Here, piggy piggy
No, the odd-looking container on the left is not something I picked up at BCAM, nor is it a bit of haute plumbing paraphernalia: It's a salt pig. And I didn't know what one was either, until I found this pretty white Emile Henry pig at Sur La Table the other day. The earthenware pots are designed to store salt within easy reach of the stove. The unglazed interior keeps the salt from clumping. Unlike salt boxes, they don't have lids; unlike the ramekin I previously used for this purpose, they're designed to keep the salt protected from falling dust motes, culinary detritus. They're not salt cellars either, although this distinction seems fuzzier. Salt cellars can be little bowls or cruets; according to Larousse Gastronomique, they were originally hollowed-out lumps of bread. Okay, maybe these aren't absolutely necessary kitchen items--but how can you not love something called a salt pig?
Why a pig? According to a 2004 piece in Cook's Illustrated, this use of pig comes to us from "Scots and northern English dialect, where it means an earthenware vessel, specifically a 'pot, jar pitcher [or] crock.' " Think piggy banks. You can find salt pigs in various shapes (an actual pig), sizes (small ones are called, of course, piglets), and colors (check out Nigella Lawson's pretty blue pig), at places like fantes.com, cheftools.com and other kitchen supply stores. If not kosher or sea salt, try Maldon (the big flakes look really cool), or consult Mark Kurlansky's brilliant book Salt for further inspiration.
Emile Henry salt pig, $36.95 from Sur La Table; 301 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 395-0390.
-- Amy Scattergood
Photo: Amy Scattergood / Los Angeles Times