In addition to its use for health purposes, salt possesses properties that make it essential in food. In fact, it makes it possible to preserve foods. It is also used as a condiment.
Salt is a preservative. It is both hygrosopic (meaning that it absorbs humidity), a fungicide, a selective bactericide, and an anti-oxydant. Its properties allow it to dehydrate foods and thus to prevent undesirable micro-organisms from developing.
Rubbed with salt, soaked in brine, or filled with brine through injection, perishable foods can thus be preserved for long periods. Meats, fish, dairy products and especially cheeses, but vegetables may also be preserved in the same way. Salted meats, Comté cheese and sauerkraut are all preserved in this manner.
For a long time, preservation with salt was the main method of food preservation. The salting room was then a very important room in homes: it held the food reserves for the entire winter. In addition, by ensuring long-term autonomy in foodstuffs, salt contributed to the success of the great maritime explorations.
Later, with the discovery of canning, pasteurisation and modern freezing techniques, the use of salting became less exclusive.
Salt alters our perception of taste. It stimulates the taste buds and thus heightens perception of flavours. Added to foods, it gives them a more pleasant taste.
For the poor, salt was long the only seasoning. On the rich man’s table, salt was found next to spices and other condiments such as mustard or aromatic herbs.
Very different varieties of salt exist, furnishing an array of flavours and uses according to their origin, the refining or form. Coarse salt or plain table salt, fleur de sel, natural or refined…they are thus adapted to our needs and desires.