If you’ve been around in the My New Roots universe for some time, you’ll know that slat is key. The kind, the texture, the source, the quantity – it’s all so important and I am a passionate salt-lover!
Let’s work to dispel the common-held belief that salt and sodium are the same – they’re not! The salt we consume is in fact a combination of two ions, sodium and chloride, in percentages of roughly 40% and 60%, so the sodium you see measured on a package is not the same as a tasteful (and necessary) sprinkle of Maldon on a chocolate chip cookie for example 😉
All salt is either mined from deposits in the earth or evaporated from seawater. Salt is now widely available in a dazzling spectrum of flavours and colours, as it is found in nature. I find that a lot of taste and interest can be added to foods with a sprinkling of good salt.
It should be mentioned that table salt differs greatly from sea salt. Table salt is highly refined and heated to high temperatures that destroy nearly all of salt’s trace minerals. After processing, table salt can be just as harmful as processed white sugar (although it is generally eaten in much smaller quantities). Iodine is often added to table salt and while we want iodine in our diet, we only need it in small amounts, ideally from whole foods. Iodized salt can increase our risk of consuming too much iodine, this is something to be extra cautious with if you have a thyroid condition.
I recommend table salt be your last choice for seasoning, as it contains few nutrients, many additives, and has an unpleasant, bitter aftertaste that can spoil the delicate flavours of food. As you will soon find out, there are plenty of options when you say “pass the salt”… so let’s get into it!
Types of Salt
This inexpensive coarse salt is derived from either seawater or underground mines. Kosher salt contains no additives or added iodine, so the flavour is cleaner and more “pure” tasting than table salt. Kosher salt is popular among chefs because its coarse texture makes it easy to pinch up between your fingers and sprinkle onto foods. Use for all-purpose cooking but note that this is not a great finishing salt as the texture is too hard and crunchy in most cases. Keep coarse kosher for methods where it will dissolve like marinades, dressings, soups / stews, etc. It’s also not great for baking as the grains are too large to evenly disperse unless it is dissolved in the wet ingredients first.
This salt is made by channeling ocean water into large clay trays and allowing the sun and wind to evaporate it naturally. Within this category, there are a number of different grades, colours, and harvesting methods. In general, sea salt is my go-to seasoning because it is natural, flavourful, and contains the vital trace minerals such as iodine, magnesium, and potassium that many of us are missing in our diets. It is widely available in both fine (great for all-purpose use, especially baking!) and coarse grain (similar to kosher salt uses above). Sea salt costs more than kosher salt, so you may want to reserve it for seasoning instead of salting cooking water, for instance.
Fleur de Sel
Directly translated, this means “flower of salt”, Fleur de Sel is gathered specifically from the coast of Brittany in France. It is fine and grayish-white, with a slightly damp consistency. The taste is delicious, so save Fleur de Sel for the final seasoning as a condiment only. Some types of Fleur de Sel include Sel Gris, Celtic Sea Salt and Esprit du Sel.
This is a fantastically flaky salt that is produced by carefully raking the crystals by hand. The large and beautiful crystalline texture makes it perfect as a finishing salt. Unlike most salts, flake salt melts on your tongue and hot foods, while adding a great crunch. It is also less “salty” than other types of salt. Some types of finishing salt include Maldon, Murray River, and Cyprus Black Lava salt. THIS is the go-to on almost every plate of food I prepare and the salt I keep on my table for salting my food.
Smoked salts are a relatively new product in Western markets, but increasingly easy to find. Especially in vegetarian cooking, smoked salt adds a wonderful depth and smoky richness that is otherwise difficult to achieve. When you are considering a smoked sea salt, make sure that it is a naturally smoked salt and hasn’t just had liquid smoke flavoring added – this can create a bitter taste. The salts that are smoked naturally in cold smokers are slow-smoked over real wood fires to infuse the salt crystals with 100% natural smoke flavor. Smoked salts can be a bit on the pricey side, but a little goes a long way. Use as a finishing salt. Smoked salts are available in coarse and fine grains. I keep Salish Smoked Salt in my pantry.
Himalayan Rock Salt
This is the pink salt that is now commercially available in many forms including full rocks, chunks for salt grinders, coarse grain for cooking and fine grain for baking. The array of elements and trace minerals in crystal salt are highly bio-available. The flavour of Himalayan crystal salt is also fantastic, greatly improving the taste of your favorite foods. It stores for a very long time without clumping, naturally. Look for it in the form that suits your needs.
This type of salt is generally not for consumption, but for melting ice outdoors and in old-fashioned ice cream makers. It holds little to no moisture but is regarded as one of the purest forms of salt, derived from dried-up oceans millions of years ago. If you do have some on hand, make sure it indicates that it is the edible variety and switch to another type once you are out.
Herb / Vegetable Salt
This unique seasoning combines sea salt and dried herbs and/or vegetables. It has been around for centuries as an alternative to ordinary salt because it adds another dimension of flavour to food during the cooking process and is delicious sprinkled on finished dishes. In a pinch, this can be used in place of vegetable bullion. A classic brand name for this type of seasoning is Herbamare, but it’s easy to make your own by blending your favorite dried herbs and vegetables with salt in a food processor.
How to Use
There are no hard and fast rules about using salt in my book – just find one that suits your needs and your tastes. In general, though, coarse salts are best for cooking and seasoning, whereas fine grain salts are best for baking because they measure and dissolve evenly. Finishing salts are for just that: finishing a dish with a final seasoning. I keep finishing salts on the table at mealtimes and other salts in the kitchen.
You can also use salt outside of the kitchen. It makes for an excellent exfoliator, body scrub, sore-throat remedy, bowel cleanse, and can be added to DIY projects throughout the house!
Always purchase all-natural, dried (not boiled), unrefined salts with no added ingredients.
Store salt in glass, ceramic, stone, or wood containers (do not store in metal or it will corrode), or small amounts in a salt cellar on your counter for easy access.
Some Recipes in Grow
You’d be hard-pressed to find a recipe in my kitchen that doesn’t use salt in some form, but here are a few recipes where salt is integral!