Salt, Sea Salt and Flavored Salt

I get a lot of people asking me about salt, sea salt and flavored salt.

First I will start with a definition of salt:
A salt, in chemistry, is any ionic compound composed of cations (positively charged ions) and anions (negative ions) so that the product is neutral (without a net charge). These component ions can be inorganic as well as organic and monatomic ions as well as polyatomic ions; they are formed when acids and bases react.

Salts can be clear and transparent (sodium chloride), opaque (titanium dioxide), and even metallic and lustrous (iron disulfide).

Different salts can elicit the five basic tastes, e.g. salty (sodium chloride), sweet (lead diacetate), sour (potassium bitartrate), bitter (magnesium sulfate), and umami or savory (monosodium glutamate).

But the One we will talk about from this point on is Sodium Chloride…….

Sodium Chloride is the combination of a sodium ion with a chloride ion, making it one of the most basic molecules on earth. It’s also one of the most plentiful.

There are many salts marketed for culinary use.
Here is a list just to name a few.

Maldon sea salt – a sea salt brand from the Maldon region of Essex, England.
Celtic sea salt – a sea salt brand from Gaul (France) using the techniques of the Celts
Cuyutlan – a sea salt brand from Colima, Mexico.
Japanese Nazuna sea salt – a brand of sea salt from Japans, Kyushu island.
Peruvian Pink salt – comes from the mountains of Peru
Australian Murray River salt – from the Murray Darling Basin. A red pigment is from algae.
Hawaiian Black Lava sea salt -has purified ground lava stone and charcoal added for color.
Hawaiian Red Alae sea salt- volcanic baked red clay is added to enrich the salt with iron oxide(rust).
South African sea salt – comes from the shores of St. Helena Bay, near the Berg river.
Mexican Benequenes – From the Rio Salinas gorge are the salinas of Ixtapa
Sel Gris – grey sea salt
Bolivian rose mountain salt- from the Andes Mountain range in Bolivia
Indian Black Salt, Kala Namak- a sulphorous smelling salt from India. Very important in Indian cooking
Flor de sal -From many Latin countries associated with Portugal or Spain
Fleur de Sel -From France, has a unique structure
Italian or Sicilian sea salt – From Italy
Cyprus White Sea salt – sea salt from Cyprus
Cyprus black sea salt – sea salt from Cyprus
Kosher salt -usually has no additives, and it has big crystals with large surface areas.
Rock Salt -Usually large pieces of unrefined mined salt
Ice cream Salt – Usually same as rock salt but marketed to people who like to make ice cream
Cheese Salt – not cheese flavored but a pure salt for making cheese
Pickling Salt – a pure salt for making pickles
Plain table salt – Usually a highly refined salt made from sea salt or mined salt

Some salts called organic. In many countries there are loose definition guidelines or the definitions do not pertain to salts.
Some salts are called medicinal because of their high mineral contents and supposed healing properties.
Some sea salts claim up to 100 different elements including Uranium and Arsenic.
Some salts are crafted into ornaments and lamps.
Over 200 million tons of salt are produced annually world wide.
Approximately 7% of that is used for food. . Nearly all salt in brine and a small amount of dry salt is used to produce chemicals such as chlorine gas, caustic soda (sodium hydroxide), and others.

All natural, underground salt (also known as the mineral halite) deposits came from ancient oceans. These deposits are the resources for the production of dry salt and salt in brine. Salt deposits are often found adjacent to petroleum deposits and, in fact, petroleu- geologists often use salt mines and domes in their evaluations of where to drill for oil. Dry salt is produced by the mechanical evaporation of solution mined brine from halite deposits, solar evaporation of seawater or natural brine, and by underground mining of the mineral halite (rock salt).

Salt is categorized as four types, based on the method of production. They are Mechanically evaporated salt, rock (mined) salt, solar salt, and salt in brine.

The following methods are used to produce dry salt.

