THE AMAZING WORLD OF SALT
Many of us grew up with one kind of salt. Iodized table salt. A few of us knew about kosher salt. Even fewer knew about artisanal salt. But no more! The new buzzword is artisanal salt.
IS SALT BAD FOR YOU?
The short answer is, it depends. People with high blood pressure should watch their salt intake. The Harvard School of Public Health reports that the people who are at high risk of developing health problems related to salt consumption are:
- People over age 50
- People who have high or slightly elevated blood pressure
- People who have diabetes
- African Americans
For optimal heart-health, the American Heart Association recommends people eat no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. That is about one-half to two-thirds of a teaspoon of sodium (salt).
HERE’S THE FUNNY THING:
More than 75 percent of the sodium Americans eat comes from some processed, prepackaged and restaurant foods – not from the salt shaker.
If you are cooking your own food, with real ingredients, you can easily monitor your sodium intake. And salt is so tasty!
WHERE DOES SALT COME FROM?
Salt comes from a variety of places in the world, and in nature. Most salt is mined, as it has been for thousands of years. Salt is also made by evaporating sea water or other mineral-rich waters. The salt mines are worldwide, including in the U.S., Europe, Russia and Pakistan.
In ancient times, salt was mined by slaves, who had a low life expectancy due to contact with salt dust. The term “salary” is derived from salt as a form of payment.
WHAT KINDS OF SALT ARE THERE?
- Table salt. The most common form of salt is iodized table salt. Iodine was added to salt beginning in 1924 to prevent thyroid problems such as goiters. Iodized table salt has additives to help it sprinkle finely and evenly.
- Kosher salt. Kosher salt was originally used for religious purposes. Jewish law required blood to be extracted from meat before it was eaten. Kosher salt has a flaky, coarse structure that is particularly efficient at extracting the blood. The flakes are large and easy to spread on food with your fingers.
- Fleur de Sel. This is a French name meaning “Flower of Salt." It is solar evaporated sea, lake or spring salt with fine, irregular, moist, mineral-rich crystals made by raking the crystals that blossom on the surface of a crystallizing pan. It adds a mild, delicate crunch to foods and is considered a “finishing” salt.
- Flake Salt. This salt comes from solar or fire evaporation and has pyramidal, flake or layered parchment-like crystals. It has trace mineral elements and is good for salting salads.
- Infused Salt. Sometimes sea salt is infused (combined) with other spices such as truffle, chocolate, lemon, vanilla and saffron. Use this as a finishing salt on warm foods.
- Rock Salt. This salt is quarried. An example is Himalayan Pink Salt. The crystals are hard and dry and are ground up to use as a finishing salt.
- Sel Gris. This is a gray salt made by raking crystals from the bottom of a crystallizing pan soon after they form. Sel gris is a finishing salt with a deep, mineral crunch and enough moisture to ensure lasting power on the heartiest and moistest foods.
- Shio Salt. The Japanese have been making shio salt from evaporated seawater for thousands of years. The grains are very fine and don’t draw attention to themselves. Use this salt in foods where the other ingredients should not be overwhelmed by the salty flavor.
- Smoked Salt. This is an artisanal salt that is cold-smoked with hardwood for a smoky scent and woodsy color. It is another finishing salt and can be used on everything from popcorn to salmon to chocolate mousse.
A FINAL THOUGHT
- Salt is made of two minerals, sodium and chloride, which are essential for human life.
- Too much salt can raise your blood pressure.
- Most of our salt intake comes from processed foods. Our advice is to stop eating ready-made food and add a finishing salt flavor to food you prepare at home.