By Hana Medina
SALT. IT’S BEEN used as currency (salary
came from the Latin word for salt), caused
wars (the El Paso Salt War is one example)
and served as a mealtime staple. While table
salt (iodized salt) is commonplace in U.S.
kitchens, sea salts, kosher salt and flavored
options have increased in popularity in recent
years. Many of these varieties have been the
standard in other countries for centuries. So
what are the best uses for these new (to us)
kids on the block? Isn’t all salt just … salt?
Not really, says Naomi Novotny, co-founder of Saltworks in Woodinville,
Washington, a Costco supplier and a source
for Kirkland Signature™ salts. And she would
know: Her company processes 30 million
pounds of the stuff each year. All salt is a
combination of sodium and chloride, but
how it’s formed and/or processed differentiates its mineral makeup and taste. Here’s a
look at how some salts are harvested, their
tastes and their uses.
Atlantic sea salt
Harvest: “Simply ocean water, wind and
sun are used to create these salts,” Novotny
tells The Connection. “The pristine ocean
water is channeled into large saltwater beds
and left for the wind and sun to evaporate the
water, leaving behind the beautiful sea salt
crystals.” This process can take anywhere
of the earth
to tease your
from one to five years, depending on the geographical location of the salt ponds. Novotny
says that the source and quality of the water in
which the salt forms is key to its flavor and
quality, and that salts that originate deep in
the ocean have the purest flavor.
Tastes: Very salty
Uses: Great for roasting, salt curing, brines
and general cooking. This salt tends to dissolve
quickly, so for optimum flavor it’s best to add it
toward the end of the cooking process. Use
finely ground sea salt when baking—it incorporates into dough easier than larger crystals.
Gourmet versions come in smoked and flavored options. Sea salt is also used as an exfoli-ant in beauty products and spa treatments.
Pink Himalayan sea salt
Harvest: This salt is mined with a pickaxe
from man-made caves in the Salt Range (go
figure) in the Himalaya Mountains. Even
though the salt is mined from a mountain, the
oceans naturally formed the salt deposits
nearly 250 million years ago during the
Jurassic Period. It’s widely considered the pur-
est form of sea salt, as it formed before the
earth contained any pollution. Its pink color is
due in part to its high mineral content.
Tastes: Mildly salty
Uses: Anything. But again, choose a finely
ground version for baking. Novotny says this
salt’s hard crystals hold up well throughout the
cooking process, and because of this, it can be
added to a recipe at any point. Slabs of
Himalayan sea salt are used for searing meats
and roasting vegetables. Spas and health products use this salt for its detoxification benefits.
Harvest: Kosher salt is made in one of two
ways: the man-made method, which uses
pressure to join smaller crystals into the salt’s
characteristic flat and wide granules, or the
natural method, in which sea salt is harvested
earlier in the evaporation process. Novotny
says that kosher salt is “young sea salt crystals
that have not fully formed.” Many publications mention that it got its name because its
shape made it useful in koshering meat. If you
are looking for kosher salt for religious purposes, be sure the salt is kosher certified.
Tastes: Subtly salty
Uses: General cooking, grilling and roasting. Like other sea salts, it dissolves quickly. If
you will be substituting kosher salt for table
salt in a baking recipe, Chow.com, a culinary
site, says its lightweight grains may not yield
the correct amount of salt that a recipe calls for
by volume. Use a food scale to measure the
equivalent amount, or seek recipes that specifically use kosher salt.
Healthy salt? Depends
The Harvard School of Public Health
(HSPH) says our bodies need a small amount
of sodium “to conduct nerve impulses, contract and relax muscles, and maintain the
proper balance of water and minerals.” Many
health organizations also laud sea salt for
detoxification benefits, and many especially
like pink Himalayan sea salt for being a natural
source of minerals (it contains a whopping 84).
However, HSPH also says an abundance
of sodium can lead to health issues such as
high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke,
so monitor your sodium intake regardless of
which salts you use, and be cautious of salt
entirely if you’ve been prescribed a low-sodium diet. The recommended daily dose of
salt intake is widely debated, but the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 1500 milligrams if you are not at risk
for the aforementioned health problems.
Again, check with your doctor.
Whichever salt you reach for, don’t be
afraid to try different varieties. Experiment!
Your dishes will pop with flavor and your
taste buds will dance. C
The Costco Connection
Look for salt in your local warehouse,
including these Kirkland Signature varieties,
which are minimally processed and are free
of anti-caking agents: Mediterranean Sea
Salt Grinder, Pink Himalayan Sea Salt and
Pure Sea Salt (Atlantic Sea Salt). Kosher salt
is available in limited locations.