Friday, July 24, 2015

Take it with a Grain of Salt

I love salt. Salt on sweet corn, salt on cucumbers, hell I even put salt on bananas. I can get completely lost and drooling clicking around the Salt Works website, lusting for smoked salts and black salts and flavored salts. I mean, Sriracha Salt? Who knew?

Salt is probably one of the most overlooked items in prepper pantries, although many hardcore survivalists insist that salt will become one of the most highly sought after items during any long term disaster. If you watched the short lived post-apocalyptic series "Jericho", you know two towns went to war over a salt mine. Fiction sure, but it's an event that has played out repeatedly throughout human existence. While the idea of shooting my neighbors over a bag of flaked sea salt holds great appeal for me (especially after their kids keep banging on our door and running away in the middle of the night) it's probably better in the long run for me to keep stocking up on salt.

The different types of salts to consider are:

  1. Sea salt. Natural sea salt does not have iodine.
  2. Iodized salt. Iodized salt is a dietary mineral essential for humans. Iodine helps prevent mental retardation, which makes me think we should start force feeding it to certain segments of the population but that's a story for another day. Humans need iodized salt to avoid thyroid gland problems and goiter and to help regulate fluid balance in the body.
  3. Pickling salt. You can use ordinary salt when you're pickling but because it has an anti-caking agent in it your brine can turn cloudy. For canning and pickling you really want Canning and Pickling Salt, which Mortons puts out in a 4# box and can be found at any grocery store. Pickling salt also has no iodine in it because iodine oxidizes the food and darkens them.
  4. Curing salts. These aren't actually "salts" in the way we usually think of salt, but intended for curing meat. You have Morton Tenderquick, which you can find at Squallmart or your local grocery store, or you can go with Prague powder, which is a pink curing salt. I buy Prague powder on Amazon and a pound runs around $12.  This is more than double what MTG costs, but you'll use about a half teaspoon of Prague powder to every 3 3/4 teaspoon of MTQ.
  5. Kosher salt. True Kosher salt is blessed by a rabbi, but there is more in the koshering process. The craggy crystals of Kosher salt make it perfect for curing meat. Kosher salt is a chef favorite because it dissolves quickly and disperses flavors evenly. It's my favorite for cooking and for dry rubs and brines.
  6. Himalayan salt is a pink, mineral-rich salt. I have my doubts on the health benefits of this one after reading the results of a spectral analysis. The list of minerals includes a number of radioactive substances like radium, uranium, and polonium, as well as poisons like thallium. The amounts are barely trace, but then again if you believe the trace amounts of "good minerals" is a bonus then you have to take in consideration the trace amounts of poisons and radioactive substances too. Personally I'd prefer my salt not come with uranium.
  7. Cattle Salt. Ranchers need salt for their livestock, some is mixed in the trough, and also there are salt blocks. Salt blocks can be used to attract wild life.
  8. Epsom salt. Not edible, but great for a zillion other uses.

In addition to culinary uses, salt is a natural antibacterial which can ease dental issues, soothe sore throats, and help clean and dry wounds. The jury is out on exactly how much one should set aside for storage, with suggestions ranging from 10 pounds per person per year up to 25 pounds. However if you've ever done any pickling you know you'll blow through 10 pounds just on a bumper crop of dill pickles, and dry rubs for meat can eat up a lot of Kosher salt in a hurry. A 25 pound bag of table salt can be picked up at Sam's Club for $5, making it one of the cheapest preps you can buy, as well as one that never goes bad.

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