Is There Such a Thing As Natural Sea Salt?
There are dozens of different kinds of sea salt available on the market today. Many people will have no problem knowing what each type is, but others will find it difficult to differentiate one type from another. Salt is commonly used in food, although sometimes kosher salt and sea salt are used interchangeably. There are many other varieties that can be found on store shelves and in specialty shops around the world. Understanding each one will help you make a more informed decision when shopping for table salt.
When shopping for kosher salt, the most noticeable characteristics are the texture and the appearance. Each kind will naturally vary in these two areas, but the most notable traits are the color and the crystal clarity. Some salts, such as table salt and kosher salt, are naturally mined from underground brines and formed by the slow evaporation of water from ancient oceans. Sea salt is created by the slow decomposition of seawater at the base of the sea.
Kosher sea salt is produced by passing rough sea salt through a variety of additional processes, often with added minerals and additives to create the desired properties. Usually, the first step is to refine the salt and remove impurities. After this step, however, additional filtering may be necessary to add trace amounts of potassium and magnesium to increase its effectiveness. Then, depending on its intended use, further refinement may be needed to remove chemicals and trace amounts of iodine and sodium. Refined salt has a light, translucent, gray color and is often found in typical cooking recipes.
To produce kosher sea salt, the process used to refine table salt does not remove the trace minerals that naturally occur in sea salt. In addition, the extra mineral and sodium give kosher salt its pale color. However, because these trace minerals naturally occur in sea salt, they provide additional health benefits. For example, magnesium helps reduce joint pain and osteoarthritis. Ionized sea salt has trace elements that stimulate natural healing and aid in the reduction of symptoms related to deficiency, such as arthritis, hypertension and diabetes.
There are many other advantages to using kosher salt in cooking. Because it has a light flavor, sea salts are very versatile in adding flavors to a wide range of cuisines. Sea salt enhances the flavor of certain foods like tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, cheeses, rice and certain vegetables like broccoli sprouts. It also adds a hint of spiciness to certain fruits like mangoes, oranges and papaya. Kosher sea salts do not have a salty taste, so they work well in salad dressings and added as a garnish to hot foods. They are good for seasoning microwave popcorn.
In addition to its wonderful flavor and various health benefits, sea salt has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Salt intake has been associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and prostate cancer. It is believed that sodium can raise blood pressure and cause an increased risk of stroke through the effect it has on blood pressure. Other research suggests that people with high blood pressure should limit their intake of salt.
When buying kosher salt for your table, you should make sure that it’s genuine. Gourmet kosher products sold in grocery stores and even on the Internet may not be true kosher products. To test for authenticity, look at the symbol for “Kosher” stamped on the package. If you can’t see any of these symbols, then it’s best to assume that the salt you’re buying is not authentic kosher.
When buying sea salt, it’s a good idea to buy a large bag or container so that you can test for its texture. Sea salt has a smooth texture because seawater contains many small molecules which makes it easy to pass through the pores of the mineral. Most table salt has a coarse texture, because it has a larger molecular structure. The larger the molecules, the higher the concentration of sodium chloride in the substance, which results in a more solid and more concentrated salt. High quality sea salt will have a fine texture, almost like a fine polish.