Salt has played a key role in most cultures and, economically, it’s been important throughout the ages. Salt has been referenced and utilized in nearly all time periods and cultures from before recorded history. It’s been used as money and for trade in many early cultures.
Roman soldiers were paid with salt.
The Dutch foiled Spain’s aggression in the 16th century by blockading an Iberian salt supply and this led to Spain’s bankruptcy. With the loss of this commodity, war was avoided.
A salt tax in France became a major contributing factor to the French revolution.
China published, somewhere between 2700 BC to 4700 BC, a treatise concerning the medical uses of salt.
Some of the earliest Egyptian writings have a description of how to extract salt and Egyptians used salt in the mummification process.
Salt has been a part of religion as well. Some cultures ascribe magical powers to salt from protection to cleansing.
With its unique and versatile flavor, salt has been a staple throughout time. Enhancing almost every dish, salt is added to breads, meats, fruits and vegetables to sauces and desserts.
How Salt Aids Foods:
Preservation – helps protect against microorganisms, bacteria through dehydration and preventing growth of bacteria, which slows or prevents spoilage.
Texture Aid – in bread making, allows the dough to rise by giving helping the gluten hold more water and carbon dioxide. In meats it improves tenderness and in cheeses it aids in consistency of the cheese and the hardness of the rind.
Binder – in processed meats it helps retain water which reduces the loss of meat when cooking.
Color Developer – in ham, bacon, and other processed meats it helps obtain the desired color. It also helps create a golden crust for breads.
Fermentation Control – slows and controls the fermentation process in making pickles, cheese and sauerkraut.
What Is Salt?
Salt is made up of sodium and chloride. Sodium cannot be produced within the human body so it is important to the diet. Sodium helps regulate water balance and osmotic pressure. Chloride is equally important in the human diet for it helps the blood to carry carbon dioxide, absorb potassium, improve digestion and conserves an acid-base balance in the body. All of these benefits are received from the common salt shaker almost everyone has on their table.
The recommended salt intake varies for the individual. In general, though, a minimum of 500 mg per day with a maximum of 2400 mg is a good guideline. This is difficult to regulate because so many foods contain salt naturally. As with anything, too much salt may cause problems. Some of the problems include: hypertension or high blood pressure and high acidity, which may cause esophageal cancer.
In healthy people, too much salt is typically discarded by the kidneys. Since Americans tend to overindulge in salt, much focus has been placed on the effect salt has on hypertension. Many studies have been done and debate continues as to whether salt adversely affects blood pressure.
Three Basic Categories Of Salt:
Table salt - the one found in most salt shakers, is mined from salt deposits and has most of the minerals removed. Most salt in the United States is sold with iodine added making it iodized salt. This salt is harvested by forcing water into a mine to create brine (salt/water mix). The brine is then evaporated leaving cubes of salt. The salt is refined from there to create varieties like:
Pickling salt, Canning salt, Coarse salt, – fine grained without iodine or anti-caking preservatives. This is similar to table salt, but lacks the iodine and anti-caking additives that turn pickles dark and the pickling liquid cloudy. Pickles made with table salt would still be good to eat, but they wouldn’t look as appetizing.
Pretzel salt – large grained, does not melt quickly.
Rock salt – large crystal salt with a gray color, due to minerals not being removed. This form of salt is available in most grocery stores and in hardware stores.
Popcorn salt – very fine grained salt which is a flakier version of table salt.
Iodized salt – contains a small amount of potassium iodide and dextrose as a dietary supplement to prevent thyroid disease.
Seasoned salt – table salt with herbs added, such as onion, hickory smoke or garlic.
