I recently hosted an unusual wine tasting for the Vegas Wineaux Wine Club. It was called SCOW, which stands for Salt, Cheese, Olive Oil, and Wine tasting. There were plentiful amounts of each, but everyone really focused on the different salts that were offered.
I collect salt. Every salt that looks unusual and that I can halfway afford or try to make, I’ll get it.
I offered 14 different salts to the members which have been collected over the course of several years. They ranged from natural versions of everyday salt to the wildly exotic. Some of the salts included Himalayan Salt (Block, chunks, and finely ground), Utah Real Salt, Australian Murray River Pink Salt, Hawaiian Red Salt (pictured), Afar Lake Assal Pearl Salt (pictured), Persian Blue Salt from Iran (pictured), Kala Namak – Indian Black Salt (actually a brownish color, it’s pictured in bowl) which smells and tastes like eggs, Pacific NW Kosher Salt, Maldon Salt from Wales, flavored salts, and several more.
There were also a couple of cheeses (which, admittedly, got lost in the adventure of salts and oils), including Triple Brie and Goat Gouda.
The Olive Oils included oils from Spain, California, Greece, Italy, Chile, Lebanon, and Turkey. Yes, Turkey. That was the Oil of the Night. They were largely tasted with bread or drizzled over the foods. Challah and French Bread were served with the oils, and the Challah was thought to be too sweet. Sandra brought an egg and tomato bread, which was delicious with the oils. Most of the oils were less than $14.00, which makes them affordable for just about any aficionado.
As I had guessed, the sparkling wines and crisp whites were the best with the salts which seasoned relatively neutral foods such as fresh organic tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, tiny boiled potatoes, cucumbers, poached chicken breast, and bread. All of the sparkling wines were the favorites, but my favorite white was Alamos Torrontes which I bought at Trader Joes. It had a fragrance reminiscent of Moscato, but tasted like a good Viognier smells. Wonderful with the Murray River.
It was a lot of fun and people were very happy discovering the world of salt. Who knew!
And now I’d love to share some Salt Trivia!
- Pathogenic bacteria cannot survive in a salty environment. Wash your hands anyway.
- In the middle ages of China, the wealthy would commit suicide by ingesting very large quantities of salt water.
- Two teaspoons of pure salt can kill a six-month old baby. It would take 40 teaspoons to kill the average adult.
- Prior to the 20th Century, one-pound bars of salt were the basic currency of Ethiopia.
- Salt is essential for the balance of fluid in the body. Animals will travel miles and risk dangers in order to get to saltlicks.
- Natural salts have 80 or more different minerals. Regular refined table salt has sodium, chloride, bleach, and other ingredients that are not a part of the natural structure of salt.
- In the Middle Ages, salt was so expensive it was sometimes referred to as “white gold.”
- Salt is the only form of rocks regularly eaten by humans.
- In the early 1800s salt was 4 times as expensive as beef on the frontier – it was essential in keeping people and livestock alive.
- Only about 5% of the world’s salt actually goes to food use.
- All salt is Kosher. “Kosher” salt should properly be called “Koshering” or “Kashering” salt. It defines a process, not a title.
- Columbus was trying to find India in order to establish a better salt trading route.
- Because Romans put salt or brine on their vegetables, the word “salad” developed. Because Roman soldiers were given money to buy salt, the word “salary” was coined.
Note that many of today’s modern sea salts are really no different than the over-refined table salt that many of us regularly use. The difference is in the sourcing. Modern table salt is mined, and sea salt comes from evaporating sea water. However, food processors being food processors can’t help themselves and refine the sea salt so that it’s functionally no different from regular table salt.
As the folks who attended the SCOW could tell you, there are distinct differences in the salts that they tasted, and are as different from everyday processed table salt as I am from, say, Lady Gaga. All of the SCOW salts will clump in humidity and wouldn’t pour well from a salt shaker. They would have to go through a salt grinder, spoon from a salt cellar or bowl, or be “pinched” and sprinkled on food.