We all take salt for granted. It can be found in every kitchen, pantry cupboard, dining room table.
But did you know that salt is really, really versatile. It can be used for cleaning, cooking (duh, of course!) health, beauty, fun…
It is made up of sodium and choride, both elements essential for our body.
“The human body needs sodium and chloride for respiration and digestion and without it, we would be unable to transport nutrients or oxygen, transmit nerve impulses or move muscles, including the heart.”
It seems salt is not the ogre it has been made out to be. Medical research is challenging long held (and possibly erroneous) assumptions about the value of salt in our diets.
Years ago I heard of an acquaintance who had cut out so much salt from the diet they went into cardiac arrest. Fortunately nearby was a person who knew how to resuscitate so it all worked out OK.
- In Judaism . . . salt . . . keeps the agreement between God and his people . . .
- In both Islam and Judaism, salt seals a bargain. . . .
- Indian troops pledged their loyalty to the British with salt.
- Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans included salt in sacrifices and offerings . . . .
- In traditional Japanese theater, salt was sprinkled on the stage to protect the actors from evil spirits.
- In Haiti, the only way to bring a zombie back to life is with salt . . . .
- In Finland when visiting a new home for the first time it is traditional to take a gift of salt and bread so the people living there will always have staple food supplies
- Salt has played a pivotal role in the political economy of the world in a thousand different ways from starting wars to freeing people from colonial rule
- Adding salt to water will raise the temperature it boils at and lower the temperature it will freeze at. To store your freshly caught fish while still out fishing just make a strong brine solution and throw them in.
- If you boil eggs in saltwater, it will make them easier to peel.
- Add a little non-iodized salt to egg whites before whipping them to increase volume and serve as a stabilizer.
- Iodine is an anti-caking agent typically added to table salt. It is added to help prevent thyroid disease.
- Salt with iodine is not good for curing, as the iodine will discolour the food and add bitterness.
- Unlike pure salt, iodised salt has a shelf life of approx. 5 years. Pure salt lasts forever.
- Salt has been used as far back as recorded history to preserve meats, cheeses, and various other foods. Its preservative nature absorbs moisture from the cells of bacteria and mould killing them.
- Sea salt is typically bad for canning or pickling due to the fact that it contains trace minerals that may discolor the food. The food will probably taste the same but look funny.
- One of the earliest known salt harvesting facilities, Xiechi Laki near Yuncheng in Shanxi, dates all the way back to 6000 B.C. in China.
Which salt to use ?
There’s so many to choose from these days – white, pink, black. Isn’t salt just salt ? Well, apparently not. Depending on where it is sourced, how it is treated (or not) makes a huge difference to its nutritional value and flavour. Here’s just a sampling of what is available out there –
- Bamboo salt is a particularly “salty” salt. It is made by roasting sea salt in bamboo cylinders plugged with mud. The salt ends up absorbing minerals from the bamboo and mud giving it a somewhat distinct flavor.
- French sea salt is distinct from most other sea salts in that it is made from sea water that is evaporated out of a basin with the resulting salt not being purified in any way
- Hawaiian sea salt is very similar to French sea salt, except it tends to have a pink-ish hue to it from red Hawaiian volcanic clay, which is rich in iron oxide..
- Celtic sea salt is known for its countless medicinal uses. As in all salts, its composition is dependent on the trace minerals and elements in the area from which it is sourced. It is less salty in taste than Himalayan salt.
- Kosher salt tends to be the preferred salt for chefs. This salt was originally developed for preparing kosher meats. Cooks like it for a variety of reasons including: its coarser grains, which make it easier to handle with your fingers, measuring by touch; the larger grains also lend to making salt crusts on meat; it’s also free of iodine, making it good for pickling things;
- Himalayan Pink Salt is probably one of the best known of alternative salts and now widely available in supermarkets and health food shops.
Salt can be used for a whole host of stuff. Here’s a random selection of handy tips and hints:
- Unblock clogged drains by mixing 1 cup salt, 1 cup of baking soda and ½ cup white vinegar and pouring it down the drain. Leave for 10 minutes, then pour down 2 litres of boiling water. Let the hot water tap run until drain flows freely.
