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Immovably fascinated by the world; it's properties, people, conditions, sensations, irony,
and all the amazing moments which, whether by enlightenment or scarring, bring about permanent change.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

the art of salt

salt is a crystalline solid from sea water or rock deposits.

(1927 photo of egyptian tomb by harry burton)

salt was being boiled from spring water back in 6050BC.
it was among the offerings in egyptian tombs.
romans would salt leaf vegetables (the word "salad" means "salted")
egyptians, greeks and romans would invoke gods with offerings of salt and water.
this is thought to be the origin of holy water in catholisism
(where salt is added to water, and blessed to create holy water)

jews dip the sabbath bread in salt, to preserve the covenant between people and god.
the hebrew bible mentions salt in thirty-five verses.

Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt
when she looked back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Job 6:6 is the first mention of salt as a condiment:
"can that which is unsavory be eaten without salt?
or is there any taste in the white of an egg?"

prophet muhammed said; "salt is the master of your food.
god sent down four blessings from the sky – fire, water, iron and salt."
(reported quote from one of the hadith recorded in sunan ibn majah)

in hinduism, it's used in religious ceremonies like housewarmings and weddings.

in jainism, offer raw rice and a pinch of salt before a deity to signify devotion.

in shinto (native japanese religion), it's used for ritual purification of locations and people.
morijio (pile of salt) or shiobana (salt flowers) are placed in dishes by the entrances
to ward off evil (and attract patrons to establishments).
sumo wrestlers throw salt to purify.

in wicca, salt is an earth element, and cleanses an area of harmful/negative energy.
a dish of each salt and water are almost always present on an altar.


reducing salt can lower blood pressure.
too much or too little salt in the diet can lead to:
- muscle cramps
- dizziness
- electrolyte disturbance (causing neurological problems, or death)


types ~

- unrefined
retains minerals that naturally occur in seawater (like iodine)
depending on mineral content; it can be white, pink , or gray.
makes a lovely garnish, because of the various colors.

- refined (table salt)
harvested from salt mines, and refined until it is pure sodium chloride,
which removes most minerals.
often contains multiple additives, raising health concerns.

- iodized
salt artificially spray coated with potassium iodide, sodium iodide, or sodium iodate.
this supplement is unnecessary if daily iodide intake around 225 micrograms.
sufficient quantities of which are found in seafood, dark greens, and sea salt.
but food was scare during The Dust Bowl,
so salt manufactures, cooperating with the government, started this process around 1924.
iodine deficiency affects about two billion people.
it can cause mental retardation, cretinism in children, and myxedema in adults,
and allows insufficient production of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism),
which swells the thyroid gland into a protrusion on the neck (endemic goiter).

- doubly fortified
iodide and iron added.
prevents Iron Deficiency Anemia in countries (especially children) who don't get enough food.


grains ~

- coarse: large, dry crystals
for pinching or mill/grinder with a ceramic/plastic mechanism (metal/steel will corrode/rust)
less moisture sensitive to moisture, so less clumping means easier storage.

- stone ground fine
replacement for table salt
to keep salt from clumping, add uncooked rice, or a cracker to absorb moisture.

- extra "velvet" fine
for small snacks like nuts or popcorn


the "traditional celtic methods" to harvest salt ~

to preserve taste and produce a moist crystalline texture,
only wooden tools are used by hand to rake the surface of evaporation ponds
where the best "young" salt crystals rise the surface.
like wine; this annual process can only be completed when the weather is just right,
so flavors/aromas depend on the area (even within a region) and year.
great in salad, raw or cooked vegetables, or grilled meat


