Monday, February 9, 2009

Salts and Peppers and Acid

I recently returned from Mexico and realized something that I had never noted before. There was no salt on restaurant tables. Instead, there were lovely small dishes of lemon and/or lime wedges. It certainly made sense with the pairings with fresh hot peppers. Lemon (acid) and salt certainly intensify each other and I always recommend using a little at a alternating and tasting or you can get a nasty surprise.
I myself use salt both in cooking and on the table although out of respect for people's health probably a little less than I used to. I generally use coarse kosher salt. Sea salt is expensive and each sea in the world has its own flavor. The only general exception that I make and it is costly is the coarse fleur du sel from off the coasts of Normandy and Brittany. We have come to take salt for granted and much of it is iodized which adds a nasty flavor particularly in the back of the throat. this made sense years ago when people isolated in the mountains suffered from goiter. Real salt used to be expensive and piracy was rife in the Caribbean.
If salt is various, pepper is even more so. I mean black pepper corns. Pod peppers are wholey another question. It is not just the factor of the species of pepper, but rather of where it is grown and whether it is husked (white pepper) or not and the way that it is dried.
Try doing a salt or pepper tasting sometime with water and bread between tastes. You will choose your condiments with much greater care.

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