Civilized life is impossible without salt, declared the Roman naturalist and philosopher Pliny the Elder almost 2,000 years ago, and it’s safe to say that nothing has changed since then. Whether it’s plain buttered noodles, a piece of watermelon, or pricey beef tartare, salt is prized throughout the world for how it enhances the flavor of food of all kinds. Furthermore, you can use salt for your easy organic mushroom snacks.
Since salt is a flavor “potentiator,” it enhances the flavor of other foods rather than adding any new flavors of its own. Rich foods taste richer, meaty foods taste meatier, and bitter flavors can be improved by it. Of course, one of the reasons why we crave salt is because it contains an element that is necessary for our survival. Chemically speaking, salt is an ionic compound made of chlorine and sodium. Our bodies require sodium to maintain fluid balance in our blood and around our cells, as well as to support the proper operation of our nerves and muscles. In addition, you can use salt as your easy remedy for throat ailments.
How Salt is Processed
One of the oldest commodities in the world, salt is found everywhere. It may originate from seashores, where seawater is drawn from the water table and allowed to evaporate, leaving behind the salt. However, it can also come from inland saltwater springs, ancient caves that were once connected to the ocean, or, in extremely rare cases, the shores of landlocked lakes that are all that’s left of ancient oceans that once covered the surrounding land.
A large portion of the salt used today in the world is produced in salt mines using the same “room and pillar” method as coal mines. Explosives are inserted into the holes created by drills, which then explode, revealing new rooms that can be excavated. Sturdy pillars are left in place after the mines are excavated to support the ceiling. As a result, not all of the salt is harvested because some must be left behind to prevent the mines from collapsing.
About Table Salt
The term “table salt,” which refers to the small, cubic, uniform crystals found in saltshakers, is also unregulated, but it is what most people picture when they hear the word “salt.” Table salt doesn’t cover the surface area of foods as well as other, crunchier salts due to the size of its grains, but the small crystal size makes it easier for the salt to flow through food. The brine is brought indoors and evaporated in sizable metal pans at salt works along ocean shores, where some of the table salt is produced. A portion of table salt is mined, mixed with water, and evaporated to produce the distinctive crystals of table salt. Others use a sifting technique, simply dissolving large salt chunks and separating them into the familiar table salt size using a series of mesh screens of various sizes.
Compound of Salt
Some manufacturers of table salt, but not all, add an anti-caking agent to prevent the salt from clumping. Typically, silicon dioxide, also known as silica, is used as an additive. This naturally occurring substance absorbs moisture to prevent the salt crystals from adhering to one another, keeping the salt itself dry and fluid. Other safe anti-caking agents include dextrose and tricalcium phosphate, both of which are used in very small amounts. No matter the substance, anti-caking agents are included in the ingredients list if they account for 2 percent or less of the salt’s material. There are no anti-caking agents present when salt is the only listed ingredient.
What if Iodine is Eliminated?
Similar to how iodine, a nutrient that naturally occurs in salt but is eliminated during the cleaning and drying process, is present in some table salts but not all of them, Iodine deficiency can result in thyroid dysfunction in adults and intellectual disabilities in children and infants whose mothers were iodine deficient during pregnancy, so eliminating it can be problematic. In the US, iodine has been reintroduced to table salt since the 1920s. Iodine deficiency is less common now than it once was, but some people are still affected by it in their diets. If iodine is absent from your table salt, it should say on the label, “This salt does not contain iodine, a necessary nutrient.”
How is Table Salt Created?
The most beneficial compounds in natural salt are destroyed when it is heated to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit to make table salt. Table salt is not the healthiest salt you can shake, but it is fortified with the mineral iodine, which is essential. Table salt is also bleached and devoid of trace elements. In order to make it simple to sprinkle in your salt shaker, this type of salt frequently contains additives to slow moisture absorption. Unrefined salts, on the other hand, heal the body rather than harm it, according to some experts, who blame this highly refined salt for many sodium-related health problems.
Difference Between Table Salt and Sea Salt
1. Table Salt
Typically, salt deposits—remains of earlier seawater bodies that have since dried up and vanished—are mined for table salt. The deposits are washed in water to dissolve the salt, creating a salt solution that is later evaporated under a vacuum to create crystals. Table salt is refined to remove all impurities and other minerals, and it is then fortified with anti-caking ingredients like silicon dioxide, magnesium carbonate, and sodium aluminosilicate. Sodium chloride makes up about 98 percent of table salt on average, with an anti-caking agent making up about 2 percent of the total weight. Iodizing table salt involves adding potassium iodide or another iodine source. Due to the evaporation process, table salt has a tendency to be slightly denser.
2. Sea Salt
Sea salt is created from current seawater bodies either through open-air solar evaporation, which typically results in more expensive sea salts on the market or through a quicker vacuum evaporation process. Either unrefined or refined sea salt is offered for sale. Due to sediment and clay impurities, unrefined sea salt may appear gray because it has not been washed. Additionally, trace minerals, algae, and even marine bacteria that can withstand high salt concentrations are coated with unrefined sea salt. All of these could result in a flavor that is more complex. Of course, it’s debatable whether or not those traces of impurities really add much flavor to your food if you consider the amount of salt you actually sprinkle on a sizable grilled steak, for example.
Refined sea salt, on the other hand, is purified into a salt that is identical to table salt by washing it to remove all of its trace minerals and clay/sediment contaminants. Remember that sea salt is sodium chloride, just like table salt, and that if it is unrefined, it is probably contaminated with minute amounts of other substances or materials, but that aside, it is still sodium chloride. Depending on how it was harvested and dried, sea salt might have a flakier texture.