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 Cooking Terms Explained - Salt and Pepper

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Salt and Pepper
Salt and pepper are so closely associated with each other that this article includes both of them.

Salt
Salt is most definitely a rock and it's one of the few rocks eaten by humans! It's necessary to human life because it contains sodium chloride and other very important trace elements. Salt has two principal uses in cooking, as a preservative and as a flavouring. Salt is obtained either by mining for it or from evaporating sea water.


Table Salt
This is the salt we use for seasoning. It contains around 95% sodium chloride combined with anti-caking agents to ensure it stays free-running. If you have a problem with your salt absorbing moisture and not running freely, add a grain or two of rice to the salt container. The rice will absorb the moisture, leaving the salt to run freely. Table salt frequently has iodine added to it to reduce the health problems of iodine deficiency.

Salt substitutes are commercially available if you wish to limit your salt intake. The problem is that they contain large amounts of potassium chloride which also has severe side-effects when taken in too large quantities.

Pepper plant, click picture to enlarge. Pepper
Although pepper comes in three colours, black white and green, they all come from the same plant the Black Pepper (piper nigrum).

Black pepper (by far the most common) is produced from the unripe berries of the pepper plant. The berries are cooked in hot water then left to dry in the sun or by artificial heat. This results in black peppercorns which are then ground to produce pepper. Black pepper is the most common type.

White pepper is the result of soaking ripe berries in water for a week or so. During this time most of the fruit drops off leaving only the seed. The seed is then ground to give white pepper. White pepper is generally only used where black pepper would stand out because of it's colour - potato dishes or white sauces in particular.

Peppercorns, click picture to enlarge Green pepper is produced from unripe berries and then chemically treated so that they keep their natural green colouring.

The spiciness of pepper is derived from piperine which is in the seed and the fruit of the pepper berries. Black pepper, which comes from the fruit and the inner seed, also gets some flavour from the fruit.

Ground pepper quickly looses its aroma so it's best to grind whole peppercorns as and when they are required. Ground or whole, both loose flavour through evaporation so it's best to store them in an airtight container. Currently Vietnam is the world's largest producer of pepper.

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