Archive for the 'salt' Category

18
Jan
11

Salt… Part 2 – Types of Sea Salt


Last week we discussed salt’s role in cooking, this time we will focus on the various types of salt. I found quite a few sites offering excellent information on salt types. Quite a few salts have risen to gourmet status because of their rarity and corresponding prices.

Among the most thorough sites explaining the many types, I found SaltWorks to be among the most informative (yes, they sell the salts themselves) for sea salts. They explain, in a simple manner, the differences among the various types. [We are NOT discussing or endorsing the kashrus of any single item listed. You have to check with the respective manufacturer whether any item is at all kosher and if  it has a reliable hechsher. CS]

French Sea Salt and Grey Salt. Photos by: http://www.saltworks.us

French Sea Salt

French sea salts are hand-harvested from pristine Atlantic seawater. Unlike most American sea salts, they are usually unrefined so they retain more of the trace minerals that naturally occur in seawater. These minerals include natural iodine. French grey sea salt, or Sel Gris, is harvested using the traditional Celtic methods. This prized process is done entirely by hand, using only wooden tools. This preserves the pure taste of the French salt, and produces a very special moist crystalline texture. Sel Gris by Le Tresor is also lower in sodium chloride content than average sea salts, generally containing anywhere from 83–87% sodium chloride. French sea salts are ideal for use on salads, cooked fresh vegetables and grilled meat. They are available in coarse grains – ideal for pinching or salt cellars, stone ground fine – an ideal replacement for processed table salts, and extra fine grain – the perfect popcorn salt (or other salty snacks).

Grey Salt

Other Names: Sel Gris

Grey salt is a “moist” unrefined sea salt, usually found in the Brittany region of France’s Atlantic coast. Its natural light grey color comes from the minerals absorbed from the clay lining the salt ponds. The salt is collected by hand using traditional Celtic methods and wooden tools. Grey salt has gained great fame in the mainstream culinary world in the last few years, and is considered by many to be the best quality salt available. It is available in coarse grain – which is the perfect finishing or pinching size, stone ground fine – ideally used at the table instead of processed salts, and extra fine (Velvet) grain – perfect for sprinkling over nuts or popcorn.

Hawaiian Sea Salt

Other Names: Alaea, Alae, Hawaiian Red Salt, Hiwa Kai, Black Hawaiian Salt

Alaea Sea Salt is a traditional Hawaiian table salt used to season and preserve. A natural mineral called “Alae” (volcanic baked red clay) is added to enrich the salt with iron oxide. This natural additive is what gives the salt its distinctive red (pink) color. The clay imparts a subtle flavor that is said to be mellower and more earthy than regular sea salt. It is the traditional and authentic seasoning for native Hawaiian dishes such as Kalua pig, poke and Hawaiian jerky. It is also delicious on prime rib and pork loin. Alaea Red Hawaiian Sea Salt is available in fine and coarse grain.

Black Hawaiian sea salt, or Hiwa Kai, has a stunning black color. Activated charcoal is added to the salt for its stunning visual presentation, and flavor enhancing properties. Charcoal has also become popular for use in detox diets. Though not in large enough quantities to take as a detox supplement here, the activated charcoal in Hiwa Kai Black Hawaiian Sea Salt adds a pop of color and tasty flavor to your dishes. Available in coarse grain—great for tableside presentation and grinders.

Italian Sea Salt

Other Names: Sicilian Sea Salt, Sale Marino

Italian sea salt is produced from the low waters of the Mediterranean Sea along the coast of Sicily. It is a natural salt rich in minerals, such as iodine, fluorine, magnesium and potassium, with a slightly lower percentage of sodium chloride than regular table salt. The salt pans are filled with the seawater in the spring and left to evaporate, relying on the heat of the Sicilian sun and strong African winds. Harvesting takes place once the water has evaporated and the salt is crushed and ground without any further refining. These salts have a delicate taste and plenty of flavor, without being too strong or salty. Italian sea salts are wonderful on salads or used to finish roasts and sauces. Great as a garnish on bruschetta. Available in coarse and fine grain.

