Salt

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Salt is a general term for one of a variety of chemical salts, though by far the most common of which is based on Sodium Chloride (NaCl). Artisan salts that are not 98-99% pure NaCl may contain traces of magnesium, potassium, and calcium salts as well.1 As the only mineral commonly used in foods, it is ubiquitous but also likely the least expensive ingredient in any dish.1 Proper use of salt can decrease sour or bitter flavors while enhancing sweet and umami ones. It can also enhancen texture, taste, and beauty of any dish where it is used.1

Categories of Salts

  • Artisan salts
    • Fleur de sel
    • Sel gris
    • Traditional salt
    • Flake salt
    • Shio salt
    • Rock salt
    • Unconventional salt
      • High mineral salts
      • Powdered salts
      • Spherical salts
      • Liquid brine salts known as "brine products"
      • Anything with abnormal or modified crystal structure
      • Salts made with high-tech equipment such as vacuum evaporators or ion-exchange membranes.
  • Other salts
    • Industrially made salts - most commonly vacuum evaporation pan salt and industrial sea salt. Refined salts often also have anti-caking agents that are aluminum based or binders such as corn syrup to better adhere added iodine.
      • Vacuum pan evaporation makes the purest salts, above 99.5% pure as other chemicals are used to remove other unwanted minerals / salts before evaporation. Remaining brine is nearly pure sodium chloride. Differences in drying vessels like pans can change size and form of the crystals, creating kosher salt or larger crystals that would need to be milled or otherwise shaped for use.1
    • Modified salts - salts that have been changed in some way; often by adding flavors like smoke.


Artisan salts

Despite long history in which salt was both hand made and of utmost importance, the industrial revolution led salt to becoming a commodity rather than a specific hand made good. Variations in salt have had a resurgence in the last 20 years, however as understanding of their potential drives wider demand.

Making artisan salts

Artisan salts are marked by their ingredients - that is, the weather, ocean, land, and tradition that all go into making specific salts. Since artisan salts are mostly rely on manual labor, they vary widely in both form and content. Sea brine itself has a wide variety of salts that begin to crystallize at different concentrations. Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) starts to crystallize around 70 g/L followed by calcium sulfate (CaSO4), sodium chloride (NaCl), magnesium sulfate (MgSO4), and magnesium chloride (MgCl2) which is also known as "bittern". Variations in each of these salts as well as other minerals in the final product affect taste. Production methods and sources affect how much moisture is retained in the salt crystals as well which in turn affects final texture when eaten. Salts are either made using some method of evaporation to reduce water content of a brine, causing crystallization - or by mining dried underground lake and seabeds for pure stratified salt.


Usage

Flavors

Notes

References

  1. a b c d  Bitterman, Mark. Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes. (2010). ISBN-10: 1580082629. ISBN-13: 9781580082624.