use of specialty salts in the production of traditionally sweet foods. For example, there are dozens of recipes that put sea salt to use in the creation of caramel. These candies might have a large amount of the material cooked into the sugar mixture, but many are also coated on their surfaces with a layer of mild sea salt or Fleur de Sel as well.

One last bit of advice where the use of all-natural cooking salts are concerned – be very careful in your choice of salt grinders. You should scrutinize any product descriptions to be sure that the device is capable of handling the damper or wetter sea salts. In fact, you may even want to set out specifically to find a grinder with no metal parts or one described specifically as a “wet salt mill” in order to be sure you don’t have to deal with corrosion and “off” flavors.

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Simplex Tea Kettle

Why are Simplex tea kettles recommended by many tea drinkers? Simplex tea kettles are known for their durability, sturdiness and loud whistle. These tea kettles are also manufactured by Simplex, a company known for its rich British heritage. Simplex has been manufacturing copperware since 1903 and its products exceedingly surpassed consumers’ expectations. The company used copper because it is light weight and has excellent heat conductivity. Simplex boosts that its copper kettles are manufactured using a combination of old style design and modern and state of the art manufacturing technologies. Simplex tea kettles are also of high quality because every product is checked up to several times during production. The kettles also conform to safety standards in both the United States and United Kingdom. The No. 1 Simplex Copper Kettle is one of the favorites of tea drinkers. This product is a high gloss finished solid copper kettle. It has solid brass fixings and could be used for electric hot plate or gas. One downside of this product is that it will need regular polishing. The No. 2 Simplex Chrome Kettle has a mirror chrome finish while the No. 3 model features solid copper, high gloss finish. Regular polishing is also needed in the No. 3 Simplex Copper Kettle.

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Sea Salt is the Natural Way to Flavor Your Food

Salt and pepper are the two standard spices that are used in almost every savory dish. Salt makes its way into many sweet foods too. However, the standard table salt that’s found in most kitchens may not be the healthiest or the tastiest choice of salts. It all depends on your tastes, but many people prefer sea salt to standard table salt.

Sea salts, which are harvested from evaporated salt water, contain many valuable minerals that standard sodium chloride just doesn’t have. Furthermore, sea salt offers subtle flavors that vary depending on where the product was produced. Because of its mineral content and exquisite flavor, sea salt is often the best choice for flavoring food.

Producing Sea Salt

Not surprisingly, the most common method of getting natural sea salt is harvesting it from the sea. The practice of extracting salt has remained the same since ancient times; workers find a place near saline water where the sun is strong, wait for the water to evaporate, rake up the remaining salt, clean it, and sell it. The places where salt is produced are known as salterns or salt works. Mineralized salts can also be obtained through mining. However, salt mines are relatively rare.

Sea Salt in Food

Many food lovers swear by sea salt for its ability to make a dish extraordinary. The coarseness of the salt adds texture to foods, and its complex flavor can make a dish stand out. However, most people unfamiliar with the nuances of salt cannot distinguish between table salt and sea salt, especially when they are dissolved in a liquid.

One of the most common food uses of sea salt is in gourmet potato chips. The salt is also placed atop some fancy chocolates to balance out the sweetness.

Most people who use sea salt on a regular basis find that a salt grinder is essential. A grinder will break up the course salt granules into smaller pieces, allowing them to be more easily integrated into food.

Other Uses

Sea salt is also used in some cosmetics. Exfoliating scrubs are also commonly made with course sea salts. Bathing salts are generally made from sea salt as well.

Sea Salt and Health

Proponents of sea salt claim that it has all the vital minerals humans need to stay healthy. In addition to the basic sodium and chloride found in regular table salt, sea salt also contains potassium, sulfate, magnesium, calcium, and other minerals. The mineral makeup of sea salts varies depending on the place where the salt was produced.

The problem with sea salt is it does not contain much iodine, a mineral necessary for human health. Table salt is usually supplemented with iodine, and it’s one of the most common sources of the mineral for most people. Some sea salts are now sold with added iodine, but they can be hard to find.

If you want to switch to sea salt for all your cooking, make sure you’re getting enough iodine from other sources, such as dairy products and seafood.

