How can salt not be kosher?

The new salt of the season

Kosher salt is the new insider tip in the kitchen. What it can do, what it cannot do and what misunderstandings it can bring with it.

After fleur de sel and Hawaiian sea salt, the next form of sodium chloride is now preparing to take the place of the salt of the season. After years of success in the USA, kosher salt has now started to become a topic of conversation in Germany and Austria, more and more kitchen experts swear by the special taste of the coarse crystals, their special structure and the supposedly unique properties that are associated with them.

The story of kosher salt is first of all a misunderstanding. Because seasoning it with it makes the food no more and no less kosher than with normal table salt - because almost all salts comply with Jewish dietary laws. Rather, the term "kosher salt" comes from its use in the production of kosher meat, as its coarse crystals and larger surface make it particularly suitable for drawing blood from the meat in accordance with the rules of the Torah. The name “kosher salt” would be correct, but in English, too, “koshering salt” soon became the shorter “kosher salt” for the sake of simplicity.

What distinguishes the new star in the kitchen from common table salt is, on the one hand, the coarser-grain structure and, on the other hand, the fact that kosher salt must not contain any additives - for example, it is free from iodine. That makes it - regardless of all culinary subtleties - attractive for people who are treated for thyroid diseases. Because iodine-free salt is harder to come by in Austria than is commonly believed.


No aftertaste. In the absence of iodine, the supporters of kosher salt - not to be confused with salt from the Dead Sea, by the way - also see a reason for the particularly fine taste, because with the iodine there is also a metallic aftertaste in the table salt, which you can use with it the kosher variant.

That being said, kosher salt is first and foremost one thing: namely salt, i.e. sodium chloride, and that's what it tastes like in reality. However, during production, the salt crystals are pressed into a rather flat and platelet shape, which makes the coarse grains look more like salt flakes and make them around twice as large as table salt - and still significantly larger than sea salt crystals.

The larger crystals make it a bit easier to dose it, as long as it - like the less hip salt colleagues - has been stored dry and as airtight as possible.

In addition, the larger grains also mean that the salt dissolves more quickly in liquids, but more slowly on the surface - for example of meat - than normal salt. This has advantages and disadvantages: It is advisable not to use it when baking, as there is a high risk that the salt crystals will not dissolve due to the insufficient liquid and then cause rather hearty surprises in the baked goods.

However, this makes it extremely suitable for all types of use in which the crystals should remain visible and intact - from the production of the salt rim on the margarita glass to salt crusts to souring, where kosher salt is even said to have very special qualities. Which, by the way, are also often used to marinate (pork) ribs - that should only be mentioned in passing on the subject of misunderstandings about the meaning of "kosher" in this context.


The question of taste. Opinions differ on the question of whether kosher salt tastes more intense than conventional salt - discussions about it fill entire internet forums. The different perceptions are very likely also related to its relative weight: Kosher salt weighs significantly less, depending on the brand, only between half and 75 percent of what table salt weighs.

Which makes the correct dosage a little complicated, especially since a large part of the corresponding recipes come from the USA, and the quantities here are given in volumes - cups and spoons - and not in grams. Today every self-respecting chef has the appropriate measuring cup, but that doesn't help much, because American housewives also regularly fall into the trap of replacing a "tablespoon" of one salt with a "tablespoon" of the other. With the result that kosher salt tastes either “much more intense” or “much more subtle” depending on the outcome of this exchange experiment.

In order to be able to participate competently in this debate, a little more commitment is currently required in Austria, because the new salt is not yet available in the supermarket on the corner; You can of course find it in kosher grocery stores around Vienna's Karmelitermarkt - and at fairly moderate prices of 1.99 euros a kilo. Which, with all the love, is also appropriate, because after all, despite the hype, it's still salt. Just salt.

Tasting

Green asparagus with Manchego cheese
Starter / side dish for four people.

Ingredients:

Half a kilo of green asparagus

2 teaspoons of cold-pressed olive oil

5 Deka grated Spanish Manchego cheese

Kosher salt, pepper

Preparation:

Clean the asparagus, mix with the oil, salt and pepper and place next to each other in a baking dish. Scatter cheese on top.

Bake in the oven preheated to 220 degrees for 15 minutes until the cheese has melted and the asparagus is cooked. Serve hot.

("Die Presse", print edition, February 24, 2013)