The Weston A. Price Way

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe...Which Salt to Keep? Which Salt to Throw?

Eeny-meeny, miney, mo...
Which ones stay? Which ones go?
Making beet kvass has led both my husband and I to question the salt aspect of the recipe, and as the way things go around here, to question the salt questions we've harbored in the backs of our minds for some time...(Ha! Say that three times fast!)

I have found other recipes besides the one used in Nourishing Traditions, but one thing they all call for? Sea Salt. In fact, if you don't have whey to add as a natural preservative, (and protein booster), instructions call for an additional tablespoon of sea salt to your kvass. This gives a pretty salty brew the first time through, so we had our questions. I have discovered that the salt taste can be lessened by brewing the kvass for a longer period of time and then leaving it in the fridge longer before drinking it. I can't personally attest to that, but will try it with our next batch.

Now that I've studied salt a bit more closely, I am relieved to know that my tablespoon of sea salt is not equal in amount to table salt...which makes all the common sense in the world. (I am pretty well convinced that common sense is what one comes by when they  S-L-O-W  D-O-W-N and T-H-I-N-K.) So, I'm not really using an entire tablespoon as I have known a tablespoon of salt to be in my pre-sea salt days. Phew. Glad that worry's off my chest...

Yesterday's chemist takes a look at table salt and sea salt and says they are the same. Indeed they the extent that they have two common denominators. Sodium  and chloride are the big basics making up salt. Whether it is mined from underground or evaporated from sea water, salt truly is still sodium chloride. When scientists reported there is no real difference, this is what they are talking about. Salt, prior to refinement, contains over 80 other trace minerals as well. To some, 'trace' apparently means, 'not-worth-mentioning-because-they-have-no-value'...


I'll share with you the main differences I found between table or refined salt and sea salt and why I believe little things, trace things, can mean a lot. Sifting through as much info as I could in a relatively short period of time, I discovered differences in location of extraction (land or sea), process of extraction (evaporation or high processing), additives (anti-caking agents w/aluminum or other toxic chemicals or no anti-caking agent), mineral content (two minerals or about 82), iodine content (there or not there), color (white or rainbow) and texture (fine or fine to coarse to flakey). I need to add taste as well, since so many say they can truly distinguish between taste. (I guess my taste buds are still on a learning curve, but I do prefer some textures over others.)

Generally, (I have read this is not always the case), but generally, table salt is actually refined salt extracted via land mining, while sea salt is extracted from the sea. Table salt is heavily processed leaving an end product that has only the two minerals, sodium and chloride. Sea salt is extracted via evaporation, leaving its 80+ minerals intact. It is a true whole food and it's trace elements can be easily assimilated by our bodies. Many health practitioners are now condoning the use of sea salts, saying their trace minerals are necessary elements of good health: "These trace minerals are essential for our health thus promoting optimal wellness." ~Margeux J. Rathban, B.S, N.T.P.

So, from what I can detect, 'trace' does count for something. It's funny how when I searched for salt information, I was repeatedly detoured to sites that spoke of radioactive iodine. It's funnier still, that when trace amounts of radioactive iodine were found in water tested in the states of Idaho and Washington, it attracted headline media attention. But, hey...It's just trace amounts, right? So, if we are so concerned about trace amounts of something negative, why wouldn't we also give credence to trace amounts of something positive? Trace amounts of money have made poor hackers rich. They paid attention to trace amounts of funds that no one else cared about...until it all added someone else's pockets. 'Trace' adds up.

Since the 1920's, iodine has been added to table salt. It also has a 'non-caking agent' added so it won't stick together. In the past, this agent has often contained aluminum. Although some may still contain this or other chemical anti-caking agents, Morton no longer adds it. Real Salt doesn't add any anti-caking agent and there are certainly others who have responded to consumer wishes to nix these additives. Please read labels if any of this concerns you. If you want unrefined but don't like the possibility of caking, add some grains of rice to your sea salt to absorb excess moisture.

Iodine will not be found in unrefined salts. We do need iodine and it's lack is reported to be the cause of  goiters and even hypothyroidism in the 1920's, which is why someone decided it was a good thing to add to our salt. I won't argue that because I wasn't there and I really don't know...but I do wonder about it and probably will have to look a little more deeply into it in the future to satisfy my own questions. If lack of iodine in your salt causes concern, but you still want natural, unrefined salt without the possibility of toxic additives, be assured that there are many other natural sources of iodine...Seafood, kelp, dairy products, eggs, name a few. It seems just about anything from the sea has a great amount of iodine. As a hypothyroid patient myself, I was once encouraged by my doctor, (off the record, of course), to visit the sea as often as possible as the sea air itself is known to stimulate the thyroid. (Good thing I married a Coast Guard guy...We've nearly always lived on or near the ocean!)

For those restricting sodium intake, understand that a tablespoon of sea salt is not equivalent to a tablespoon of table salt...or any other finely ground salt, for that matter. The larger the grains, the less salt in the actual measurement for the simple reason that smaller grains fit much more closely together within the measuring tool.

Kosher salt is generally larger grained than table salt and smaller than sea salt. It is kosher, so it has no additives, except it may have an anti-caking agent, so again, read labels. I have heard it's size makes it optimal for use on roasted or 'corned' meats and preservation.

When it comes to the other differences in salts, even from sea salt to sea salt, I believe we are talking mostly about preference. There is a world (literally) full of the various salts. Some pink, some black, some grey...and so many colors in between! There is also the matter of texture. While some are more fine than would be expected, others can be surprisingly large in their coarseness. Others flake naturally, look like snow and actually seem to melt like snow on the tongue due to their delicate structure. Some are collected at only one time of the year, the weather making all the difference, as with a fine wine. These latter-mentioned 'breeds' are the 'caviar' among salts.

I dare say, I'll not be using any of them in my beet kvass.

Hint of the day: If you have coarse sea salt but need a finer salt for your table, etc, throw your sea salt into the food processor. Works like a champ.( I suspect a good blender would work well, too!)

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