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Salt and Pepper Grinders and the Antique Market

Antique collecting dealing is the best kept secret of professional investors worldwide; a world where a Hohnes Wagner baseball card or a Van Gogh painting can sell for millions of dollars. Whereas a salt grinder is unlikely to sell for that much unless it was used by Napoleon during a pre-Waterloo meal for example, collecting items as simple as antique Salt and Pepper Grinders can still be a worthwhile and even profitable venture.
Also known as a “burr mill”, a pepper or salt grinder very simply chops up salt or pepper when the user turns the knob at the top, manipulating the one or two blades at the bottom of the container. Grinders shouldn’t be mistaken shakers, as shakers are containers for pre-ground salt and pepper. Grinders aren’t inherently better than shakers and shakers aren’t inherently better than grinders, so buying either depends solely on buyer’s preference. Depending on its make, model, and capabilities, a modern salt and pepper grinder set can cost between $1 and $200.
If someone is seeking to make thousands of dollars per sale of an antique salt/pepper mill, they are either a good salesperson or a delusional person; in most cases, the highest price for an antique pepper mill is in the neighborhood of $500. The value of a salt/pepper antique grinder is determined first by its appearance and material it was made with, then it’s year, its working order, and finally it’s possible ownership. The earlier example that was given regarding Napoleon’s pepper mill was an impossible one, as pepper grinders were not created until 1842.
Still, special antique salt/pepper grinder sets can still be purchased in the primary place most of the best antiques are purchased: auctions. If a collector is seeking to buy a the grinder of a celebrity such as Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, it’s likely the grinders would come in the form of a full dining set, and this dining set would be worth hundreds of thousands. For those aspiring collectors who aren’t nearly that rich, the best place to start would be EBay.
On EBay, currently one of the highest priced antique pepper mills is a circa 1844 Peugeot pepper mill, which means it might have been personally hand-crafted by Peugeot of France, inventor of the pepper grinder. As one might think such a rare grinder would be worth more than something recent, it’s not. A 1908 Edwardian Sterling Silver Pepper Grinder from the UK, noted for its beauty, is currently worth 375 British pounds whereas the 1844 Peugeot grinder is worth $135.
In the arena of tableware antiques, the value lies in look and whether or not the antique is still serviceable. Do a search for an 1844 pepper grinder; would you take pride in using that to serve guests at your next dinner party? After reading this article, if you own heirloom salt or pepper grinders, take them to your local antique dealer. You just might already own tableware that was owned by Jackie O., and you’ll reap all the serendipitous benefits of it.

Eight Little-Known Tea Facts

Even true tea connoisseurs might not know all the tea facts listed below. Read through them to expand your knowledge about the world’s second most popular drink.

1.) China rules the tea world.

The Chinese are associated with tea for good reason. They are the world’s largest producers of the product, making more than 950,000 tons each year. That’s about 27 percent of the world’s tea production. Furthermore, China is the only country to produce all varieties of tea in industrial quantities. So chances are the tea you buy in a grocery store is from China.

2.) Early tea didn’t taste good.

We don’t know this for sure, but evidence suggests that the first teas of the world weren’t very tasty. Early Chinese green teas were roasted, pounded, and made into tightly wound balls. The tea was infused with water and flavorings like ginger, orange, mint, and even onion were added to disguise the taste. If onion-flavored tea was preferable to the original version, the pounded tea balls must have been hard to stomach.

3.) The United States likes it cold.

Around the world, hot tea is far more popular than the iced variety. However, in the United States, almost 80 percent of the tea that is consumed is iced!

4.) Tea trade.

Blocks of tea were once used as currency in some parts of Siberia. The practiced died out in the early 19th century.

5.) Tea buzz?

You hear about coffee being filled with caffeine, but did you know that tea leaves actually contain more of the compound than coffee beans? It’s true. However, much less tea is needed than coffee to create a good drink. In the end, the higher quantity of coffee beans gives brewed coffee a bigger burst of caffeine.

6.) Chai tea is surrounded by its own culture.

Many kinds of teas are associated with traditions, but chai has an especially striking subculture in India. The recipe for chai calls for brewing tea leaves along with peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. Milk and honey are added before serving. In India, the tea is sold by “wallahs” who serve the beverage in unglazed clay cups, which are known as “kallurhs.” The wallahs actually make their cups in the same flames that help brew the tea. The kallurhs give the chai a distinct, earthy flavor. When chai drinkers finish with their drink, they throw the cups on the ground, where they are reabsorbed into the earth.

7.) Tea bags are a new phenomenon.

Most of the tea you can buy in a grocery store now comes in bags. However, these bags are a recent development. They become popular after World War II, when tea was rationed in the UK. Tea giant Tetley introduced the bagged tea to the UK after rationing ended to great success. Consumers loved that each bag had the perfect amount of tea already included. Tazo Teas are also available in tea bags.

8.) Tea drinking is a metaphor for reading.

The American poet Wallace Stevens is credited with developing this metaphor, which is now commonly used. Stevens compared tea drinking, which is taking in a beverage from leaves, to the absorption of knowledge from the leaves of a book.

A photo of a cup of coffee.
Image via Wikipedia

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