"SALT OF THE EARTH"
Article from www.asianonlinerecipes.com/food_articles; Author Unknown

Salt is more than a flavor jump-start. It is one of the four basic flavors and an essential nutrient that our bodies rightfully crave. Often incorrectly referred to as sodium, salt consists of 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride. While all salts originated from the sea, a number of the major North American salt mines are nowhere near a presently existing ocean. Salt is concentrated in underground deposits in unexpected places such as Kansas, Ohio, and Michigan, which were at one point covered by the ocean.

As a general rule, use coarse salt crystals in cooking water or to sprinkle onto or into foods for seasoning. Fine-grained salts are preferred for most baking because they measure and dissolve evenly. Here's a guide to common forms of salt available today.

    Table Salt: Once of the most widely used salts, table salt goes through a refining process that removes traces of other naturally occurring minerals. Chemical additives such as sodium silicoaluminate, calcium phosphate, or magnesium carbonate are sometimes blended in to prevent clumping. Table salt and iodized salt are preferred in baking for their fine-grained texture and accuracy of measure.

    Iodized Salt: A form of table salt, iodized salt is fortified with iodine that was lost during processing. Iodized salt was the first "functional food", fortified in the early 1920s in response to a Midwest-focused epidemic of gioter (hyperthyroidism) that was caused by iodine deficiencies.

    Kosher Salt: This inexpensive coarse salt is evaporated from a brine, usually under specific conditions approved by the Orthodox Jewish faith. It contains no additives or added iodine. Kosher salt is popular among chefs because its coarse texture makes it easy to pinch up between you fingers and sprinkle onto foods. Measure for measure, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt contains less salt than the same amount of table or iodized salt.

    Sea Salt: Available in both fine and coarse grains, sea salt has become increasingly available in markets but at a higher cost than table or kosher salt. Sea salt is made from evaporated sea water. Some salt farmers evaporate the water in enclosed bays along the shoreline, then rake up the salt by hand. This type of salt tends to include several naturally present trace minerals, such as iodine, magnesium, and potassium, which give sea salt a fresher, lighter flavor than standard table salt. Expensive varieties, such as sel gris, Esprit du Sel, and Fleur de Sel from France are usually gray in color and slightly moist. These are best used where their tremendous flavor and presence is pronounced, such as on a boiled potato or a slice of tomato. You can also get pink, brown, and black sea salts from India.

    Rock Salt: Sold in large crystals, rock salt has a grayish hue because it is unrefined. Rock salt makes a great bed for serving oysters and clams. Or combine it with ice to make ice cream in hand-cranked ice cream makers.

Salt is known to have more than 14,000 uses. Its use in cooking makes up less than 4 percent of the total salt produced each year. Salt can be traced back to 6500 B.C., when it was mined in Salzburg, Austria (translated as "salt town"). It has long been believed that the Devil hated salt and that throwing it in his face would banish the creature. So cultures sprinkled salt on the thresholds and in corners of new homes to ward off the evil one, and Catholics once put salt on a baby's tongue as part of their baptism services.

An easy way to fill a salt shaker without spilling is to use a plastic funnel. If one is not available, make a cone with a piece of paper. Salt can also be prevented from clumping and clogging shakers by adding 1/2 teaspoon

Salt is known to have more than 14,000 uses. Its use in cooking makes up less than 4 percent of the total salt produced each year. Salt can be traced back to 6500 B.C., when it was mined in Salzburg, Austria (translated as "salt town"). It has long been believed that the Devil hated salt and that throwing it in his face would banish the creature. So cultures sprinkled salt on the thresholds and in corners of new homes to ward off the evil one, and Catholics once put salt on a baby's tongue as part of their baptism services.

An easy way to fill a salt shaker without spilling is to use a plastic funnel. If one is not available, make a cone with a piece of paper. Salt can also be prevented from clumping and clogging shakers by adding 1/2 teaspoon raw rice grains to the shaker to absorb moisture. If you keep your salt in a tub or crock, tie the rice in cheesecloth or a coffee filter and add it to the salt like a bouquet garni. Change the rice once a year. Or you can stir 1 tablespoon cornstarch into a 1-pound container of salt.

To prevent oversalting foods, store salt in a small bowl or tub and use your fingers to sprinkle it over foods. This gives you more control and a better sense of how much salt you are using. Also, season foods near the end of cooking time. Many foods contain natural amounts of sodium that are concentrated during the cooking process. Be conservative. You can always add more salt; it's harder to take it back.

However, there is also a fix for an oversalted dish. If the dish has a bit of liquid in it, drop in a few peeled potato slices for the last 10 minutes of cooking. The potato will absorb some of the excess salt. Discard the potato before serving. You could also add more of everything except salt, perhaps doubling the recipe to balance the salt. Or try balancing the recipe by stirring in 1 teaspoon each sugar and white vinegar; cook 3 minutes, and taste for balance. Add more sugar and vinegar if needed. Or, if the dish is raw, you can rinse it with water to remove excess salt. To remove the saltiness of brined olives or feta cheese, soak them in cold water for several hours or overnight, changing the soaking water once

HAVE YOU SHAKEN THAT SALT HABIT?
The idea that salt is addictive isn't quite true. The fact is that people in general are so attuned to salty foods by adding salt to already-salted foods, and/or over-salting when cooking and baking. Try some salt-reducing habits and strategies and within about a week saltiness won't be missed at all. Some ideas to shake the habit:

Reduce Salt When cooking and baking, switch from ordinary table salt (i.e., Mortons) to the coarser granules of kosher salt or sea salt. Using the same measurements you normally use for table salt, the coarse granules don't pack as tightly into the measuring spoon, thus automatically reducing the amount of salt. Reducing those measurements will hve even more success.

Buy Low-Sodium Products: Instead of focusing on low-fat products, try the "lower-soium" or "no salt added" products. When using these products, salt with pinches instead of teaspoons.

Try Alternative Seasoning: Groceries and web sites are now featuring more alternative seasonings than ever before. Mrs.Dash's was one of the first; and those salt-free seasonings are so effective that you won't miss the salt at all. Penzey's is another company adding more salt-free seasoning to their inventory.

Remove the Salt Shaker From the Table: Remove the temptation to add more salt to your food by eliminating the ubiquious salt shaker from your table settings. The alternative may be a salt substitute like "Nu-Salt" which is potassium Chloride.

Read All Nutrition Labels: The more processed and canned foods you eat, the more sodium you are injesting. Maximum sodium during any given day should be limited to around 3,000 mg. If you eat one full 14-oz. can of Hormel Chili With Beans or Campbells Soups, you are satisfying about 1/3 or more of that daily limit. Some low-sodium products have added or increased the amount of MSG in the product to compensate. Also, some over-the-counter drugs, espeically antacids, can be high in sodium. Shop for alternatives or ask your pharmacist.

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