Sources Of Salt
From the mountains to the sea, to heavenly meals.
Surely you could say salt is the best the earth can provide. And our hunt for the very best salt has taken us to some of the more dramatic locations on earth.
Our sea salt comes from the Mediterranean Sea. Actually, most of the world’s salt is found in our oceans, and humans have been taking salt from the sea since ancient times.
Harvesting salt from the sea involves running seawater into shallow basins called salt pans or ponds. Water in these pans slowly evaporates under the sun’s heat and the sea breeze. As enough water evaporates, nature takes over so salt crystals begin to form. This happens when not enough water molecules are left to keep the salt dissolved. Salt crusts then slowly form on the water surface – which makes it ready to harvest! The salt is cleaned after harvest before it is dried and sorted into grain size.
For Sweden, only the seawater on the west coast has enough salt for this process, but the colder climate makes such production inefficient. That’s simply because the sunlight and heat is not strong enough to promote evaporation as compared to southern Europe where large-scale production of sea salt is common.
Did you know that all the salt on the earth originated in the ocean? So actually, the salt found in bedrock formations is simply remains from ancient seas that dried leaving layered salt.
Many of the salt deposits in European bedrock were formed as early as 200 million years ago, where rock salt is still mined.
Rock salt consists of the remains of prehistoric seas that have dried to leave layers of salt behind. As time passed, these salt layers were collected into deposits by the tectonic activity of continental plates folding the earth’s crust and forming the mountains we know today. Salt deposits can be found several hundred meters deep and spreading over wide areas in many locations across the globe. In the Scandinavian north, we have no rock salt, while it is mined in Denmark’s bedrock. Salt mining involves drilling, blasting, or breaking salt out of the rock. This is done from 100 to 1,500 meters below the surface in mines that sometimes have kilometer long tunnel systems. The salt blocks are crushed or ground and sifted to various grain sizes before being packaged.
Rock salt comes in varying colors depending on the geological conditions existing where it is mined. Salt is mostly white or colorless, but mineral and trace elements can bring color to the crystals in beautiful hues of red, blue, yellow, or grey, and many more. Rock salt is also known as stone salt or halite, the latter comes from halos, the Greek work for ‘salt’ and lithos meaning ‘stone’.
Salt flakes are a special kind of salt that can be found naturally, or be produced using various methods. The reason these fascinating, delicate flakes can be formed at all essentially lies in the natural behavior of salt. You see, sodium chloride crystallizes in cubes. When the crystal is allowed to form under optimal conditions and grow from its dissolved state, it grows at different speeds along the plane surfaces and along the outer edges. This allows these fantastic crystals to grow as pyramids and hollow cubes. Depending on how long the crystals grow, the flakes can vary in size, from pretty small, to centimeters around. The salt crystals are thin and brittle, so they are easy to crush along the way – during the crystallization process, when harvesting, or when it is packaged. If you take a closer look at salt flakes, you can see crystals in different stages – some are more intact than others.
Salt flakes often have a high moisture content and an intense saltiness. This salt is primarily appreciated for its crunchiness, adding a sensual dimension, a distinct crispiness, to the overall experience of the meal. Salt flakes bring tiny flavor explosions when the delicate flakes pleasantly crumble in your mouth. This is why salt flakes are perfect to use as topping where you can bring that distinct saltiness in a well-defined, momentary form – an incredibly special experience of salt that can raise the flavor of many raw ingredients and dishes to heavenly heights.
The popular salt we know as Himalayan salt is a specially mineral-rich type of rock salt that is mined from salt deposits that are several hundred million years old. The most distinctive characteristic of Himalayan salt is its colorful hues – as these crystals have a rose-pink color that shifts in nuance and intensity. This gives it a color spectrum ranging from light pink, nearly transparent, to peach tones and then to intense blood red, making Himalayan salt a truly enjoyable visual experience.
Why is Himalayan salt pink? The color is from the natural composition of the salt crystals that includes many different minerals and trace elements. While the sodium chloride makes up some 97-98%, the salt also contains magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, and more, which all contribute to its exquisite color. The rich mineral content in this salt also gives rise to a mild and aromatic saltiness. Coarse Himalayan salt is excellent to grind in a salt mill or with mortar and pestle so you can enjoy the beautiful appearance of these roughly shaped crystals. As well, fine-grained Himalayan salt can be used to improve both meals and desserts in many ways.
The pink salt is mined in the northern Punjab province of Pakistan. This mountainous region is known as the Salt Range that holds several underground salt mines yielding Himalayan salt. The most famous being Khewra (which claims to be the world’s second largest salt mine). Despite the name, this means the salt is mined some three hundred kilometers from the Himalayan ranges. Recorded history identifies Alexander the Great as discovering the salt deposits in 326 BCE, but some sources indicate the salt was taken from the area in even earlier times.
What we mostly call ‘table salt’ or ‘common salt’ is usually a vacuum salt, making it one of our purest forms of salt. This is what is described as refined rock salt, and you can guess part of the process from its name.
To obtain the salt, clean water is pumped into ancient bedrock salt deposits. The water dissolves the salt held in the rock, and this brine solution is pumped back to the surface. The next stage involves purifying the solution from minerals and impurities before it is boiled in a vacuum in special evaporators. As the water is removed through evaporation, the salt crystals begin to form. Only crystals remain after the vacuum processing to produce a very dry salt with nearly 100% sodium chloride – a purity that does not occur naturally. This vacuum salt is then crushed or tumbled to the correct grain size. Vacuum salt is sold in fine or coarse variants as common food salt based on its high purity.
Did you know? The fact that all moisture is removed from the salt during the vacuum processing makes this salt ‘thirsty’? So, the product easily absorbs moisture from the surrounding air and the crystals easily tend to clump together. To keep the salt easy to pour and spread, an anti-caking compound is sometimes added in small amounts.
Naturally low-sodium salt
The high Atacama plateau desert is located near the Andean peaks in northern Chile. This is where we find our unique salt that contains 35% less sodium than common table salt, entirely naturally.
This barren terrain namely hides an astounding treasure — an underground lake with water that is rich in minerals having especially beneficial properties. Something fantastic happens when this water is taken up to above ground salt pans. As the water evaporates in the hot rays of the sun and dry desert winds, special crystals of our salt form. At harvest, each individual grain contains only 65% sodium chloride, and 30% potassium chloride.
This unique combination in each crystal provides a salt naturally low in sodium but with the same tasty saltiness we are used to. This is perfect for those wanting to reduce sodium intake without needing to compromise on taste.