- Got food stuck on baking dishes or burnt milk in a pot? Sprinkle with salt, dampen, let sit till food lifts, then wash.
- To prevent oil splatters when cooking sprinkle the pan with salt first
- When you have a food spills on the stove, throw some salt over it before it hardens. Makes it easier to clean.
- Clean Verdigris off brass and copper with a paste made from equal parts salt, flour and vinegar.
- Brighten faded curtains and rugs by washing them in a saltwater solution.
- Make cut flowers last longer by adding some salt into the water.
- Keep the frost off your house and car windows by wiping them down with a sponge dipped in salt water. Salt reduces the freezing point of water.
- Remove grease stains from carpets by mixing 1 part salt to 4 parts rubbing alcohol.
- Set the colour in new clothes, towels etc by adding a cup of salt into the wash for the first 2 or 3 times.
- Kill weeds by pouring a solution of 1 part salt to 2 parts water onto them.
Of Health and Beauty
- Probably the most well known here is Bath Salt. It’s easy to make at home. Here’s an easy basic recipe:
1 cup Epsom Salt (it’s magnesium content relieves aching muscles)
1 cup Sea Salt (softening, healing, soothing and cleansing for the skin)
10 drops food colouring
10 -20 drops of essential oil (please use only 100% pure therapeutic grade e/oils)
Blend. Store in an air tight glass jar.
- Relieve tired, puffy eyes with a salt bath made by dissolving a pinch of salt into some warm water
- Soothe sore, aching feet by soaking them in a foot bath with a handful of salt added into it. Rinse in cool water and dry well.
- Remove onion smell from your hands by rubbing them with a paste made from salt and lemon juice
- Exfoliate hands, feet and face (while you’re at it, give the whole body a going over!) with a mix of salt and olive oil.
Of Food and Drink
- To make water boil at a higher temperature add a pinch or two of salt
- Add a handful of salt into the ice bucket. It makes the water colder and cools the drinks faster.
- Enhance the flavours of red wine, warm milk, coffee, tea and cocoa by adding a pinch of salt. I can swear by the coffee one – Mum did it. And she added cardamom too.
- Boiling eggs in salted water makes them easier to peel and stops them from cracking
- Keep milk and cream fresh longer by adding a pinch of salt to the carton.
- Cooking meat at high temperatures accentuates the caramelisation in the meat and helps seal in moisture and flavour. The crust of salt also draws out and absorbs the fat enabling a fat free method of cooking.
- If a stew or soup is oversalted, add raw potato, cook 15 minutes, then discard it.
- Table salt is not good for pickling due to the additives which will affect the colour and flavour of the food.
- When baking bread it is worth remembering that salt slows down the enzymes that cause gluten to break down. Without it the dough will be a sticky glob.
- To keep salads crisp lightly salt them immediately.
- Unseasoned salt has an infinite shelf life. In moist conditions add some uncooked rice to the shaker to keep it flowing freely.
- To stop the BBQ coals from smoking throw some salt over them.
Of Fun Stuff
- Salt dough
1 cup of salt
2 cups of flour
1 cup of water
Add dry ingredients to bowl. Slowly add water to dough-like consistency. Knead thoroughly till smooth. Keep in air tight container or plastic bag.
Use as play dough. Make ornaments or sculptures – dry (may take a few days depending on the size and thickness) then paint.
- Salt art
Make assorted coloured salt by adding food colouring to half a cup of salt. Mix well. Spread onto a sheet of newspaper to dry. Store each colour in a separate ziplock bag or into a separate compartment of an egg carton. The more food colouring you use, the brighter the colour.
Mix together equal quantities of water soluble glue and water.
Draw your design on a piece of art paper .
Use a paintbrush to glue the areas you want coloured – one colour at a time.
Sprinkle the coloured salt over the glue. Wait a few minutes for it to dry then hold the paper over a tray to let the extra salt fall off. Re-bag the salt for later use.
Repeat with each colour until your painting is finished.
Go forth and salt ……….
© Raili Tanska
Salt – 1001 practical household uses