(piles of salt in Sala de Uyuni Bolivia in 2006 by Luca Galuzzi)

flake, flaky, bay, sea, or solar salt ~
sea water is evaporated by sun in shallow basins
range from the large pyramid-shaped flakes to the paper-thin, delicate flakes

natural crystal flake sea salt ~
mediterranean sea water surrounding island of cyprus,
is channeled through a chain of salines (shallow ponds or lagoons)
producing salt brine that is fed into a large open evaporating pan,
and gradually heated by the sun.
solar evaporation continues until 3% humidity, which can take up to two years.
it forms a unique pyramid snowflake shape.
this delicate gourmet flake salt provides a delightful crunch with the mild flavor
making it ideal for use in cooking, baking, or garnishing fish and vegetables.

coarse, gos sel, sale grosso ~
use a grinder over any dish, flavor soups, stews, pasta,
or create a salt crust on meat or fish.

finishing ~
the premier varieties in the world of specialty salts.
generally hand-harvested in special areas around the world.
moist crystals or delicate flakes known for their unique textures.
they provide a strong crunch then dissolve quickly, giving a burst of clean, mild salty flavor,
and brings out the depth of natural flavors of any dish, spice blend,
salad, meat, seafood, sauce/soup, or drink-rim.

(guérande, france)

fleur de sel ("flower of salt"), flor de sal (portuguese) ~
this “caviar of salts” is the premier artisan finishing salt.
from the guérande region of france, to be truly authentic.
using the traditional celtic methods.
the harvesters in this region are called paludiers.

french sea salt ~ hand-harvested from atlantic sea.
grey salt, sel gris ~ if harvested using the traditional celtic methods.
sel gris by le tresor is also lower in sodium chloride content than average sea salts.
usually found in the brittany region of france’s atlantic coast.
moist and grey in color from minerals absorbed from the clay lining the salt ponds.
good for salads cook/fresh vegetables, grilled meat.

hawaiian sea salt, alaea, alae, hawaiian red salt ~
traditional/authentic table salt in hawaii, used to season and preserve.
to enrich with iron oxide, they add a natural mineral called "alae",
which is a volcanic baked red clay, that brings a mellow, earthy flavor.

hiwa kai (black hawaiian salt) ~
for flavor and presentation, they add activated charcoal
(though, too small in quantity to be considered a supplement in detox diets)

italian sea sal, sicilian sea salt, sale marino ~
pans are filled from low seawaters of the mediterranean,
and left in the spring to evaporate in the sun and african wind.
it's then crushed/ground into coarse or fine grain, with no further refining.
naturally rich in minerals: iodine, fluorine, magnesium, potassium.
slightly lower percentage of sodium chloride than regular table salt.
delicate flavor for salads, and sauces, or garnish on bruschetta, and roasts.

kala namak, black salt, sanchal, indian black salt ~
unrefined mineral salt.
pearly, pinkish-gray color
very fine or coarse grain
strong, sulfuric flavor and aroma.
used in authentic Indian cooking, or mango smoothies.
vegan chefs use this for an egg flavor

sea salt, sal del mar, sel de mer, sale marino ~
a general term referring to unrefined salt derived directly from an ocean or sea
(most commonly mediterranean sea, north sea,
and atlantic ocean particularly the coast of brittany, france)
channeled into large clay trays and evaporated naturally by sun and wind
to retain traces of minerals (iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc, iodine)
bright, pure, clean flavor, with subtleties of trace minerals.

smoked sea salt ~
avoid "liquid smoke" flavor.
look for "naturally smoked" salt slow-smoked over wood fires
use on chicken or salmon when grilling or roasting
also good on salads, sandwiches, pasta and soup

kosher ~ (adheres to guidelines for jewish dietary requirements) salt
there's both generic and certified.
specific shaped flake (not necessarily sea salt)
named for its use in the preparation of meat
contains fewer additives
cleaner, more even, and less pungent taste than table salt
dissolves easily
used on pretzels, margarita rims

organic salt ~
because it has no carbon compounds, USDA cannot certify salt.
france's nature & progess, new zealand's bio-gro, and wales' soil assoc
have strict guidelines for:
- purity of the water
- cleanliness of the salt beds
- harvesting
- packaging


~ info:

~ photos:
google maps

~ further reading:

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