Sea salt is a mineral. It is also called solar salt, bay salt, or salt. However, sea salt is different from table salt. Sea salt is made through the evaporation of saltwater or seawater while a regular table salt is mined from underground salt deposits. In addition, sea salt is processed lighter than table salt and it contains neither an additive nor iodine.
The earliest extraction of sea salt was declared in China around 2700 BCE. Vinaya Pitaka, a Buddhist scripture also mentioned sea salt in the mid-5th century BC. Nevertheless, sea salt undoubtedly tastes better than table salt; it has a cleaner flavor with no bitterness added to it. This soft, sheer, pyramid-like flakes of salt also has a better texture and a unique mouthfeel. That is why culinary chefs prefer to use this either as a cooking salt or a finishing salt. Not to mention that it is the fastest-dissolving salt among all the salt grains. Yet, nowadays, for as long as the sea salt complies with the FDA’s rule of purity, it can be labeled as “sea salt” – even if it doesn’t come from the sea.
Sea Salt Trivia
- The flavors and colors of sea salt vary depending on the waters it is extracted from. Some salts from France and Korea are pinkish-gray; some from Hawaii are black and red; some from India are black.
- A salt labeled as “black lava salt” is simply a sea salt that has been mixed with activated charcoal.
- Sea salt is used in bathing; it claims to clean the body more while enhancing the pleasure of bathing. A sea salt bath also increases the skin’s smoothness and moisture; it can even alleviate inflammations, especially from eczema and acne. Relatively, sea salt can be used to treat dandruff when applied directly to the scalp.
- Regular consumption of sea salt (in moderation) helps maintain a proper fluid balance, which is needed to maintain a healthy level of blood pressure. Not having enough can lead to dehydration.
- Sea salt helps improve bowel movement. Some people drink 2 glasses of warm water mixed with ¾ teaspoon of sea salt to prepare for a colonoscopy.
- Sea salt contains a safe and low amount of microplastics.
- Sea salt makes a great window and windshield defroster! Just wipe the glasses inside out with salt water and dry with a soft cloth.
Sea Salt Buying Guide
Sea salt is a broad term. And although it is widely available in the state, it is important to know that sea salt also has many varieties and subvarieties. Thus, here is a quick buying guide that will surely help:
- Shop by the grain size. Sea salt has soft, sheer, and pyramid-like flakes that vary in the following texture or grain sizes:
- Coarse sea salt – This salt has a crisp texture that works best on seasoning brines, sweet, and savory dishes like grilled steaks and pasta water. It also works best on salt mills.
- Fine sea salt – This salt is more delicate, less concentrated, and easy to control. Thus, it works best on delicate dishes like vegetables, fish, shellfish, and crustaceans. It also works perfectly in baked goods as fine sea salt can disperse evenly. Furthermore, fine sea salt makes a great finishing salt, especially if you’re looking for a hint of briny flavor notes.
- Kosher sea salt – This salt falls in between the two varieties listed above. The grain size is finer than the coarse ones and it is coarser than the fine ones. Kosher sea salt is more of a cooking salt than a finishing salt. Nevertheless, just keep in mind that the finer the salt, the more salt crystals are packed in a smaller space, which means that finer salts are saltier than the coarse ones.
2. Shop by the color. Sea salt commonly has a bright white color which indicates that it has been processed in a more industrial way such as using indoor drying equipment instead of outdoor salt pans. However, some manufacturers prefer to leave the impurities or add some ingredients like algae or clay due to its added benefits. Here are some varieties of colored sea salt:
- Red Alaea Salt – This salt is made with the addition of the Hawaii-exclusive, legendary red clay; it is rich in iron oxides which can help people suffering from iron deficiencies. It works best in light dishes like salads and fish, but it’s gaining its popularity in chocolate confections and ice cream nowadays.
- Black Lava Salt – This salt is a Polynesian product. The sea salt is infused with activated charcoal, which helps in removing toxins in the body. It has a smoky and earthy flavor that adds a unique flavor and presentation to salads, soups, fish, stir-fries, barbeques, and roasted vegetables.
- Sel Gris – This salt is a product of France. It is gray in color and makes the perfect table salt.
- Himalayan Pink Salt – This salt is a product of Pakistan. It is noted for many therapeutic effects; it increases blood circulation, balances the body’s pH level, eliminates toxins, and alleviates skin diseases, arthritis, flu, and fever symptoms.
Hence, it is important to remember that the darker the sea salt, the more impurities and trace nutrients they could possibly have. Plus, it may also contain small quantities of heavy metals such as lead. Nevertheless, the lighter the color, the cleaner the sea salt will taste.
3. Shop by the terroir. Sea salt is like wine; it also has a terroir and even has the same classifications. You’ll find sea salts that are labeled IGP, AOP, etc. Such labels pertain to the origin of the sea salt. Thus, when buying one, you might want to consider the origin’s terroir which is composed of soil type, topography, salt’s savoir-faire, and weather conditions. Also, expect that these labels will cost you more.
4. Shop by the process. Sea salt can be refined, unrefined, smoked, or flavored. Thus, here are the following guidelines for each process:
- Refined sea salt – This salt is made by purifying and bleaching the sea salt, which means that all the minerals are removed from the product. If you choose this variety, all you will get is nothing but the taste of salt – no nutrients, no minerals. However, some prefer to use this because it assures a longer shelf life.
