Salt is the most common seasoning used in cooking. It adds essential minerals and enhances the flavor of food. As our palates have become more refined, the variety of available salts has increased.
Salt is a mineral substance composed primarily of sodium chloride. Salt is present in vast quantities in the sea where it is the main mineral constituent, with the open ocean having a salinity of 3.5%. Salt is essential for human and animal life, and saltiness is one of the basic human tastes. Salt is produced from the evaporation of seawater or mineral-rich spring water in shallow pools or is extracted from salt mines.
Some of the earliest evidence of salt processing dates to around 6,000 years ago, when people living in Romania boiled spring water to extract the salts. A saltworks in China has been found which dates to the same period. Salt was prized by the ancient Hebrews, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Hittites and the Egyptians. Salt became an important article of trade and was transported by boat across the Mediterranean Sea, along specially built salt roads, and across the Sahara in camel caravans. Salt has been used for barter and for currency. Moorish merchants in the 6th century even traded salt for gold, weight for weight. The scarcity and universal need for salt has led nations to go to war over salt and use it to raise tax revenues. Salt is also used in religious ceremonies and has other cultural significance. Various governments have at different times imposed salt taxes on their peoples.
Types of Salt
Sea Salt – Sea salt and table salt usually contain an anti-caking agent and may be iodized to prevent iodine deficiency. Unrefined sea salt contains small amounts of magnesium, calcium, sulphates, traces of algae, salt-resistant bacteria and sediment particles. Sea salt may have a more complex flavor than pure sodium chloride when sprinkled on top of food. Fleur de sel is a natural sea salt from the surface of evaporating brine in salt pans in France.
Flaked Sea Salt – This salt has soft, sheer, pyramid-like flakes and will add a hint of briny flavor. It comes from England’s Essex coast is where the most popular brand, Maldon, is harvested. It is the fastest dissolving salt.
Kosher Salt – Kosher salt, though refined, contains no iodine and has coarse crystals. This can give it different properties when used in cooking. Some kosher salt has been certified to meet kosher requirements by a hechsher, but this is not true for all products labeled as kosher salt.
Rock Salt – Rock salt has large, chunky unevenly shaped crystals. It is used primarily for making ice cream. You can also use it to deice your sidewalks and driveway in the winter months.
Pickling Salt – Like table salt, pickling salt may come from the earth or the sea. But unlike table salt, it isn’t fortified with iodine and doesn’t contain anti-caking chemicals, both of which would turn pickles an unappetizing color. Virtually 100 percent sodium chloride, it’s the purest of salts. and is far more concentrated than the common salt.
Himalayan Pink Salt – This salt originates from Pakistan where it is hand mined, hand washed and sun dried. It is light pink with variations of white and red. About 200 million years ago, there were crystallized sea salt beds that were covered with lava. Being kept in this untouched, pristine environment that has been surrounded with snow and ice for so many years means that the salt has been protected from modern day pollution. Many people believe that this pink salt from the Himalayas is the purest salt that can be found on the planet.
Smoked salt – Smoked salt is an aromatic salt that has been smoked with any number of select bark free woods for up to 14 days. The type of wood used for smoking impacts the flavor, whether it be subtle, bold or even sweet. The most common choices are alder wood, apple wood, hickory, mesquite, and oak. Infused smoked salts like smoked bacon chipotle sea salt are very popular because of the dynamic flavor profiles.
Hawaiian Black Lava Salt – Hawaiian sea salt is harvested from salt farms on the tiny island of Molokai. Hawaiian ocean water is drawn into complex array of filters and is evaporated through a sophisticated solar evaporation method leaving behind the finished salt product which is hand collected and further infused or “bathed” in activated Coconut shell charcoal. Premium Hawaiian natural sea salts have a unique combination of taste, color, and mineral content. It is coarse in grain size, but brittle, for an interesting crunchy texture. Black Lava salt should not be used during the actual cooking process as it will dissolve and the added black elements will simply settle to the bottom as a residue. It should be used as a finishing salt after the fact, where its bold taste can be savored and fully enjoyed. It goes well with all types of seafood, salads, vegetables, and even some deserts. Black Lava salt has incredible detoxifying qualities and is used in salt scrubs, exfoliates, scrubs, and masks by many spas across the country
Too much sodium in the diet raises blood pressure and may increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The World Health Organization recommends that adults should consume less than 2,000 mg of sodium which is equivalent to 5 grams of salt per day.
Only about 6% of the salt manufactured in the world is used in food. Of the remainder, 12% is used in water conditioning processes, 8% goes for de-icing highways and 6% is used in agriculture. The rest (68%) is used for manufacturing and other industrial processes, such as in the manufacture of PVC, plastics and paper pulp. Salt is also used in the production of aluminum, soap, glycerine and synthetic rubber.