Many of us can be found in the kitchen peering down over our favorite cookbook or personal recipe to concoct our next entree, appetizer, mixed drink or scrumptious dessert, as an alternative to frozen dinners or the eating out regime. When it comes to confections, desserts, fresh fruit juice and even removing the bitterness associated with sliced grapefruit coffee and unsweetened chocolate, one key ingredient, often not used or even associated with enhancing the flavor, reducing the bitterness or increasing the sweetness of foods, can provide all these benefits. The secret to all of these is salt! Yes, believe it or not, salt is the secret ingredient to enhancing the flavor of many sweet and bitter foods that we consume everyday.
Let me explain why salt can enhance the flavor of more than just potato chips and your favorite cut of meat. Our tongue contains roughly 100,000 taste buds or in scientific terms, sensory organ receptors. There are also sensory organ receptors on the roof, sides and back of our mouths and our throat as well. These receptors allow us to experience the five basic tastes which include sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami. In simple terms it is our taste buds that allow us to experience the flavor and sensation of various foods.
Basically salt accentuates the way we perceive the flavor of foods, much in the same way as strawberries accentuate the taste of champagne. Ever had a Margarita drink? Why do you think bartenders lace the rim of the glass with salt? The salt brings out the flavor of the drink by making the drink sweet. Tequila and lemon together is a nasty thing in my opinion, however when you add salt to the equation the two ingredients become a tasty and sweet concoction hence the phrase lick it suck it slam it rule for enjoying a shot of your favorite tequila.
This same philosophy holds true for food as well. Try adding salt to sweets such as caramel candy, chocolate milk, chocolate cake, chocolate confections or your favorite ice cream and see what a difference salt makes. How about your typical fresh grapefruit slice, glass of lemonade or cup of your favorite Joe. Want to really enhance the flavor while reducing the acid and bitter taste often associated with these citric acid fruits and coffee, salt is the key to doing this. If you don’t believe me try testing this for yourself by tasting a grapefruit segment with just sugar. Then try another segment with a pinch of salt added to it. The taste should prove very favorably with the salt added to the grapefruit.
Now when it comes to salt, their are many kinds of salt. You have your standard NaCl or table salt, but you have a host of other kinds as well that can exponentially enhance the flavor of salt through its smoky flavor or added minerals like red or grey clay. Course sea salt, fleur de sel, Celtic salt, Himalayan pink salt, Kala Namak from India, Cyprus Black Lava and Alaea from Hawaii and Halen Mon Smoked Sea Salt represent just a few gourmet salts and sea salts available to the cullinary industry and home as well.
So, the next time you decide to eat fresh grapefruit, bake a cake, make your favorite caramel treat, take a bite of your favorite ice cream or sip a hot cup of coffee, you may want to search for that lost shaker of salt and be delightfully surprised by the results. Like I said, it’s not just for potato chips, your favorite cut of steak or to rim your next margarita drink anymore.