Using Salt

Using Salt

Salt is known to have more than 14,000 uses. Its use in cooking makes up less than 4 percent of the total salt produced each year. Salt can be traced back to 6500 B.C., when it was mined in Salzburg, Austria (translated as "salt town"). It has long been believed that the Devil hated salt and that throwing it in his face would banish the creature. So cultures sprinkled salt on the thresholds and in corners of new homes to ward off the evil one, and Catholics once put salt on a baby's tongue as part of their baptism services.

An easy way to fill a salt shaker without spilling is to use a plastic funnel. If one is not available, make a cone with a piece of paper. Salt can also be prevented from clumping and clogging shakers by adding 1/2 teaspoon raw rice grains to the shaker to absorb moisture. If you keep your salt in a tub or crock, tie the rice in cheesecloth or a coffee filter and add it to the salt like a bouquet garni. Change the rice once a year. Or you can stir 1 tablespoon cornstarch into a 1-pound container of salt.

To prevent oversalting foods, store salt in a small bowl or tub and use your fingers to sprinkle it over foods. This gives you more control and a better sense of how much salt you are using. Also, season foods near the end of cooking time. Many foods contain natural amounts of sodium that are concentrated during the cooking process. Be conservative. You can always add more salt; it's harder to take it back.

However, there is also a fix for an oversalted dish. If the dish has a bit of liquid in it, drop in a few peeled potato slices for the last 10 minutes of cooking. The potato will absorb some of the excess salt. Discard the potato before serving. You could also add more of everything except salt, perhaps doubling the recipe to balance the salt. Or try balancing the recipe by stirring in 1 teaspoon each sugar and white vinegar; cook 3 minutes, and taste for balance. Add more sugar and vinegar if needed. Or, if the dish is raw, you can rinse it with water to remove excess salt. To remove the saltiness of brined olives or feta cheese, soak them in cold water for several hours or overnight, changing the soaking water once.

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