Bring on the Right Salt, and Eliminate the Wrong One
Did you know that it’s possible to reduce your sodium level without reducing the level of salts that your body needs?
The type of salt you consume can contribute to not only your sodium levels, but also provide you with trace amounts of magnesium, manganese, lithium, and calcium, important for heart and nervous system function.
Did you know that using no salt while cooking, and then surprising your guests by adding a delicious un-refined salt on top of foods will win their taste buds every time? I call this method, “á la salt.”
Every good cook knows that a pinch of salt can change a flat, dull dish into one that bursts with flavor. When you salt food during cooking though, the natural salts in the food are changed, and in my opinion, covered up. Many chef’s believe that salt enhances the flavor of the food, which it does, but the original flavor is altered. If you add unrefined salts after cooking, the original flavors of the foods come forth, and then you get this incredible burst of salt that compliments, rather than alters.
Have you ever noticed that the less processing a food has, the better its taste? One reason this occurs is because the food’s integrity is held intact and all flavors are woven together as nature intended. The taste is fuller and richer on all levels. This is true for salt as well. There are definitely occasions where I like to fuse salt with cooking, but it is seldom. I love adding a beautiful unrefined salt as a finishing touch just before serving. Using salt this way is not only the most delicious, but it is also the safest in that you will most likely never overuse. But, let’s explore the story of salt a little further so we can dispel the myth that salt is bad for you, and clarify why it is a much needed and valuable food for our body and our palate!
Salt Varies in Flavor Depending on Geography
Salt is fast becoming the next gourmet secret to cooking a perfect dish. Just like fine wines are purchased for the aroma and flavor they develop from a geographical region, gourmet salts are not only known for their aroma and exquisite taste that melts in your mouth, which leaves no bitter aftertaste, but also their different colors.
Celtic salts arising from the pristine Atlantic seawater off the coast of Brittany, France are gray. Hawaiian Red salt has a distinctive pink color due to the natural mineral called “alaea” from volcanic baked red clay. Black salt, also called Sanchal or Kala Namak salt, is a pearly pinkish gray color.
Salts from the Mediterranean, Australia, New Zealand, the Murray River near the Alps Mountain range, the Himalayan Mountains, and even Redmond, Utah are also available, each with their own distinct colors and flavors.
Cooking Reasons to Use Gourmet Salts
Not only is salt a preservative in foods by drawing out moisture, it also is used in cooking for:
- acting as a meat tenderizer
- making hard-boiled eggs peel easily
- preventing the oxidative changes of apples, pears and potatoes
- enhancing the flavor of coffee and removing the bitterness if overcooked
- improving the flavor of poultry when rubbed both inside and on the outside of the bird
- keeping salads crisp, when salted immediately before serving
- whipping cream and egg whites – with salt, they whip better, faster, and higher
- setting gelatin salads and desserts quickly, when placed over ice that has been sprinkled with salt
Physiological Reasons To Use Gourmet Salt Our body needs salt, and it is essential to good health. Not enough causes dizziness, muscle cramps, exhaustion, and in serious cases, convulsions and death. It’s essential to our well-being.
Sodium is required for the proper functioning of our nerves and muscle contraction. It’s essential for the production of hydrochloric acid, which digests protein and the maintenance of fluid, pH, and electrolyte balance. Every quarter teaspoon of salt is equivalent to 600 mg sodium, contributing to the 2000-2500 mg of sodium we need daily.
Natural salt is the greatest alkaline-forming substance known to man. Salt helps to balance and replenishes all the body’s electrolytes. It stimulates salivation.
Salt cures were recorded back in the early 1800’s when sick people traveled to salt springs to soak their bodies for hours. Now, luxurious spas offer salt baths, salt glows, and rubs that exfoliate dead skin, relieve stress and stimulate circulation.
Excessive salt consumption, though, has been associated with high blood pressure, calcium deficiency, osteoporosis, weight gain, fluid retention, stomach cancer, and strokes. However, medical and scientific studies examined the effect of only refined white salt, not unrefined sea salt.
In the book, Sea Salt’s Hidden Powers, by Dr. Langre, he notes that violent prisoners given a natural salt, one with all the minerals remaining called Celtic Sea Salt showed improved behaviors within a few short weeks. It may be that Celtic sea salt contains natural lithium salts that can be naturally calming or it may be that the very small amounts of “active” minerals from the sea is exactly what our body is looking for.
Table Salt Versus Gourmet “Real” Salt
Table salt comes from salt mines. Most of the minerals are removed from it, leaving pure sodium chloride. Table salt is available as either plain or iodized salt. The iodization began in the 1920’s after it was found that certain parts of the country had low levels of iodine that were contributing to the development of goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland.
One problem with ordinary table salt and the minerals that have been removed is that we need the minerals. A food devoid of vitamins or minerals that it had in its original state “looks for” the missing nutrients in the body after it’s consumed, taking the missing nutrients from our body’s storage of nutrients.
Refined table salt may also be bleached. Additives such as dextrose, yellow prussiate of soda, potassium iodide, and anti-caking agents such as aluminum-oxide silicates, tricalcium phosphate, magnesium carbonate, and sodium bicarbonate may be added, which can actually interfere with our own body’s mineral absorption from foods. This makes it a less than wholesome food.
The sodium chloride in Celtic Sea salt and other naturally-occurring salts is naturally balanced with potassium and in a highly charged state so that it becomes very active in the body. This is not so with ordinary table salt.
The Process of Salt-Making Sea salt is derived directly from a living ocean or sea such as the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. It is produced by evaporating sea water, a process that is more expensive than salt produced from mines. Not as refined as regular table salt, sea salt still contains traces of minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc, iodine, calcium, and potassium,
Sun and wind evaporates seawater into salt brine that is collected in an open evaporating pan. The texture of salt can vary from rock salt to flakes of salt similar to snowflakes to fine particles. With slow heating, the delicate pyramid-shaped crystals of salt appear. This results in light, flaky sea salt.
When ‘young’ crystals are hand harvested under specific weather conditions by salt farmers, the result is premier condiment salt called Fleur de Sel or Flower of Salt. This salt is ideal for salads, grilled meats, and cooked fresh vegetables.
Kosher salt contains fewer additives and surprisingly, is saltier than regular table salt. Its texture is usually flakes, which dissolve easily and are less pungent than ordinary salt.
Rock salt is mixed with ice for making delicious homemade ice cream. It can also be sprinkled over ice to rapidly chill bottled beverages in picnic coolers.
Coarse salt is preferred by many professional chefs because it is easily measured with the fingers.
Smoked sea salts add authentic smoke house flavor. Naturally smoked over wood fires, the salt crystals are infused with 100% natural smoke flavor. Smoked sea salts add unique flavors to roasts, salmon, chicken, sandwiches, pasta, soups and salads.
The term “organic salt “ is an oxymoron, since salt cannot be grown organically like plants; it’s a mineral. The term ‘organic’ in the phrase organic salt refers to the production of salt during harvesting and processing according to organic methods and standards, controlled by the independent certifying body. The salt must be unrefined and totally natural. Harvesting must take place in a protected, non-polluted environment with ponds at least 500 meters away from major roads. During harvesting, only untreated wooden or polyethylene tools are allowed. The salt must be free from pesticides, industrial fumes, chemical residues and air pollution.
Add “á la Salt” to Your Dishes Salt on top of soups, salads, and cooked vegetables completes the taste buds and the meal in a unique way, without causing harm to your health. Try it! I guarantee you will be delighted as you were will finally be able to really get the true wonderful taste of salt with your food... yum!