Tag Archives: history

Salt of the Earth: What You Need to Know about Natural Sea Salt

Unprocessed salts from around the world are a treat for your palate—and your well being.
By Sophia V. Schweitzer
May/June 2002

Salts courtesy The Spice House, Milwaukee, Wisconsin / Photos by Joe Coca

“In it, we taste infinitude,” Chilean poet Pablo Neruda wrote of salt in Elementary Odes (Odas Elementales, 1954). Salt has been called the dust of the ocean and the essence of life. Salt is sacred. Entire civilizations have risen around it. It’s part of wedding ceremonies and religious offerings around the world. In Hawaiian tradition, the elders use salt as a purifier in all medicine and ritual. Our word “salary” is a daily reminder that salt served as legal tender in ancient Roman times.
Salt is vital to our health and well-being. There is nothing more elementally of this planet, and of who we are, than its shimmering crystals and its unmistakable taste.
But not all salts are the same. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, published in China in 2700 bc, discusses more than forty different kinds. And in recent years, expensive, glittering sea salts are replacing regular, cheap table salts in the kitchens of natural homes and celebrity chefs. So what’s going on?
The salt crop
Whether mined inland from ancient deposits or evaporated along coastal shores, all salts originate in the sea. In its natural form, salt consists of eighty-plus different minerals, including calcium, magnesium, sulfur, copper, potassium and yes, even gold. The stuff that gives salt its characteristic saltiness, sodium chloride, makes up about 78 percent of this highly variable mix.
types-of-salt-top-300x150
Natural sea salt is harvested from coves, exposed rocks, or tidal basins. Artisan salt farmers often channel and rake the salty watersheds, then gather the exposed crystals by hand. Unrefined, this salt is ready for use just as it is.
Commercial sea salts are harvested mechanically, then treated with chemicals and additives until they measure a minimum of 98 percent sodium chloride. All the other minerals are removed. Far removed in manufacturing and taste from their natural source, these refined salts are like cheap wines—hard on body, mind, and soul, and better left alone.
Chef’s secret
In a recent survey conducted by Relais & Châteaux, 68 percent of chefs felt that salt is the one ingredient that can always make a food taste better. To many of them, nothing compares to unrefined, organic sea salt, dried in the sun.
“You use salt not to give food a salt flavor,” explains chef George Mavrothalassitis, owner of Chef Mavro Restaurant in Honolulu, “but to enhance and intensify the natural flavors that already exist. Regular salt is aggressive and takes away from the food. Natural salt is soft and sweet.” A Marseilles native, Mavrothalassitis relies on fine French sel de mer from Camargue, and for his signature snapper in a salt crust, he favors Hawaiian salt from the islands’ lava cliffs. He also prefers alaea salt, Hawaiian salt enriched with baked red clay. Chefs love alaea as much for its earthiness as for its rusty color. They may sprinkle it on seared white scallops or add a touch to grilled zucchini.

Copyright 2016, All Rights Reserved | Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265

Slippery History: How Soap Works

From ancient Babylon to Ma Perkins, soap has a rich and frothy past.

The basics of how soap works

5000 BC
Clay cylinders in ancient Babylon are inscribed
With instructions for boiling fats with ashes

4000 BC
Hebrews write on clay tablets about purifying of oils
Ash and lime-stone

1000 BC
Soap Gets the name from Mount Sapo, a sacred site where animals
were sacrificed during Roman rituals.
Women come from all around to bathe in melted animal fat and wood ash
Found in the Tiber river at the base of Mt. Sapo
Soap is formed when an acid, derived from the fats and oils of plants and animals, is combined with an alkali. Today most soapmakers use commercially available alkali such as sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) or potassium hydroxide (caustic potash). When the fats and the alkali are combined, a chemical reaction called saponification occurs. And there you have it: soap.
And how does it work? Water has a property called surface tension. This tension is created as water molecules at the surface are pulled toward molecules at the bottom. Soap molecules have a head that is attracted to water and a tail that is attracted to dirt. The tail embeds itself in the dirt, and the head pulls itself toward the water, breaking the surface tension. When you rinse off, you wash away the soap molecules along with the dirt their tails are clinging to.
Clean ingredients
Even though they aren’t required to list ingredients, natural soapmakers such as Joshua Onysko of Pangea Organics generally do because they’re proud of them. Pangea soaps, for example, are made from a base of olive oil, coconut oil, soybean oil, and hempseed oil; naturally formed glycerin, herbs, flowers and spices; and essential oils.
What you put on your skin could be absorbed into your body, so it’s important to read ingredients. Seeing the word “organic” in a soap manufacturer’s name doesn’t guarantee all the ingredients are organic. Many people in the personal care industry believe that unless an ingredient is certified organic in California or another state with strict certification standards, it doesn’t mean much. “Coconut oil can be certified organic in SriLanka, but they still use DDT there, so I’d be concerned,” Joshua says.
CollectionStory_HeritageSoaps
Soothing, simple soaps
To make this soap, first purchase a solid, translucent glycerin soap base (available from Sun-Feather Natural Soap, (315) 265-3648). Melt it gently in a double boiler over medium heat. Add soothing botanicals, fragrant oils, and any other ingredients that please you, and stir. Then pour the thick liquid into a plastic soap mold or a plastic food storage container and let it cool.
Lavender and Rosemary Soap
3 cups glycerin soap base
1/4 cup infusion* of lavender flowers and rosemary leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons lavender oil
1/2 teaspoon rosemary oil
1 teaspoon pulverized dried rosemary (optional)

1. Combine melted base and botanicals. Stir until blended, then pour into molds and cool.
*Make an infusion: Infusions are delicate teas made by pouring hot, steamy non-chlorinated water over fresh or dried plant parts. Three tablespoons of dried or fresh herb per cup of water, steeped 10 minutes, will suffice.
Reprinted with permission from Soothing Soaps by Sandy Maine (Interweave Press, 1997).

51b9l11sMrL._AC_US240_QL65_