- Unrefined sea salt – This salt is made by washing and drying the saltwater and breaking the salt into smaller pieces before finally sieving it. Minerals or impurities are not removed in this process; hence, it contains more sodium and chloride. With this variant, you can be assured that all the minerals and elements of sea salt will be provided. Celtic Sea Salt is the most popular example of unrefined sea salt.
- Smoked salt – This salt is made by smoking sea salt with hardwoods or bark-free woods for up to two weeks. Thus, it is best to use if you want to add a smoky flavor to your dishes. Applewood, hickory, mesquite, alder wood, chardonnay oak, and smokehouse are among its popular subvarieties.
5. Shop by the flavor. Sea salts are also sold flavored. But, it’s just as simple as mixing sea salt with other flavorings like herbs and spices. When you purchase flavored sea salt, it is best to check on the ingredients list as most of them contain additives, preservatives, and chemicals. Some popular flavored sea salts include garlic salt, rosemary salt, basil salt, chili lime salt, chili pepper salt, wine salt, citrus salt, white truffle salt, coffee salt, and chocolate salt.
6. As always, regardless of its variety, taste the sea salt prior to usage so that you can adjust how much you put on accordingly. And, keep in mind that you may also check here at our Texas Real Food Promptuary to know more about these salts individually.
Sea Salt Production & Farming in Texas
Salt is known as the oldest and most used mineral in the state of Texas. The city of Grand Saline even has enough salt to cover for another 200 centuries. It is also home to Morton Salt Mine – Grand Saline facility, the city’s largest employer and one of the three rock-salt mines of Morton in the U.S. Thus, it is easy to prove that Texas is home to numerous producers of salt and a considerable amount of salt domes, especially the ones around the Gulf Coast like Laguna Madre. Traditionally, the production of sea salt is made by evaporating seawater under the sun. Thus, the process works perfectly in hot and arid areas near salty lakes or the ocean.
Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:
Like kosher salt, sea salt does not contain iodine. However, besides the natural elements like clay or algae, an anti-caking agent is usually mixed with the product. As we checked on each popular brand, we found one ingredient that can come up in two names. It can be labeled as the following:
- Sodium Ferrocyanide – This additive is also known as the Yellow Prussiate of Soda. It is a chemical compound that is used as an anti-caking agent in food products to prevent clumping and sticking. And although it contains the toxin cyanide, this additive is generally classified as safe to consume and it has no proven side effects.
Sea salt can be purchased in different grain sizes. But, it is mostly packaged in cartons that vary in volume or weight. It can also come in either resealable pouches, salt mills, single-use packets, pet bottles, paper containers, canisters, and jars.
Enjoying Sea Salt
Sea salt has a richer and more complex flavor profile that makes a great addition to all food specialties whether it’d be savory or sweet. However, the best way to enjoy this seasoning depends on the sizes of its grains or flakes. The coarse ones are best used in brines, pasta water, grilled meat, and salt mills. The fine ones, on the other hand, are best used in seasoning vegetables, seafood, and other cooked meals. It also makes the perfect finishing salt. Another popular variation of eating sea salt is to smoke meat with it, which was actually discovered by accident when a drying salt was found next to a fish that was being smoked; the fish tasted unique and succulent.
Sea salt is best kept in a sealable air-tight container, preferably a glass one. You can also keep them in shakers with the lid on, as well as in a salt cellar or a wooden box. It should be then stored in a cool and dry area far from humid and hot zones like stoves, grills, and ovens to prolong their shelf life. Although sea salt virtually lasts forever if properly stored, its flavor weakens over time and it might absorb some moisture, which can make it lumpy. But, rest assured that you can use it for at least 5 years.
Make your own Sea Salt:
Indeed, you can make sea salt at home and all you need is one ingredient – seawater. However, seawater is the most crucial part of this process. It is very important to use the most natural or the most pristine water as any impurities or metals will show as soon as the water dries out. Hence, avoid getting seawater from the runoff areas. Below is a simple recipe on how to make one:
Yield: 1 cup / 48 teaspoon
- 2 gallons seawater, as natural as possible
- In a large pot, boil the seawater for 10 minutes. Boiling kills the bacteria present in the seawater.
- Quickly pour it in a shallow (around 1-2 inches deep), non-reactive containers such as Pyrex or alike.
- Cover the container with cheesecloth and place it under the sun until the water has fully evaporated. It could take up to a week for the water to completely evaporate.
- Dry the salt further inside the oven with the pilot light on to crystallize. Leave it there overnight.
- Voila! You just made sea salt! Now, transfer the sea salt in an airtight container or shaker.
Quicker method: If you’re in a hurry, you can also evaporate the seawater using the stove and the oven. After boiling the seawater for 10 minutes, simmer it to reduce while stirring frequently. ¼ gallon usually reduces in about 45 minutes. Anyhow, when there’s a small amount of moisture left, transfer it in the oven to crystallize. Likewise, leave it on pilot light overnight. Chef tip: If you prefer larger salt crystals, slowly low-boil it for a longer period of time and finish it in the oven.