Sea Salt

Other Names: Sal Del Mar, Sel De Mer, Sale Marino

Sea salt is a broad term that generally refers to unrefined salt derived directly from a living ocean or sea. It is harvested through channeling ocean water into large clay trays and allowing the sun and wind to evaporate it naturally. Manufacturers of sea salt typically do not refine sea salt as much as other kinds of processed salt, so it still contains natural traces of other minerals, including iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and iodine. Proponents of sea salt rave about its bright, pure, clean flavor, and about the subtleties lent to it by these other trace minerals. Some of the most common sources for sea salt include the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean (particularly in France, on the coast of Brittany). Sea salt is thought to be healthier and more flavorful than traditional table salt. Available in coarse, fine & extra fine grain size, and many sizes in between!

Hawaiian Sea salt and Smoked Sea Salt - Photo by: http://www.saltworks.us

Smoked Sea Salt

Smoked sea salts are a relatively new and exciting gourmet salt in the U.S.! When you are considering a smoked sea salt, make sure that it is a naturally smoked salt, and hasn’t just had liquid smoke flavoring added—this can create a bitter taste. The salts that are smoked naturally in cold smokers are slow-smoked over real wood fires to infuse the salt crystals with 100% natural smoke flavor. Smoked sea salts add a unique flavor to a wide range of dishes including roasts, chicken, salads and sandwiches.

Unlike artificially infused smoke flavored salts, quality smoked sea salts are created using natural smoking methods. These salts are delicious to use when grilling or oven roasting, and are a must when cooking salmon. Also adds an authentic smokehouse flavor to soups, salads, pasta and sandwiches. Available in fine, coarse and flake grain sizes.

We will discuss more types of salt in the third installment of this series. Please remember, whether you find the type you wish online or in a specialty store, ALWAYS check to make sure it has a reputable hechsher you feel comfortable relying upon. Be warned, these salts are rather expensive.

CS

14
Jul
10

Cheese! Cheese! Cheese! – Part 2


[Eran Elhalal is a chef/Entrepreneur working in Manhattan. An Honors Graduate of the  Culinary Institute of America,  Eran was Executive Chef of two Manhattan restaurants in the past few years and consulted several others. He began educating customers about food and wine pairing and cheese in 2007 while working as the Chef at UES’s BarVespa.

These days, Eran talks about food and wine pairing as the chef for the panel of Meetup, a wine club, dedicated to introduce and educate the American public about Israeli wines. Photos: courtesy of Eran Elhalal. CS]

“Well, and what’s Cheese? Corpse of Milk!” (James Joyce)

The Cheese Series- Second Chapter


How cheeses are made

There are countless nuances to Cheese making, hence, Different countries produce different cheeses , which reflect the country’s Terroir , traditions and even mentality. Each one of the steps in the process is crucial to the end result ,the way the curds are cut will determine the texture of the cheese, the method and quantities of salting will affect aging or ripening.

The first Two steps of cheese making  however , are common to all cheeses. Essentially, cheese is made by extracting the water and whey from milk and allowing the remaining milk solids ( Curds ) to spoil in a controlled environment, monitoring bacterial growth, expansion of molds throughout the cheese and so on…

First step: Collecting and Preparing the milk

Artisanal cheese makers collect the raw milk from their own farm or nearby farms. That is the traditional way and the best one. Travel time , agitation , temperature and cleanliness of the transport vats are highly important factors to the resulting cheese. Much like wine proximity is crucial. The shortest the time between milking the animal and starting the cheese making process, the better.

A word on : Pasteurization

Not all cheeses are made from pasteurized milk, but for the majority of modern cheeses, this is when the process is applied. The milk is typically heated to a temperature of 160o F for 15 seconds or to a temperature of 114oF and held for 30 minutes. Un-pasteurized cheeses are more flavorful because the heat inactivates natural enzymes in the milk that help develop the final flavor of the cheese . Pasteurization also slows down the action of the Rennet , thus prolonging the ripening/aging step in achieving full texture and flavor. On the other hand, pasteurizing makes the flavor of milk homogenous, which large volume producers seek to maintain consistency of flavor from different batches of milk.

