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17 Facts About Sea Salt

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Sea salt is a type of salt that is produced by the evaporation of seawater. It has become popular in recent years as a more natural and healthy alternative to refined table salt. Here are 17 interesting facts about sea salt:

Introduction

Sea salt comes straight from the ocean. It is made by evaporating seawater to leave behind the salt and other minerals. This gives it a different flavor, texture, and mineral content compared to regular table salt.

Sea salt has boomed in popularity recently as more people turn to natural, unrefined ingredients. Advocates suggest it is a healthier, more flavorful alternative to overly processed table salt.

But not all sea salts are the same. Let’s explore some key facts about this ocean-sourced seasoning:

Coarse sea salt

1. Vastly More Minerals Than Table Salt

Sea salt contains over 60 trace minerals from the sea. This includes potassium, iron, and zinc. Due to this, it also has a more complex flavor.

In contrast, heavily refined table salt only contains sodium and chloride. All the minerals and impurities have been stripped out during processing.

2. The Minerals Add Color and Flavor

The extra minerals in sea salt also give it a different color and flavor. It often has a greyish tint rather than being pure white. The minerals bring subtle extra savory and sweet notes.

Flaky sea salt crystals also bring a satisfying crunch and texture. The delicate pyramid shapes have more surface area, so they pack more flavor punch.

3. Varies By Water Source

Not all sea salt is the same. Sea water composition varies greatly based on location. Factors like climate, volcanic activity, and pollution levels all impact the final product.

For example, Celtic sea salt uses pristine Atlantic seawater. It has a high mineral content and distinct briny flavor. In contrast, Mediterranean sea salt will offer different trace elements and flavors again.

4. Harvesting Methods Vary

Traditional sea salt production remains labor-intensive. Salt farmers build shallow pools along the coastline to capture sea water. This water is left to slowly evaporate in the sun. As it reduces, the salt crystals are gently raked out by hand.

However modern commercial operations use faster artificial evaporation to increase yields. This also strips out more of the delicate minerals and flavors.

5. Contains Natural Iodine

Unlike table salt, sea salt is naturally high in iodine. Most governments add iodine to table salt to help prevent iodine deficiency disorders. But with sea salt, the mineral content comes straight from the ocean.

The level does vary by source. Iodine levels are higher in cold water climates like Iceland compared to the Mediterranean.

6. Less Sodium Than Table Salt

Sea salt has a lower sodium content because it is less refined. There is approximately 85 percent sodium chloride compared to 97 percent in table salt.

The lower sodium content means you might use less to achieve the desired salty flavor. This makes it easier to reduce overall sodium intake.

7. Salt Flakes Bring Texture

Flaky sea salt brings visual appeal and texture. The pyramid shaped flakes provide a delightful crunch and burst of concentrated flavor when you bite into them. Their delicate nature also means they dissolve fast to rapidly impact taste.

Crunchy sea salt flakes bring a finishing touch to sweet and savory dishes alike. A pinch on top of cookies, salads, roasted vegetables or fresh fruit cuts through and lifts other flavors.

8. Different Grinds Available

Sea salts come in different grinds beyond pretty flakes. Fine ground sea salt dissolves fast, for general seasoning use. Medium grinds provide texture for dishes like dips. Large crystal grinds are best used for finishing.

Using larger flakes means less salt use overall. The saltier crystals themselves pack an intense taste, rather than adding fine grains that risk over-salting food.

sea salt in wooden spoon

9. Moisture Variations

Sea salt attracts extra moisture due to its mineral content. This means it can become sticky or clumped if stored incorrectly. It is important to keep it in an airtight container away from humidity.

The moisture content also impacts dissolving rates. Dry soft flakes or fine powdered sea salt impact food faster. Large, moist crystals slowly release salty bursts.

10. Works Well For Curing

The mineral balance in sea salt makes it perfect for curing meat, fish and hides. This natural process draws moisture out while preserving the product. The nutrients in sea salt aid drying while inhibiting bacteria.

Sea salt’s slower dissolving crystals keep the curing flavor even but not overpowering. Finishing cured goods with extra flaky sea salt also provides texture and flavor contrast.

11. Cost Varies Wildly

Sea salt price varies hugely, which raises quality concerns. Hand harvested solar salt from pristine seas costs far more than mass produced commercial products.

When buying, check labeling about water source, harvesting methods and mineral content. Note claims about purity, processing methods and sustainability practices. Higher quality salts may seem expensive but require less use.

12. Becoming More Sustainable

Sea salt production has raised environmental concerns in the past regarding water use, local wildlife and land access near coastal areas. But many modern providers follow sustainable practices.

They ensure slow evaporation rates to maintain natural mineral levels. Harvesting is done manually without machinery. Operations are also kept small-scale to avoid damaging environments.

13. Use for More Than Food

Sea salt has benefits beyond kitchen use. The mineral content offers therapeutic advantages from magnesium, potassium and bromide. Salt baths, scrubs and skin care products promote detoxification.

Iodine and selenium in sea salt also support thyroid and immunity function. However it is unwise to rely on sea salt as a health supplement source without medical advice.

14. Be Careful With Medical Claims

While sea salt offers some potential health bonuses, claims are often exaggerated. There is no miracle cure for specific conditions. The quantities needed to provide substantial quantities of most minerals would risk sodium overdose.

It is fine to swap table salt for sea salt. But rely on a balanced diet for nutrition rather than expecting magical benefits from a single seasoning ingredient.

15. Watch Out For Imposters

Not every type of salt labeled “sea salt” actually comes from the sea. Terms like this are not regulated. Manufacturers can add minerals back into refined salt, then market it as sea salt.

Check labels about the water source and harvesting methods. True solar sea salt is produced only through natural evaporation of ocean water in sunlit salt pans. No further processing should occur.

16. Store Correctly

To preserve sea salt’s texture and mineral content, store it correctly. Keep it in an airtight container away from humidity, direct light and heat. Glass jars or resealable plastic buckets work well for pantry storage.

Don’t let it sit next to the stove where it can attract moisture and clump together. Fridge storage can help longer term but increases clumping issues from temperature fluctuations.

17. Many Gourmet Uses

Beyond general use, gourmet sea salt varieties open up specialty applications. Their delicate flakes and exotic mineral flavors take simple ingredients to the next level.

Some great uses include: finishing chocolate truffles, flavored salt crust baking, complementing fresh oysters or sashimi, mixing into custom spice rubs for meat, or sprinkling over vanilla ice cream.

Let your creativity run wild with these ocean-born flavor enhancers!

Conclusion

While often costing more than table salt, sea salt offers a world of difference in taste, texture and nutrition. With harvesting methods ranging from ancient to modern, this oceanic seasoning has earned its place as a true gourmet pantry essential.

The mineral diversity between varieties means there is a sea salt out there to suit almost any application. So dive in, get experimenting with recipes, and discover the depths of what sea salt can bring to your cooking!


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