Kosher salt – is an additive-free coarse-grained salt. This salt was developed for the preparation of kosher meats in accordance with Jewish dietary laws. The salt itself is not kosher, but this is where the name comes from. The difference between table and Kosher salt is that during the evaporation process it is raked to give it a block-like structure which allows the salt to draw the blood out of meats. The raking makes Kosher salt coarser and flakier than table salt, so it disperses more easily. This makes it lighter and less dense than table salt. Since it is a lighter salt, there is less aftertaste with it. Kosher salt is recommended for rimming cocktail glasses for drinks, like margaritas. Today many cooks and chefs prefer it over table salt in their cooking, as it dissolves fast and its flavor disperses quickly. Kosher salt weighs less by volume than table salt, so you must increase the amount of salt used in a recipe (especially yeast bread recipes) when substituting it for table salt. This is a great all-purpose salt.
Sea Salt -is gained from evaporating salt water collected from an ocean or sea. The process is more costly than the mining process. Sea salt is less refined than other salts. Depending on the seawater used, you also get a variety of minerals in the sea salt.
Black Salt, Kala Namak, Sanchal – Significant for its strong sulfur odor (India) this salt is a pearly pink gray. It is used in Indian cooking.
Grey salt, Celtic salt, Sel Gris – Harvested from the light film of salt which forms during the evaporation process. The gray or light purple color comes from the clay in the region of France where it is harvested by traditional hand methods.
Hawaiian sea salt – Has a distinctive pink hue from the Alaea added to it. The Alaea is volcanic red clay with a high content of iron oxide. This salt is used in many traditional Hawaiian dishes like Kahlua Pig and Hawaiian Jerky.
Coarse salt, Gos Sel, Gale Grosso – Is a larger grained salt which resists moisture and is intended to be ground. Uses include flavoring for soups and salt crusts on meats.
Flake salt – Shaped like snowflakes and the sun and wind are used for evaporation. Then the brine is slowly heated to create the flakes.
Fleur de Sel, Flower of Salt, Flor De Sal – Skimmed from the top of salt ponds early in the process of evaporation and is considered a great condiment salt; also good on grilled meats, in salads and on vegetables. The flavor, like wines, varies depending on the region it is harvested from. Typically it is from France though some is produced in Portugal.
French Sea Salt – Processed less than American salt and retains more of the mineral content gained from the Atlantic seawater it is harvested from. This usually includes natural iodine. This coarse salt is good for salads, vegetables and grilled meats.
Grinder salt – Large dry salt crystal which can easily be put through a grinder. With a salt grinder you want to avoid metal as the salt will corrode the grinding mechanism.
Italian Sea Salt, Sicilian Sea Salt, Sale Marino – Harvested from the lower Mediterranean sea by hand using traditional methods of natural evaporation, this salt is high in iodine, fluorine, magnesium and potassium. A delicate salt which is good on salads and in sauces.
Smoked Sea Salt – The salt is smoked over real wood fires to add the flavor to the crystals. These can be used in soups, salads, pasta and also in grilling foods like salmon.
Some Other Types Of Salt:
Organic Salt: Organic salt has different standards than organic livestock or botanicals. Some organizations have started to set up guidelines to ensure the quality of water and production process.
Lite (light) salt and salt substitutes: These generally do not have a great flavor. Lite salt uses potassium chloride to reduce the sodium level in the salt. Salt substitutes have little or no sodium in them and are typically used by people who have a medical restriction to salt.
Sour Salt: is not made up of salt at all, instead it is citric acid. This is used to prevent browning when canning fruit. It can also be added to rye or sourdough bread to make it more tart.
Fine salts – used for baking in special recipes. The texture and size of a fine salt is smaller and more dense than a more coarsely ground salt.
Cooking With Salt
When making soups, stews or sauces that will reduce while cooking, use little, if any, salt at the beginning, since the flavor will concentrate over time.
Salt measurements in recipes are standardized for ordinary table salt, so if you’re using salt with larger crystals or flakes, like kosher salt, make sure to adjust the measurement as needed. (A rule of thumb: if 1 teaspoon table salt is required, use about 1½ teaspoons kosher salt.)
A dish salted to taste at room temperature will taste less salty after chilled.