Underground rock salt mining:
Underground halite deposits, are conventionally mined by drilling and blasting to produce rock salt. Shafts of about 20 ft in diameter are sunk into the salt deposit, which may be at depths of 500 to more than 2,000 feet below the earth’s surface. The thicknesses of bedded salt deposits vary but typically are between 15 and 45 ft. Geologists are uncertain of the thickness of salt domes or diapirs, because no one has drilled to the bottom of one yet. These salt structures are vertically elongated salt masses and geologists believe they may be 15,000 to 20,000 feet thick.
Salt is mined by undercutting, drilling and blasting or with mining machines that use large cutting heads that may be six feet or more in diameter. The blasted or machine mined salt is crushed and screened to the desired size, and hoisted to the surface in “skips” of up to twenty tons capacity. The salt is then refined or bagged/packaged or shipped in bulk to the customer.

Mechanical Evaporation
Mechanically evaporated salt is often done as so.
Brine solution mined from underground rock salt (halite) deposits or it can be made by dissolving rock salt or solar salt. also sea water may be used. It is gently heated in a vacuum which encourages it to almost boil at a low temperature. As the water releases steam it is concentrated into very salty brine. The steam that is produced is used, in turn, to heat the brine. When the concentration of salt in the water is high enough it is released into shallow crystallization tanks. The crystals begin to form, first on the surface then sinking as they grow. To harvest the salt, it is gently scooped out. Then it is rinsed in brine until it shines with snowy brilliance. The salt is carefully dried. Then salt is ready to be packed for sale.

Solar evaporation
Solar evaporation consists of channeling seawater or less-frequently, solution mined brine or natural brine, into a series of man-made ponds known as salterns. The wind and sun evaporates the ocean water, which allows the mineral-rich salt to be harvested. The ponds also provide a resting and feeding ground for water birds. The ponds are usually separated by levees. Due to variable algae concentrations, different colors, from pale green to bright red, are created in the ponds. The color indicates the salinity of the ponds. Micro-organisms change their hues as the salinity of the pond increases. These colors are interesting to airplane passengers passing above due to their unique formations of shape and color.

Solar evaporation salt ponds in the lower right corner of San Francisco bay. The Bay is polluted with PCB’s and mercury among other things

Sea Salt is typically produced by either mechanical or solar evaporated.

Sea salt is believed to be superior to ordinary table salt by many. One cannot always taste the difference when dissolved. In applications where sea salt’s coarser texture is retained, it can provide different mouthfeel and changes in flavor due to its different rate of dissolution and mineral content. It may also be difficult to distinguish sea salt from other salts with a high mineral content, such as pink Peruvian salt, or grey colored rock salt.

Refined Salt whether it be refined sea salt or refined halite may contain up to 99% sodium chloride with other chemicals such as Potassium-Iodide (added to the salt to avoid Iodine deficiency), Sodium or Potassium Fluoride (for healthy teeth), Folic Acid (for pregnant women) Sugar (added to stabilize Iodine), Potassium Ferrocyanide, Magnesium Carbonate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Fatty Acid Salts, Magnesium Oxide, Silicon Dioxide, Sodium Alumino-Silicate, or Alumino-Calcium Silicate. (Anti-caking chemicals)

Unrefined salt whether it be sea salt or unrefined halite may contain fine grit, sand, clay, shell, or quarts fragments. May contain as low as 8% or up to 98% of sodium chloride and may naturally contain high levels of Magnesium salts, Calcium salts, Potassium salts, Manganese salts, Phosphorus salts, Iodine salts to name a few.

Flavored Salts can be made of either sea salt or halite (mined salt). flavorants and/or colorants can be added to the brine mixture before crystallization. Natural and artificial flavors can be added to crystallized salt in its natural form, as a powder or a liquid. Or even as an essential oil, tincture or in the form of smoke. I’ve seen apricot, licorice, grape, vanilla, algae, cheese, butter, anchovy and even tomato flavored salt. My favorite flavored salt is smoked salt. I will add several drops liquid smoke to a pound of granulated salt if I am in a rush. or add a pan of salt to the smoker and smoke it for about 2 hours or until the color and flavor I prefer is achieved.

If Sea Salt is made from coastal sea water and everyone is talking about how we are polluting our oceans and bays.
My question is this….

How polluted is our sea salt?

This is my first blog and I am sorry for typing errors, poor sentence structure and the like. I may be inaccurate on some info as I have been reading a ton of info posted across the net.

I hope this helps anyone curious about salt.
Max Xavier

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