Resource Guide for Home Ec: Understanding Salt

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A list of resources and links I find really informative:

Articles & Blogs
That's So Salty!  It's Not Salty Enough! by Jill Santopietro on
In Salts, a Pinch of Bali or a Dash of Spain by Harold McGee in the New York Times
Salt of the Earth about Judy Rodgers by Russ Parsons in the LA Times
An Introduction to Gourmet Salt by Mark Bitterman (pdf version here)

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
Salted by Mark Bitterman
The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers
On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee

San Francisco
Little Vine
Bi-Rite Market
Boulette's Larder
Rainbow Grocery

East Bay
The Country Cheese Shop
The Pasta Shop
Berkeley Bowl
Monterey Market
The Spanish Table

Purchase Online
The Meadow: the Mecca of Salt, a shop in Portland, Oregon
SaltWorks: pretty much sells every kind of salt, ever
Celtic Sea Salt, aka sel gris: buy the big bag and use it for everything
Bulk Maldon Salt

and finally:

forgive me, but i need to take a little break from all of my iranicizing. not because i'm not aware of what's going on, but because i'm too aware. it's overwhelming.

i want to catch you all up on what's been going on here for the past couple of weeks:

there were 700 or so jars of apricot preserves at yes we can, which we made at la cocina, whilst ryan farr taught handfuls of laypeople how to make emulsified sausages.

there was the couscous royale at asiya's goodbye party, where i finally met jessica, the woman behind rabbits and wrinkles.

a week later, there was an educational day of canning cherries and cherry jam for green string farm, wherein i realized that cherry jam could never be a money-making enterprise. fifty pounds of pitted cherries yielded 46 8-oz jars of jam. i don't even want to think about the math involved in that.

there was the day we went over to veller's house to kill four rabbits for our dinner celebrating the release of her book. this is the least graphic photo i had. notice the fraying nylon string veller saved from her hay bales and rigged up to the tree for hanging the rabbits to skin.

but as one might imagine, the cage the rabbits were in wasn't the most secure apparatus, so one bunny had escaped two nights before the big day. he was last seen at the liquor store down the street. we searched for him for 20 minutes to no avail, so we made do with three bunnies. as soon as we left, veller said, the smart guy showed up but she couldn't catch him.

there was my lunatic idea to cook a dinner using as many backyard and urban farmed and foraged ingredients as possible to celebrate the release of novella's book, which meant that i somehow had to find dozens of backyard farmers, figure out what and how much they'd have available the week of the dinner, set up drop-off times and make time to forage and harvest, and somehow write a coherent menu around it all. it was the most involved, challenging, invigorating and fruitful experience of my cooking career.

the dinner couldn't have been more lovely:

chris cutting into the prosciutto made with novella's pigs

novella's olives (which we served with the prosciutto)

cucu sabzi, a persian frittata (my mom's is better) i made with all of the leftover foraged herbs and greens

the second prosciutto (CL got a little carried away)

CL slicing prosciutto on the beautiful berkel slicer emilio lent us for the night

the experience of seeing those rabbits on the farm over the past several months, killing, skinning and cleaning them up, then cooking with them was something i hope all cooks have at some point in their lives. chris and cedric did a fantastic job with them. we dried sunny slopes farm apricots and made a moroccan-inspired stuffing. those are little heirloom carrots from novella's farm on the outside, with fresh chickpeas from catalan farm.

all in all, it was a fantastic night, with so many of our friends and neighbors present. the sense of community was so strong that night, with nearly every table scouring the menu for the ingredients that had come from their own yards. perhaps the most special contribution was the incredible sack of mulberries from suzanne's neighbor's yard in south berkeley. thank you, everyone, for filling that night with such authenticity and love.

and finally, yesterday there was the discovery of lola's ice creams & sundaes (via aaron), a sort of beautiful ice cream version of the moro books (not much of a surprise since they come from the same publisher). i might just have to get that for myself.

handmade gift: assortment of salts

along with your main course at the french laundry, you are brought a selection of three fancy salts in a precious silver caddy, complete with tiny spoons (and we all know how i feel about little spoons). because i was there with someone who was considered a vip, we got five or six salts. later, when i met someone whose wife works there, i was told that the really important people get nine. nine salts! there aren't even nine bites of meat on which to sprinkle salt! it's amazing.


salt. my best friend. i love salt. i'd marry salt. in a heartbeat.

the funny thing is that persian food is traditionally very lightly seasoned. and perhaps because she was really health-conscious, my mother was very light-handed with the salt. i was raised with a bland palate.

and then i became a cook.

i remember when i was just starting out at cp, seasoning something and bringing it to a chef to taste. he'd taste it, come back to my pot with me, and oh-so-confidently add handfuls upon handfuls of salt before tasting it again. i'd get upset with myself--how could i have been so far off? this happened time and time again, and with many different chefs and experienced cooks, until one day, i finally got that taste in my own mouth. after eating that food day after day, i began to understand what my goal was, with salt, with acid, with herbs and spices. it's why alice keeps saying you have to taste--tasting is the only way to know, to learn.

anyway, at that time, we used kosher salt in the kitchen. that's part of the reason why they'd add so much of it. kosher salt is only about 1/3 as salty as table salt. when i went to florence, land of the salt lick, i really learned to take things to the edge of saltiness. it's a delicate line to tread, oh, but it makes so much difference. in italy, i got used to using sicilian sea salt, which is quite a bit saltier than kosher salt, for everything. and when i came back, cp had switched to sea salt, too.

at the farm, bob insists on using celtic sea salt, which is unprocessed and chock full of minerals. my other favorite salts are maldon sea salt, fleur de sel, and sel gris.

at le sanctuaire (and this is just a bit too precious for me, but i do think it would make a pretty beautiful gift), you can get black lava salt, hawaiian red salt, japanese deep ocean salt, jurassic salt (one of the ones they bring you at tfl), murray river salt from australia, and pure welsh salt.

so my gift idea is an assortment of salts--you can be as daring or practical as you like. fill a few lovely jars or metal tins with different salts, stick on a beautiful label, and tie on a sweet ribbon, and you're set to go. write a little note with some history about each salt, and let people taste and learn how amazingly different each one can be. the beauty of it all is you don't even need to go to yountville to taste nine salts anymore!


weck--european canning jars

whole foods--has practically every kind i listed

country cheese shop--i heart berkeley. i know they have maldon, sicilian and fleur de sel.

le sanctuaire--salt, salt, salt (expensive!!!)

celtic sea salt

sks bottle--metal tins with clear tops that would be perfect for this project, as well as lots of glass jars that are really cute

lehman's--more european canning jars

a little more

so, here's a little blurb by nancy harmon jenkins (from the essential mediterranean) on garum:

The oddest product that Greeks and Romans produced from salt, at least to modern tastes, was the thick syrupy liquid called garum, made from various parts of fish (some author say the intestines, others from small whole fish, still others from a combination of the two--and probably all of these methods were used at one time or another). The fish, layered in terra-cotta jars with lots of salt, sometimes with aromatic herbs added, was left in the sun to fermenet to a rich and heady brew.