As faithful readers (which I think might only be Blake Nelson) know, salt might be ground zero in the food wars. Used by real people to season and preserve their food for centuries, readily available and cheap, salt has nonetheless been made artisanal and precious and particular by foodies who can’t leave well enough alone. Salt happens to be one of the few things Meatball and I really know about food—remember the time we figured out that Scrabble Cheez Its have less salt than regular Cheez Its all on our own?
The supertasters wanted salt to the max, up to the point where most people find foods not only very salty but irritating to the mouth. “For them, more is better,” Hayes says, “and Goldilocks was wrong.
Beyond its own taste, salt also masks bitter flavors and counters a side effect of processed food production called “warmed-over flavor,” which, the scientists said, can make meat taste like “cardboard” or ‘damp dog hair.’
From Michael Moss’s excellent “Hard Sell on Salt,” in the Times. Among other things, he details attempts by manufacturers to reduce sodium in things like Cheez-Its, Kellogg’s Cornflakes and Eggos, with predictable results. He doesn’t get into the concurrent rise in gourmet salt, which would have been super interesting, but it is still a great piece.
I have over 60 varieties of salt, including several smoked ones (I use applewood from Maine the most). Yours would be good on thick slices of avocado, roasted corn, cured salmon, or a simple butter lettuce salad. Also excellent with peach sorbet.
At least Florence Fabricant admits: “I have little use for flavored salts.” I’m sure it won’t be long until someone is purchasing this with their food stamps, thus completing the licorice-boysenberry-ham-hock-soaked-in-beer-vinegar for Sunday’s BBQ.
“Master In-Shan’s Oyster bamboo salt 9x smells like something dragons must use to season their victims before eating them”
And one that must be quoted in its entirety:
If salt were beer, Murray Darling finishing salt would be the frothy head of a crisp Lager. It starts as snowmelt from the Australian Alps descending to the Murray Darling basin, where a combination of low rainfall and high evaporation have created high concentrations of salt in the groundwater.
Murray Darling Australian finishing salt’s pink-tinged crystals (much peach-rose-pinker than in the photo!), which gain their color from carotene produced by algae that lives in the underground brine, have a cotton-candy texture that imparts a sense of ineffable lightness. The flakes have a note of sweetness, and are uncannily un-salty. This, together with the low moisture content and fine texture, position Murray River as more of a topping than a salt.
Unless used on a dry surface, such as goat cheese or scantily dressed greens, Murray Darling finishing salt should only be applied at the table, just before eating. Strangely, given its superlative subtlety, it is unabashedly elegant on that rare caprese salade made from explosively ripe back-yard garden tomatoes, sweet basil, and springy-yet-yielding bufala mozzarella.