To improve the flavor of chicken, rub salt inside and out before roasting.
Add a pinch of salt:
- To enhance the flavor of coffee.
- To whipping cream or egg whites to get them to whip faster.
- To milk to have it stay fresh longer.
- To boiled potatoes, salt after draining – this gives them a fine texture.
- Keep salads crisp by salting immediately before serving.
Here are some general guidelines in using salt amounts:
• 1 teaspoon per quart for soups and sauces.
• 2 teaspoons per pound for boneless raw meat.
• 1 teaspoon per 4 cups flour for dough.
• 1 teaspoon per two cups liquid for cooked cereal.
• 1 teaspoon per 3 cups water for boiled vegetables.
• 1 Tablespoon per 2 quarts water for pasta.
• 1 Tablespoon coarse or kosher salt = 2 teaspoons table salt.
General tips to help with using salt in the kitchen:
- Over salted soup – add a cut up potato or two to absorb the extra salt.
- To prevent food from sticking to skillets, waffle irons or griddles, sprinkle with salt and heat in a warm oven, dust off the salt and return to the cupboard. Next usage, foods won’t stick.
- Boil eggs in salt water to ease the peeling process.
- To set the whites of poached eggs, use salted water.
- Place an egg in a cup of water with 2 teaspoon of salt, a fresh egg will sink, a floating egg may be spoiled.
- Washing spinach, lettuce and other greens in saltwater will keep them crisp.
- Lightly salted cold water helps maintain the color of apples, pears and potatoes.
- Soak pecans in salted water to make shelling easier.
- Dampen a cloth with saltwater and wrap around cheese to prevent molding.
- Sprinkle ice with salt, place gelatin salads or desserts on ice to get them to set more quickly.
- Salt Institute
- Salt Traders
- Maharajh, Christina “20 Amazing Ways to Use Salt”
- Bardey, Catherine, Secrets of the Spas, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 1999
- Breedlove, Greta, The Herbal Home Spa, Storey Books, 1998
- Edgson, Vicki and Ian Marber, The Food Doctor, Collins & Brown Ltd, 1999
Recipes Where Salt Is Important
Homemade Herb Salt
- 1/2 cup coarse sea salt
- 1/4 cup packed fresh rosemary leaves 1/4 cup packed fresh lemon thyme leaves
- 1 cup fine sea salt
Place 1/2 cup coarse sea salt, rosemary, and lemon thyme in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse, grinding salt until rosemary and thyme have a fine consistency. Add 1 cup sea salt and pulse to combine.
Pour salt mixture into a shallow baking dish and let air dry for 2 hours. Transfer salt to a glass jar and screw on lid.
Baked Kale Chips
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Line a non insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper.
With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt. Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes.
- 1 quart water
- 4 tablespoons kosher salt or pickling salt
- 1 pound Kirby cucumbers
- 4-5 peeled garlic cloves
- 2-3 tablespoons homemade pickling spice, recipe below
In a medium pan, combine water and salt. Bring to a boil and heat until the salt is fully dissolved. Set aside and let the brine fully cool before using.
Wash a wide-mouth quart jar and a small four-ounce jelly jar and let them dry.
Wash Kirby cucumbers well and trim the ends. Pack them into the clean quart jar in one layer with the garlic cloves and the pickling spice. Pour the cooled brine over the cucumbers leaving space for the jelly jar to fit. Tap the jar gently on your counter to settle the cucumbers and to remove any air bubbles.
Place the four-ounce jelly jar into the mouth of the quart jar and fill it with some of the remaining brine. Press it down so that it holds the cucumbers in place.
Put a small square of cheesecloth or a tea towel over the jar and secure it with a rubber band. Set the jar on a small plate or saucer and place it in an area of your kitchen that’s cool and out of direct sunlight.
Check the jar every day to ensure that the cucumbers remain submerged in the brine. After a week, slice off a small amount of cucumber and taste. If you like the level of sourness that the pickle has reached, remove the jelly jar from the mouth of the quart, place a lid on the jar and move it to the refrigerator.
