One of my favorite trips of all time was visiting the Dead Sea in Israel. With water 8.6 times saltier than the ocean, fish and aquatic plants can’t survive in its harsh, high-salinity environment (hence it’s name!). However, the unique mineral content of the water, low levels of pollens and allergens, and high atmospheric pressure have transformed the Dead Sea into a space of healing and wellness, particularly thanks to its therapeutic salt.
Salt is, and has always been, an essence of life. It has fed us on long voyages, cured our bacon and our wounds, balanced sweetness, and helped us cook. While it has received a bad rap for its overuse in processed foods, it is still essential to our diet.
Let's break salt down a bit:
Kosher salt and table salt are both mined salts that are harvested by forcing water into salt mines and evaporating this brine into salt crystals (diamond-shaped crystals become table salt and Kosher salt is raked during evaporation to create long, flat crystals). These salt deposits are older and have lost most, if not all, of their mineral content and taste. Processing Kosher salt affects its shape and transforms it into flat, thin flakes, which are needed for koshering meats.
Sea salts, by contrast, derive from newly-evaporated sea or ocean water. These salts vary in color and flavor as well as mineral content. When purchasing a good grey salt, you'll find a mild moisture content when rubbing the coarse pieces between your fingers. This opens the door to infusing the salts with a variety of herbs and spices (try splitting a vanilla bean, rubbing it into a 1/4 cup of salt and sprinkling that over ice cream). You'll find a wide variety of salts from equally diverse bodies of water, from pink Himalayan salts to grey salts from France.
Tips for working with salt:
- Great sea salts are best used as finishing salts. If you're salting your pasta water, stick with the mined salts and reserve the sea salt for plating or at the end of your sauce-making adventures.
- When preparing a salad, you'll want to add the salt to your dressing and not on the lettuce, as it will encourage wilting and not dissolve evenly.
- Read the recipe carefully— if it calls for 1 tsp of Kosher salt and you replace it with 1 tsp of fine table salt, you'll end up with too much.
- Most often, you'll ignore what I said in #3 when baking, because salt is most important for balancing sweetness and often under-used in pastries. Don't be shy about it!
- If you have some beautiful apples and pears and want to prevent them from browning, place them into lightly salted water.
- Add salt to your workout water bottle to prevent cramps and replenish electrolytes. For 32 oz. of water, use about ¼ to ½ tsp. of salt.
Fennel Salt Recipe
This blend adds a sweet earthiness to your food! Combine it with a bit of olive oil and use it as a rub for fish, sweet potatoes, or toasted hazelnuts.Gather This:
- 1/2 cup coarse sea salt
- 1 tbsp ground fennel seeds
- 1 tbsp coarsely ground pepper
Rub the salt, fennel seeds, and pepper together. Store in a jar, ready for magic sprinkling.
What tips and tricks do you have for using salt? Share them with us on Twitter and tag #myphilosophie and #magicalmineral!
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