Before the salt shaker was invented, people served their salt in salt cellars. The word cellar is a corrupted spelling of the French saliére—a container for salt.
It was the development of free-flowing salt in the early 1900s that made the shaker possible. Of course, free-flowing salt has one or more additives to keep it from clumping. These additives are found in what’s commonly referred to as “table salt,” or salt that’s been highly refined, and that’s had all the minerals (the good stuff!) stripped out. Additives such as sodium aluminosilicate or magnesium carbonate are added back in to keep the salt from caking. Of course, any good cook knows a few grains of rice in the shaker will accomplish the same thing!
Salt cellars are back
Today, with the reintroduction of artisan salts into many home kitchens, salt cellars are making a comeback.
The beauty of using a salt cellar is that it can accommodate any texture of salt, whether finely or coarsely ground, flaked, or rocks.
Salt cellars can be small enough for individual use at a table setting, or large enough for keeping salt handy by the stove. They can be covered or uncovered. Some come with tiny spoons, others don’t.
Salt cellars can be plain, fancy or whimsical; they can be made from glass, crystal, metals (base or fine), ceramic or wood.
Salt cellars have also, over the decades since they fell out of use, become collector’s items. A great place to find vintage salt cellars is at flea markets and antique and junque shops. Today, however, it’s easy to also find new cellars in just about any cooking store or website.
Su Falcon, Editor in Chief
The Dirt on Organic Gardening Magazine
For more on the wonderful world of salt, see Issue 23 of The Dirt!