My Favorite Kinds of Salt
I’ve only recently starting using sea salt but little did I know just how many kinds of salt there are. My newest favorite is Murray River Sea Salt. (We’ll talk about it more in a bit, but first, I thought I would start with a bit of information about sea salt vs table salt.) And then, I’ll tell you about the flakiest, yummiest salt I’ve ever tasted.
(Sorry this picture is not the salt I want to tell you about. My stash of pink, flaky goodness is sadly gone.)
A Special Shop…so many choices
A few weeks ago I was visiting one of those swanky tourist towns that cater to people who are inclined to spend more than the average person for just about everything. It’s a beautiful little town in the North Carolina mountains. It’s a fun place to spend a day as a tourist – it’s like going on a mini-vacation without having to worry about hotels and long drives. It has a mix of shops. Just the clothing shops offer interesting things for young people under $20 to pieces and designers that one might find on Rodeo Drive in California.
For our family, this means that some shops might provide a special find and others are for window shopping only.
Brushed Stainless Steel Salt Cellar with Spoon – available on Amazon.com.
Many of these places have interesting kitchen shops. They are full of gadgets that you didn’t know you needed, fancy teas and occasionally a selection of interesting spices from around the world. I’ve always enjoyed these shops as they are just plain fun to explore. I’ve bought loose tea leaves in a few as well as some great gadgets – my favorite of which is a cute little stainless steel salt cellar like this one on Amazon. (Don’t know if mine is the same but they sure look the same. I’ve had mine for over a year and it has held up great. It is small and is meant for finishing salt and not for keeping salt by the stove for cooking.)
A few of the town’s we’ve visited had shops that just sold teas and coffees. They mostly focused on the coffees but there was always some tempting tea to be found.
Our recent day-trip led to finding a wonderful shop that featured spices, teas and salts from around the world. Salts? Hmm, that peaked my curiosity.
The staff warmly greeted me and invited me to smell anything and everything and let them know if I would like to taste any of their stock. I’d been looking for some decent seasoned salt for years – I’m tired of the junk being sold in grocery stores that has more chemicals than spices or herbs.
The first one I tried was a hickory bacon salt. Hickory bacon salt? I didn’t think that was possible. It smelled like I had jumped into a smoker grill. Whew! Too strong for me. The clerk wandered back over and offered me a sample. She said it didn’t taste like it smelled and admitted that it was the one salt they carried where the smell actually turned off people. Uhm, yeah, that it did.
She went to the counter with the container of salt and spooned some into a little condiment cup. And, here I thought I was the only one who liked crunching on salt like some sort of forbidden snack food. Well, let’s just say it was yummy and I bought some.
I mentioned that what she gave me was softer than the sea salt I had at home. I said the coarse varieties from our grocery store were snap your teeth crunchy and hard. I asked if she had anything that was flaky or softer. She then told me that some salts were actually considered ‘wet’ and introduced me to one of her favorites Murry River Sea Salt.
It was love at first taste.
Sea Salt vs. Salt
Some information about the different types of salt.
If you ask the wrong person if table salt is different from sea salt, they might laugh at you. The difference isn’t really how the salt is formed or where it is from but what they do with it once it is prepared for consumption. All salt, whether it’s a 39 cent box at the discount store or a gourmet variety for $40 a pound, comes from the sea. So, in a sense, all salt is sea salt.
There are generally three types of salt – table salt, sea salt and Kosher salt.
Table salt is more highly processed. It is treated at extremely high temperatures, which some say removes many of the naturally occurring elements found in salt, including ironically…iodine. Iodine and non-caking agents are added to table salt. The iodine was first added in the 1920s to help prevent thyroid-related illnesses – particularly goiters. Table salt is also refined to create the uniform little crystals we are so familiar with.
Depending upon who you ask, the processing and added ingredients turn traditional table salt from a natural food to a processed food. At least one of the major salt producers was adding aluminum to their salt up to 1994. I’ll leave it to anyone who might be interested to investigate whether or not the other producers are still doing so. There’s been much conversation about whether or not aluminum is linked to Alzheimer’s. Whether it has ties to Alzheimer’s or not, it does seem odd that a mineral that the body does not need or may actually cause harm, was added to a food product of any kind.
