Neither herb nor spice, salt has been used to season and preserve food for thousands of years. Highly valued throughout history, this mineral essential comes in diverse forms for culinary use. Obtained through mining of the earth (rock salt) or evaporation of sea water (sea salt), salt comes in the familiar white as well as in more exotic colors including pink, gray or black. Variations in color and texture come from minerals and other impurities in the salt associated with its location of origin as well as the process by which it is manufactured. As evidence of salt’s popularity in the kitchen, data from the Salt Institute website indicates that Americans consume over 400 pounds of salt per person per year.
Common forms of edible salt include the familiar table salt, kosher salt, and sea salt. Although there are some uses specific to each type of salt, they are largely interchangeable for many culinary purposes.
- Table Salt – Table salt is a fine-grained form of salt with many of the natural mineral impurities removed during the refining process. Typically, table salt includes additives such as iodine which is a thyroid supplement and anti-caking compounds so it flows freely out of a shaker. This is a popular all-purpose kitchen salt.
- Kosher Salt – Kosher salt has larger and more irregularly-shaped grains than table salt and does not contain any additives. Kosher salt gets its name because of its use in koshering meat (drawing out liquids) prior to consumption. Also a good multi-purpose salt, kosher salt has a more rounded flavor and is less “salty” by volume than table salt.
- Sea Salt – Less refined than table salt or kosher salt, sea salt contains other minerals that affect the color and flavor of the salt and reflect its region of origin. Grain size varies from course to very fine and the natural impurities in these salts make each a distinctive offering. Sea salts tend to make good condiment or finishing salts.
Salt is often mixed with various herbs and spices to create seasoning blends to enhance the flavors of food. Keep a shaker of your favorite seasoned salt blend handy to sprinkle on popcorn or add to soups, at the bar for making cocktails, or at the table to sprinkle something extra special on vegetables and meats. Try one of these easy to make salt blends or experiment with your own combinations.
Celery Salt – Mix 2 tablespoons salt with 1 tablespoon finely ground celery seeds. Celery seeds can be purchased whole and ground in a food processor or coffee mill, or may be purchased already ground.
Garlic & Parsley Salt – Mix 2 tablespoons salt with 1 tablespoon garlic powder and 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes (grind the parsley finely between your fingers so it will blend well with the other ingredients).
Seasoned Salt – Mix ¼ cup salt with 1 tablespoon ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon ground celery seed, 1 teaspoon paprika and 1 teaspoon chili powder. This blend is delicious in place of regular table salt.