I say, that in the sense of depth of flavor and uniqueness, the difference between cheeses from un-pasteurized milk to those from pasteurized milk is the same as the difference between wines which are non-kosher or kosher to wines that are Mevushal (Hebrew for: cooked).

http://aftercheese.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/swiss-cheesemaking1.jpg

Second step: Curdling

Raw milk will actually sour and curdle on its own , but this natural method is inconsistent. Pasteurized milk does not sour this way ,so nowadays all cheeses are made by introducing an acid like lemon juice (Citric acid) , or vinegar, but in most cases a starter culture of special Bacteria is used to change milk sugars (lactose ) into lactic acid. The increased acidity denatures the milk protein (Casein), so it separates from the milk water into solid curds when a coagulating agent  (Rennet) is introduced. The protein molecules then lump together to a soft gel. The curds are allowed to settle at a temperature of 70oF-95oF for 30 minutes-120 minutes, depending on the type of cheese being made. Low tempo yield soft curds for soft cheeses and high tempo yields hard rubbery curds used to produce semi hard and hard cheeses.

Third step: Concentrating and processing the curds

First the curds are cut to release the whey . The method applied here will determine the texture and moisture content of the cheese. Softer cheeses are made by minimal cutting of curds and piling them up to drain naturally . Harder cheeses are cut horizontally and vertically to very fine pieces , thus releasing much more moisture that results in a drier, harder cheese.

Some hard cheeses are then heated to temperatures in the range of 100 °F–130 °F. This forces more whey from the cut curd. It also changes the taste of the finished cheese, affecting both the bacterial culture and the milk chemistry. Cheeses that are heated to the higher temperatures are usually made with thermophilic starter bacteria which survive this step—either lactobacilli or streptococci.

Salt has a number of roles in cheese besides adding a salty flavor. It preserves cheese from spoiling, draws moisture from the curd, and firms up a cheese’s texture in reaction to contact with the denatured proteins. Some cheeses are salted from the outside with dry salt or brine washes. Most cheeses have the salt mixed directly into the curds. Salting also slows down the starter bacteria culture, thus contolling the rate of ripening/Aging.

Processing methods:

Cheddaring: The cut curd is repeatedly piled up, pushing more moisture away. The curd is also milled for a long period of time, taking the sharp edges off the cut curd pieces and influencing the final product’s texture. (Hence- Cheddar)

Stretching: The curd is stretched and kneaded in hot water, developing a stringy, fibrous body.(For example: Mozzarella , Provolone , Kashkaval).

Washing: The curd is washed in warm water, lowering its acidity and making for a milder-tasting cheese. ( Examples: Gouda,Edam)

Whey based cheeses: Once the whey has been drained,it can be used to make some cheeses ,without the use of curds.(Ricotta,Urda).

Fourth step : Molding

Most cheeses achieve their final shape when the curds are pressed into a mold or form. The harder the cheese, the more pressure is applied. The pressure drives out moisture ,the molds are designed to allow water to escape , and unifies the curds into a single solid body.

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_YJWbOrG-e-E/S0pxGl9ultI/AAAAAAAABDA/baMEKCzbi0k/Cheese%20Aging,%20Molise%202.jpg

Final step :Ripening/ Aging

Ripening/ Aging is the stage where enzymes and microbes change the chemical composition of the cheese from complex organic molecules to simple ones and transform the cheese’s  texture and intensity of flavor. Temperature and humidity are monitored carefully. Some traditional cheese are aged only in near caves which contain unique molds and yeast which result in a one of a kind cheese. More often, cultures are used, giving more consistent results and putting fewer constraints on the environment where the cheese ages. These cheeses include soft ripened cheeses such as Brie and Camembert, blue cheeses such as Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Cabrales, Stilton, and washed rind cheeses such as Taleggio, Grayson.Soft Cheeses- like Brie, Camembert, ripen quickly and at a lower tempo than hard cheeses. Soft cheeses ripen from the outside in. It is all about controlled spoilage here. Bacteria multiplying too quickly results in uneven maturation of the cheese. High humidity ( usually 80%-95%)is crucial to a moist surface in cheese. The ripening/aging period (called Affinage in French) can last from days to several years. This transformation is largely a result of the breakdown of casein proteins and milkfat into a complex mix of amino acids,amines and fatty acids.

http://www.thomaswalshphotographer.com/_images/Cuisine%20Web%20Photos/Comte-Cheese-Aging.jpg

Eran Elhalal

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Cheese! Cheese! Cheese!




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