Additionally, depending upon where it was harvested, not all salt is uniformly white – much of the world’s salt is pink or even black. Table salt is bleached to be uniform in color.
Sea salt is often seen as more natural. At face value, all salt begins as a natural product. Ancient seas left us deposits of salt around the world. People have also developed methods to dehydrate water with high saline content to harvest salt.
I’ve seen all sorts of opinions on sea salt vs salt (table) that range from indisputable fact, to questionable science to obvious marketing ploys that border on fraud. And to add to the confusion, the sea salt vs salt debate is clouded among medical professionals much like the efficacy of herbal and vitamin supplements.
More modern dietary experts are espousing sea salt as having less sodium and the trace minerals that are allowed to remain with the salt make it a healthier choice. Others say salt is salt and it all contains an equal amount of sodium. Some theorize that by removing the trace elements and minerals that are found on unprocessed salt, table salt is somehow less digestible or more apt to cause health problems.
Kosher salt isn’t salt that has been somehow blessed. It actually refers to a salt that is flaky and more absorbent than table salt. It was designed to help in the koshering process and it actually called Koshering salt. Today, Kosher salt is considered a more natural sea salt in that it generally contains only salt but some companies have been adding iodine.
Salt to Taste
As I’ve explored more types of salt, I have learned that not all salt tastes the same or offers the same levels of salty flavoring. While many proclaim that the iodine and other additives in table salt can’t be tasted, I tend to disagree. After tasting the different types of salt, alone, I noticed that not all salt is created equal. I’ve tried a variety of sea salts and they do taste differently. Yeah, I know, there will be some folks who will jump on that statement and call me crazy. So be it. I know what I like and don’t like.
And what I like, is Murray River Sea Salt – a wonderfully light and flaky pink salt that I was introduced to in a little shop that had a whole wall full of sea salts from around the world.
The Murray River is in Australia and is fed by the Australian Alps. The Murray-Darling Basin produces a pink/peach colored salt. The color comes from the algae which live in the waters.
Murray River Sea Salt is very much unlike table salt. The crystals are more like a pyramid than a cube. The salt is light and flaky – it looks a lot like big fluffy snowflakes, if the snow was a pretty light pink/peach color. The salt is so light that it literally melts on the tongue.
It has a mild salty flavor and is considered a “finishing salt”. Finishing salts are generally sea salt-type salts that are not added to foods until they are served. They add a salty flavor in the form of a light crunchy bit of salty goodness. Think of them more as a topping than a seasoning used in cooking – much like you might add a bit of chopped fresh cilantro or mint to a dish before serving.
There are a number of flaked sea salts that are used as finishing salts and I’ve only tried Murray River Sea Salt but it is the best salt I’ve ever tasted. To be honest, the little pouch that I bought didn’t leave my office. I sprinkled a bit on my desk and ate it as if it were a fine delicacy and not simply salt. It has a wonderful crunch and a mild flavor. It’s actually helped cut down on my junk food cravings. A little of my flaky pink salt and I don’t give in to the urge for peanuts. Just a teeny bit and I get the crunch and the salty flavor I desire. Of course, that’s not where this salt truly shines. OK, maybe it left my office for a few minutes.
Sprinkle a bit on fresh tomatoes for a delicate crunch that enhances the back-yard goodness of a prized home-grown tomato. It adds a wonderful flavoring to scrambled eggs; though, in our house the crunchiness reminds some too much of eggshells. It works well paired with a baked potato, though if you also use generous amounts of butter and/or sour cream, the Murray River Sea Salt may melt a bit.
I went through all of the different options for Murray River Sea Salt on Amazon and this one seems to be the best bang for the buck for someone wanting to try this salt without making a huge investment. Murray River Gourmet Salt Flakes is offered in a variety of sizes and shipping options. The one that caught my eye was for 1.8 ounces and qualifies for Amazon Prime and the free shipping with a $35 order. The larger sizes are more economical on a per pound basis but this option seems the cheapest for a smaller amount.
Of course, if you find this pink salt as special as I do, you might opt for the larger containers.