I was recently researching the history of the use of a salt cellar and really became fascinated by this seemingly common table accessory. I happen to use salt cellars all the time in my home after I received a set from my grandmother many years ago. It turns out, that they were regularly used in homes up until around 1950, when the salt shaker became the utensil of choice.
For thousands of centuries, salt was highly prized for its ability to preserve and flavor food. It was the most sought after commodity and was even used to pay the soldiers of the Roman Legion. Today it is valued not only for a flavor enhancer but also it is used widely in manufacturing.
Salt cellars, also called an open salt, include a small salt spoon for dispensing. They were a typical dining tool used in wealthier homes since the middle ages and were kept at the head of the table near the host. If you were a visitor in that house, and were seated next to the host (hence near the salt cellar), you were consider a very special and welcome guest. Up until the early part of the 20th century, salt was sold in cakes which had to be crumbled for serving. In the 1850’s, John Landis Mason (inventor of the Mason Jar) invented the salt shaker. It still took about 90 years for that novel idea to take hold, and it wasn’t until finely milled salt was available, that households discarded their cellars and started using shakers.
Today, salt cellars are a rage. With a wide variety of gourmet salt available, there is no better way to show the fine color and quality of these salts than by using a cellar. Larger ones, called salt pigs, are now commonly used by the stove for easy access while cooking. Add elegance to your dining or kitchen table by taking a step back to a simpler and more interesting way of serving this famous condiment.