• Andrew McKenna

Salt of the earth

One of the basic ingredients of traditional dairy cheesemaking is salt. Seemingly everywhere where people collected milk from their domesticated animals, they found various means of preserving that milk through salting, cooking and ageing it.

And so it is with non-dairy cheesemaking as well. Salt helps preserve, and it adds a certain savoury quality too. I used to think all salt did was add saltiness, but now I see (taste) that it does impart a certain 'umami' quality as well. Maybe it's just the Western diet, and we are so used to salt that for feels lacking without it. Nevertheless I've embraced using salt in measured quantities for the plant-based feta and soft macadamia cheeses I make.

So what salt to use? I had no hesitation to embrace Mount Zero's Pink Lake salt. It comes from the Victorian Wimmera, is pure and wild harvested, and is collected annually in a collaboration between Mount Zero Olives and the Barengi Gadjin Land Council, representing the Wimmera's traditional land owners.

It's also intriguing. The salt lake has a striking pink hue and is fed by natural salt aquifers. The lake dries out every summer to reveal the dried bed, a beautiful soft hue of pink.

Every recipe these days seems to call for Himalayan Pink Salt. If we stop and think about it, there are plenty of reasons to pass on the Himalayan salt. It's mined, its food miles are enormous, it's a finite resource, and it's not the only tasty salt available. Far better to go for a local variety, harvested respectfully and sustainably.

I use it by the 5kg tub, and wouldn't use anything else for nutcheese.

Salt is so common, so easy to obtain, and so inexpensive that we have forgotten that from the beginning of civilisation until about 100 years ago, salt was one of the most sought-after commodities in human history.Mark Kurlansky, Salt: A World History

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