If you think they need to continue to sour, let them sit out for a few more days. Pickles can continue their fermentation process for up to three weeks.
Recipe can be increased to make multiple jars.They will last up to a year in the refrigerator.
Homemade Pickling Spice
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons dill seed
- 2 tablespoons allspice berries
- 1 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 10-12 bay leaves, crumbled
Combine and store in a glass jar.
Easy Soft Pretzel
- 3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup warm water (120° to 130°)
- 1 tablespoon softened butter or vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- Kosher salt or coarse salt
In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, salt, water and butter; beat until smooth (mixture will be slightly sticky).
Sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons water if dough is dry. Cover and let rest in a warm place 30 minutes.
For topping, combine water, sugar and baking soda in a shallow bowl.
Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly greased surface; divide into six equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 24-in. rope.
Shape each rope into a pretzel and dip into the baking solution. Sprinkle pretzels with coarse salt .
Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake at 400° F for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.
- 8-10 lemons, scrubbed very clean
- 1/2 cup kosher salt, more if needed
- Extra fresh squeezed lemon juice, if needed
- Sterilized quart canning jar
Place 2 tablespoons of salt in the bottom of a sterilized jar.
One by one, prepare the lemons in the following way:
1. Cut off any protruding stems from the lemons and cut 1/4 inch off the tip of each lemon.
2. Cut the lemons as if you were going to cut them in half lengthwise, starting from the tip, but do not cut all the way. Keep the lemon attached at the base. Make another cut in a similar manner, so now the lemon is quartered, but attached at the base.
3. Pull the lemons open and generously sprinkle salt all over the insides and outsides of the lemons.
4. Pack the lemons in the quart jar, squishing them down so that juice is extracted and the lemon juice rises to the top of the jar. Fill up the jar with lemons, making sure the top is covered with lemon juice. Add more fresh squeezed lemon juice if necessary. Top with a couple tablespoons of salt.
5. Seal the jar and let sit at room temperature for a couple days. Turn the jar upside down occasionally. Put in the refrigerator and let sit, again turning upside down occasionally, for at least 3 weeks, until lemon rinds soften.
To use: remove a lemon from the jar and rinse thoroughly in water to remove salt. Discard seeds before using. Discard the pulp before using, if desired.
Store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Green Olives
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium onions, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 pieces preserved lemon
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 16 pitted green olives, halved
Pat chicken dry, then season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then saute chicken until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to a plate and keep warm, covered.
Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet and reduce heat to moderate. Cook onions and garlic, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add turmeric and pepper and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Scrape pulp from preserved lemon, reserving for another use. Cut rind into thin strips and add to onions with broth, wine and olives.
Return chicken, with any juices accumulated on plate, to skillet. Braise, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 12 minutes.
Kosher Salt Encrusted Prime Rib Roast
- 2 cups coarse kosher salt
- 4 pound prime rib roast
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon seasoning salt
Preheat oven to 210 degrees F.
Cover the bottom of a roasting pan with a layer of kosher salt. Place the roast, bone side down, on the salt. Season the meat with the ground black pepper and seasoning salt, then cover completely with kosher salt.
Roast in the preheated oven for 4 to 5 hours, or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 145 degrees F .
Remove the roast from the oven and let rest for 30 minutes. This sets the juices and makes the roast easier to carve. (Note: Be sure to remove all the salt from the roast before carving and serving.)
- The Difference Between Kosher Salt and Table Salt (todayifoundout.com)
- Salt and Its Many Varieties: What Are the Differences? (foodiefriendsfridaydailydish.com)
- Pink Himalayan Salt Soap (imagesinbloom.wordpress.com)
- Dietitians Dish: Cut back on sodium (victoriaadvocate.com)
- Scientists Say it’s Safe to Pass the Salt, For Now (liheart.org)