Wars have been fought over it, countries built on it. It’s production dates back more than 8000 years and is referenced in every ancient civilization. It has been used for currency, ceremonies and to save lives as it is vital to our existence. It is salt.
Arguably the most important ingredient in your kitchen, salt comes in many types and forms. Lets explore the most popular types, their nutritional values and their differences.
Salt is a mineral made of two elements, Sodium (Na) and chorine (Cl). Most of the world’s salt is harvested from salt mines, or by evaporating sea water or other mineral-rich waters. While salt is essential for good health its proper use is a delicate balance. Salt is needed to regulate bodily fluids, aid digestion and for proper muscle and nerve function. It also provides essential minerals and aids in vitamin adsorption. While all these things sound great, over use of salt can lead to kidney problems, increased blood pressure and edema. The great majority of sodium in the Western diet comes from processed foods. If you eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods then you don’t need to worry about adding some salt to your meals. But what kind is best? You be the judge
The most common and readily available salt is table salt. It is harvested from underground deposits or produced with a flakey residue from oil digging. It is highly refined with most trace mineral being removed or damaged in the high heat process. The result is primarily Sodium Chloride 97+% and additives 3%. Because finely ground salt has a tendency to clump, anti-caking agents are often added to keep it flowing. Other ingredients added to table salt include MSG, sugar, and iodine. Iodine deficiency is still common in much of the world but with the well-balanced diet, available to most North Americans, iodine deficiency is not a concern. Table salt is also bleached to produce a stark white colour, not typically found in nature. When people talk about salt being “bad” for you – in the case of table salt they may be right!
Sea salt is made by evaporating sea water. It is made all over the world, including right here in Canada by SaltWest. Sea Salt can vary in taste and texture depending on where and how it is harvested. The size of the irregular crystals affects how fast the salt dissolves. It also varies in colour, depending on the minerals it contains. These natural impurities can add subtly briny, sweet, or even bitter flavors to the salts. Sea salt contains a number of trace minerals including potassium, iron, and zinc. It can also contain pollutants and heavy metals depending on the water quality from which it is evaporated from.
Kosher salt is more about the crystal size than the origin. Like table salt it is primarily Sodium Chloride; however, it does not contain the anti-caking or other additives. The large craggy crystals make it perfect for curing meat – a step in preparing Kosher meats according to Jewish dietary guidelines. Chefs love the quick dissolving crystals, making it a good, inexpensive all-purpose cooking salt.
Celtic Salt or Sel Gris
Harvested in France using a 2000-year-old method, Celtic Salt is raked once salt crystals have sunk to the bottom of the evaporation ponds. Celtic salt has a slightly lower sodium content than table salt and contains a variety of minerals, giving it a grey colour. Moist, granular, and chunky, sel gris is used as both a cooking salt and finishing salt.
Fleur de Sel
Harvested from the same ponds as Celtic Salt, Fleur de Sel is hand harvested by scraping salt crystals from the water’s surface before the crystals sink to the bottom of the evaporation ponds. Conditions have to be just right for the flower-like crystals to “bloom” on the water’s surface, making it a prized and expensive salt. The delicate, irregular crystals gently dissolve, making it a great finishing salt.
Pink Himalayan salt is often said to be the most beneficial as well as the cleanest salt available on this planet today. Harvested from ancient salt fields in Pakistan it is believed to be the salt from the original primal ocean. It contains all 83 trace minerals found in the human body and has one of the lowest sodium contents of all salts. The pink hue is due to the trace amount of iron oxide found in the salt. The colour can vary from a very light pink to red. It is believed by many that there are a number health benefits associated with Himalayan salt, beyond the consumption of essential minerals. Himalayan salt is used in beauty products for its effect of skin health and lamps made from the popular salt are prized for their relaxing and air purifying effects.
The Granary sells a variety of salts in both bulk and packaged forms. We also sell a section of Himalayan salt lamps, cooking slabs and bath salts.