Why store salt?
Salt is vital to good health and is the single most versatile and essential ingredient in our cooking. It intensifies the flavor of food while adding it’s own salty layer of flavor. That’s why we use salt in desserts: the salt makes the sugar sweeter and the other flavors stand out better.
Salt is a Preservative
Salt is also essential in preserving food. It’s used to preserve meats (as in ham, bacon and jerkey) and for pickling. It’s also the second ingredient in sauerkraut or any other fermented vegetables. If your preparedness map includes preserving your garden produce or other foods, you will want to have plenty of salt.
Which Salt is Best?
Now that everyone is a foodie, some people have kind of turned into salt snobs. Everyone seems to have their favorite salt, certain that it tastes better than all others. The truth is, chemically speaking, there’s not a whole lot of difference between salts. But there are some differences that you should be aware of.
This is the cheapest and most readily available salt. It is refined so you can use it in any salt shaker and has anti-clumping chemicals (typically calcium silicate) added so that “when it rains it pours”. It usually has iodine added to it, although you can buy non-iodized
salt in the grocery store. Iodine is essential for healthy thyroid function. Iodine is especially important for pregnant women and young children. Iodine is naturally available in seafood but those who don’t eat much sea food may have trouble getting enough iodine in their diet. That is why you may want to buy iodized salt.
These additives do not affect the flavor or performance of the salt. But some people are concerned about the additives. It is possible to get too much iodine. Excess idone can cause irritations to the skin and gums.
Because it doesn’t clump when exposed to moisture, table salt is easy to store. Just put it in a pest-proof container, anything with a tight-fitting lid.
You definitely need salt if you are going to make pickles or sauerkraut. But the iodine in table salt can discolor the food. And the clumping agents in table salt do not dissolve, so you will have residue in the bottom of your jar of pickles.
So if you are using salt to preserve your food, you want a salt that is iodine-free and has no anti-clumping additives. Canning salt doesn’t have any of those additives plus it is super-fine, so it quickly dissolves in your pickling brine.
The word “kosher” means “ritually fit or sanctioned”. It was designed for Jewish cooks to make food that complies with Mosaic law. This salt was the first alternative cooks had to regular table salt. It is a coarse, flakey salt that, when it is sprinkled on top of uncooked
meat, will draw out excess blood from meat. That makes the meat comply with the Mosaic injunction against eating blood. Thus, “kosher.”
Because it is coarse, the salt doesn’t dissolve as quickly in cooking, so we get a nice salty zing from the undissolved larger flakes. And that salty zing is also why we like to sprinkle it on top of things like pretzels.
Cooks like kosher salt because it’s coarse and so
gives an extra punch of saltiness when sprinkled on food. But you really won’t notice any difference if you are mixing into a recipe where it will dissolve into the food.
Not all kosher salt is certified kosher. Kosher style means that it has the composition and texture of kosher salt. When it’s certified Kosher that means that the production facility itself inspected by rabbis and the final product has their approval.
Most table and kosher salt is made by mining salt deposits in the earth’s crust. As the name indicates, sea salt comes from the sea. The water is pumped into lagoons where the water slowly evaporates, leaving behind salt.
The granules of sea salt can be as fine as table salt, but they are often more coarse. It can also have different colors, depending on what minerals or other residues might be in the salt. Without any anti-clumping agents added to it, it can clog your salt shaker.
Celtic salt is a type of sea salt that is typically a
gray color. It also has a bit of moisture in it, so it’s a little more clumpy than other sea salt. The gray color comes from trace minerals. Many people believe that these trace minerals makes this a healthier salt, but it also means that the saltiness is a bit less potent.
This is another salt that has become quite popular. It comes from mines in Pakistan. The pink color comes from traces of iron that are in the salt. Besides iron, it has several other trace minerals
which is one reason people think it’s better for you. I’m not convinced that the trace minerals are enough to make a difference in your health, but it doesn’t hurt, right?
But because it has trace minerals, there’s a smidgen less sodium. To a discriminating palate it might not taste quite as salty. Personally, I don’t taste any
difference. These minerals don’t always dissolve in food, so you may see some residue in your broth or other liquids.
The pink color also means it’s easier to see on your food.
Shaker, cellar or mill?
A salt shaker is all you need if you only use table salt. If you are using salt that does not have anti-clumping additives, put a few grains of rice into the shaker. This will help absorb moisture and keep the salt pour-able.
Another thing that will help keep salt from clumping is this pop-up salt shaker. It has a silicon lid that covers the shaker’s holes and keeps moisture out.
The lid pops up with just a press of the finger. It’s my favorite salt shaker. I wrote about it here.
If you routinely use kosher or sea salt in your cooking, you may want a salt cellar (or salt bowl, salt pig, salt box) instead of a shaker. This allows you to take a pinch of salt or measure it out into your dish and there are no holes to get clogged with the coarser salt granules. A ceramic cellar will help keep humidity at bay. One made of wood may absorb kitchen odors and oils. All cellars should have a lid to keep contaminants from getting into the salt.
You can also bypass the inconvenience of clumping salt by buying very coarse salt (like rock or Himalayan salt) and grinding it fine in a salt mill or grinder at the time that you use it. Moisture has less effect on rock salt, so that makes it easier to store.
How to store
Properly stored, salt will last just about forever. The biggest enemy of salt is moisture, so it’s important to store it in an air- and water-tight container.
Most salt is sold in a cardboard container, which will allow moisture to permeate. If you live in an arid climate, this will be OK for a year or two. But if you have high humidity or want to store for longer than a year or two, you should put the salt into food-safe plastic, glass or ceramic containers.
If you store salt in a plastic bucket, make sure the lid is air- and water-tight. Something like Tupperware or a 5-gallon bucket with a gamma-seal is good.
You can find ceramic crocks at the thrift store that have an air-tight rubber seal and clamp. These are also good for storing salt.
Do not store salt in a metal container. Salt will corrode the metal, contaminating your salt and eventually allowing moisture inside. If you store salt in a glass jar, make sure the lid is plastic. You can make it air-tight by putting foam gasket or lining into the lid. I cut a piece of craft foam the diameter of the lid and put it inside the lid. A sheet of craft foam costs less than $1 and I can get 8-12 gaskets out of one sheet.
How much to store?
For just cooking and using at the table, you should store 1-2 pounds per person for a year’s supply. But if you are going to do canning, pickling or preserving of any kind, store 3-5 pounds per person. Add another 30-100 pounds if you are going to use it to preserve meat.