Chefs commonly use a pinch of salt to bring out the flavor in sweet or savory recipes. But how does it work? Adding a pinch of salt reduces bitterness so that sweet and umami taste are increased. It is the sodium in salt that suppresses bitterness.
There is more to flavor than just taste. A pinch of salt can influence temperature (in water), adds texture and increases aroma. Aroma definitely affects the taste sensation. Scientists estimate that between 75 and 95 percent of what we "taste" is actually smell. When a pinch of salt is added to food, more aroma is released. The salt actually prods aromatic compounds from food cells into the air, volatizing them. So what we smell is also a part of what we ingest.
The taste buds are the next sensory organ to be stimulated by taste. Containing 50 to 100 taste cells, each cell has its own taste receptor. The cells' outer membranes allow ions to move in and out of the receptors. Sodium is an ion that can travel through membrane channels to taste receptors. It actively blocks bitter taste while accelerating the release of other flavor compounds such as sugar. This is why chefs add a pinch of salt to hot chocolate or a dessert sauce; the salt diminishes bitterness.
Health officials have raised concerns over the amount of sodium in our diets. It is estimated that the average American (over the age of 2 years) consumes 3400 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day,1 which exceeds the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended intake of less than 2300 mg for healthy adults.2 Depending on age and other individual characteristics, lower sodium limits (less than 1500 mg per day) are currently recommended for greater than 50 percent of the population. Included in this group are people age 51 and older, African Americans, and those with hypertension, diabetes and chronic kidney disease.
Yet our bodies do need sodium. Sodium and chloride are some of the electrolytes that help our bodies maintain fluid balance by controlling blood pressure, blood volume and pH. Specific levels of sodium are necessary to draw excess fluid out of the blood stream, through the blood vessel walls and into the kidneys. Sodium is also essential for nerve and muscle function.
A new report, "Sodium Intake in Populations,3" published in May 2013 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) offers a fresh view on sodium intake. The report was requested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to examine recent research that suggests sodium intakes of 1500 mg per day may also increase health risks --- particularly in certain groups. The IOM report found that blood pressure is only one of many factors that should be considered in evaluating sodium reduction.
So, are you enjoying this winter weather thus far? I was reading in Nation's Restaurant's News that the weather has definitely had a negative impact on most restaurants. It's too bad because many of us have had access to a GIANT subzero walkout freezer all winter long...right outside the back door!
So out of pure spite for this winter, I thought I would share with you a couple of unconventional ways salt can be used to combat this cold weather season. Eat your heart out Old Man Winter!
Grab a cloth or sponge and soak it is salty water, wring slightly, and wipe all over the window, inside and out. Then, simply run a dry rag over it. Viola! This works for your car or home windows.
Bland and boring is out. Spicy and salty are in. Exotic new tastes and smells are moving into everything from food and drink to household goods and personal care. By adding unique ingredients to everyday products, manufacturers are giving consumers the opportunity to experiment and move out of their comfort zones without breaking the bank, according to Mintel.
Other trend-watchers note that the U.S. consumer palate is becoming "spicier" as Hispanic, Asian, African and Indian flavors become more popular. Not only are more products being targeted to these ethnic groups, but a wider market of consumers is also enjoying their culinary influence.
If you are interested in making your own sea salt, or just curious how the process works, this fun clip shows you how.
For a manufacturer like Diamond Crystal Salt® , the sea salt water is captured in shallow ponds and allowed to evaporate by means of the sun and wind. During the process, a salt bed forms on the bottom of the pond. The salt is harvested, washed, screened and packaged. The typical sea salt“crop” takes from one to five years to produce!