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The Salt Primer-What Is Kosher Salt?

It has been several decades since I used salt on a daily basis.  Other than knowing that salt makes tequila taste better, I have never given the popular seasoning much thought. 

Unfortunately, there was a recent “cooking incident” where I suggested to my wife that we use Epsom salt rather than some sort of gourmet salt she wanted me to go out and find. 

The result of my Epsom salt error was a long mandatory research assignment on “salt.” 

So, here goes…below is a summary of what I found about salt. 

Salt Should Be Consumed In Moderation

Salt isn’t the healthiest seasoning and is a contributor to high blood pressure.  On the other hand, humans naturally like salt, and it is present in most of the processed and cooked foods we consume.

So, how much salt is too much?                                             

Other than salt that is already present in processed and cooked foods (and, of course, needed to drink tequila), any use of salt on already cooked foods is too much salt. 

While Salt Should Be Consumed in Moderation

While ingesting too much salt is bad, if humans do not eat enough salt, they will die. 

Too little salt is associated with insulin resistance (related to type-2 diabetes and heart disease), heart failure, and hyponatremia (a form of dehydration). 

Man in the dessert reaching for the only bottle of water around.

So, too little salt will kill you; and too much salt is bad for blood pressure. 

So, just like Goldilocks needed to figure out which porridge was just right, we need to consume just the right amount of salt. 

Basically, avoid reaching for the salt shaker, and you will be doing better than most of your peers. 

How is Salt Produced?

There are three main ways that salt is produced:

Through the evaporation of seawater

Approximately 3.5% of the world’s oceans are salt.  When ocean water evaporates, it leaves behind sea salt.  

Picture of the Salt Flats.

There are many different sea salt types (Himalayan, Hawaiian, French, English, etc.) and thousands of sea salt manufacturers.  Where ever there is a “sea,” there is likely a sea salt manufacturer. 

  • Mining rock salt found within the earth

Rock salt is found in dry areas on land and is the residue left behind from oceans that once covered the earth’s surface. 

Picture of a tool excavating salt from a mine.

Salt mining is similar to other mineral mining, i.e., heavy machinery is used to extract salt from the earth. 

  • From man-made salt brine

Salt brine is created by first dissolving rock salt into the water and then evaporating the man-made saltwater to harvest the salt. 

Picture of Salt Island.

This is another form of salt mining.  Most table salt is produced through this method. 

What is the Difference Between Table Salt and Kosher Salt?

Chemically, there is no difference between table salt and kosher salt.  All salt is the same (except for Epsom salt, which isn’t really salt at all). 

Most table salt is salt that has been ground into a fine powder, treated with anti-caking additives (to prevent clumping), and often has been iodized. 

On the other hand, kosher salt isn’t iodized, and the chrystals are flaky and coarse.  Kosher salt was traditionally used to draw moisture out of meat, which is part of the process of making meat “kosher.” 

White salt on a wood table.

Kosher salt also tends to have larger crystals than table salt and is good for cooking because it can be easily picked up by chefs and sprinkled on food. 

Kosher salt and table salt can be used interchangeably for eating and seasoning, but not at a 1:1 ratio.  Morton’s has published a salt conversion table, which can be found by clicking here

What makes salt “kosher”?

All pure salt is kosher.  Salt is a mineral and, in its pure form, is always kosher. 

Kosher certifying agencies merely confirm kosher salt is pure. 

What is iodized salt?

Iodized salt has had iodine added to it.  In the 1920s, it was widely thought that many people were not eating enough iodine, and iodized salt was created to treat this concern.  Many chefs believe that iodized salt does not taste the same as pure salt, and it is not a favored high-end seasoning. 

Why are some salt pink, red, black, grey, or blue? 

I have no idea why different salts are of different colors.  But if you would like to learn more about all of the different types of salt, and their origins, click here, here, here, or here

What is Epsom Salt?

I can confirm, Epsom salt is not for eating, or seasoning and is not “salt”. 

Carton of Epsom Salt

Also, I now know never to suggest to my wife that we can use Epsom salt as an alternative to seasoning salt in an effort to avoid a trip to Whole Foods. 

Also, I now know that Epsom salt gets its name from the English town of Epsom where it was first discovered. 

My wife tells me that Epsom salts are good for a bath and soaking.  I don’t know why, nor do I totally believe her. 

So, there you have it; that is everything I know about salt. 

Of course, all this “salt talk” just makes me want to get some tequila and try out all the different colors and types of salt.

Mark Sunshine

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