As I cooked and baked up a storm, I started to think about the one ingredient that was common in all the dishes and baked goods that I prepared…salt.
For me that means using kosher salt...pinched in to taste for cooking or accurately measured for baking.
At one point in my holiday cooking, I ran out of the brand of kosher salt that I use, Diamond Crystal. I ran out to a nearby market as it was snowing like crazy. All they carried on their shelves was Morton Kosher salt. I had not used that brand before, but I thought…well kosher salt is kosher salt.
Not so much…
I noticed a difference as soon as I poured the white granules into my favorite flea-market find saltcellar. The new-to-me kosher salt seemed much whiter and denser than my usual kosher salt.
Then I did the “finger to tongue” test, sampling first the tiny bit I had left of my usual Diamond Crystal kosher salt. It was light on my tongue and melted immediately. I tested the new salt in the same manner, it took so much, much longer to dissolve and remained crunchy for quite a bit until I took a swig if water to swallow the granules.
Before I went on with my cooking, I decided to do some research on these two salts to see if there was really a difference beyond what my eye saw and tongue detected.
According to Linda Carucci in her book, Cooking School Secrets for the Real World, ¼ teaspoon of Morton kosher salt contains 480 mg of Sodium as well as yellow prussiate of sodium, (a water soluble anti-caking agent).
While the same amount of Diamond Crystal kosher Salt, ¼ teaspoon, contains 280 mg of Sodium and nothing else…just salt.
I also read in another favorite book, Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed by Shirley O. Corriher (she is known to many of you as the "Food Historian" lady on Alton Brown’s Good Eats Food Network show).
She states that “Diamond Crystal salt crystals are actually pyramids, as opposed to grains, and more likely to adhere to food. In fact these hollow pyramids or crystals dissolve twice as fast as granular salts as Morton.”
So my tongue and taste were correct…
According to Alton Brown and Linda Carucci, fine cooks often cite many other reasons for preferring Diamond Crystal. Because the grains are bigger, taking up more room in the measuring spoon, Diamond Crystal has about half the sodium of table salt or even fine sea salts that are very popular these days with celebrity chefs.
Among another of its legendary attributes, the unique shape of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt crystals helps lettuce from wilting in a salad. Other Kosher salts cannot claim this virtue.
I can say with all honesty that I am glad that I ran out of kosher salt that snowy winter afternoon. It forced me to look at the one main ingredient in all our cooking and baking in a new light and with new respect. I imagine that makes a good start to this New Year.
Let the food adventures of 2009 begin…!
I hope you all will come along for the ride.