Cooking with Salt: Part 2

Hi Hon…

I hope you have been well! I have finally returned to Palm Beach after the most delightful autumn in the upper Midwest. I didn’t rush back, Dear Heart, because the weather was wonderful and a little bit of winter is quite agreeable to me. I have settled in here and am already immersed in the Season’s activities…there is just so much to do, it is perplexing. But, I am content to be selective on frenetic socializing, Hon, I do want some gentle time with my closest friends. I did take a few days to sweep away the summer’s invasion into my garden beds and have put in my winter vegetables. They are doing quite well. Of course, Dear Heart, there are cabbages, carrots, celery, herbs, lettuces, peas, tomatoes and that wondrous fennel. Legend has it (Rose’s legend, Hon) that fennel passed to humanity directly from the Gods of Heavenly Deliciousness. Well, it didn’t exactly pass to humans; a perfectly prepared portion was disfortuitously bumped by accident off of one of the deitical diner’s plates where it landed in an unusually large (and mostly overlooked) gap in the floorboards and dropped to Earth where it was discovered and cultivated. How can I not grow something with such a rich pedigree? 

Well, Hon, onto the business of cooking with salt! Last time we chatted about what it is and where it comes from. This time, I will tell you about what it does. Salt is such an essential element of cooking, that it seems quite unimaginable how one could get by without it in the kitchen. But before we chat about how it is used in cooking, we must discover how it works. Salt, when present in very small quantities, adds flavor to food and does little to change the texture of what it is added to. However, in moderate to high quantities, it will have profound effects. Salt will draw moisture (water) out of things and to itself. This is fine if you want to remove water from vegetables or meat, but a problem if you don’t. When you take moisture from vegetables and meat, they can become dry and tough. Why this happens, Hon, is that wherever the concentration of salt is higher, moisture will move from the less-salty place towards the salt. For example, if you have a leg of lamb (or a beef roast) and you salt the outside of the raw meat, moisture will move from the inside of the meat to the outside where the salt is. Usually, Dear Heart, we want to keep moisture inside the roast, so this is not desirable. If you rub oil on the meat or vegetable first, then salt it, you create a barrier and the moisture will remain in the food while giving your food the flavor you desire. If your meat has a layer of fat or skin surrounding the meat, this will also act as a barrier to the effects of salt.

There are some who think that the food is too bland without salt inside the meat or vegetable. Sometimes you will see poultry (particularly chicken or turkey breast) that has been brined. Brine is a salt solution. Now, after what I described above, you would think that soaking the fowl in a salt solution would make the bird as dry as brown toast. But in this case, the soaking makes salt move from the brine into the bird. Then, when the bird is rinsed, soaked is freshwater for a short time, then cooked, moisture is retained within the meat along with the flavor.

Well, Dearest, I have to run for now. Do take care of yourself and we will chat again soon. Until next time, Dear Heart, Kisses to you!

Be Sociable, Share!