Many people have only heard of the term "salt" as it pertains only to our food.  There are a variety of different edible salts, of course, but did you ever wonder what the difference is?  Aside from that, the term "salt" has a well-defined chemical definition, which includes a variety of compounds, other than the well-known NaCl.

A salt (in chemistry) is made up of some negatively charged ions and some positively charged ions, but the overall charge is neutral.  There are a few different varieties of salts, such as basic salts, acid salts and neutral salts, depending on what type of ions they release when dissolved in water.

When salts are dissolved in water, they are called electrolytes.  You have probablly heard this term used in Gatorade commercials.  Salts are important to the body for many reasons, so replenishing them, along with water, is important when excessive perspiration makes the body lose alot of water and salt.

Table salt is also called edible salt, halite, or NaCl.  It is made of Sodium (Na+) and Chloride (Cl-) ions bound together.  Table salt is a relatively pure substance, made of a majority NaCl molecules; it often has iodine added though.  It is obtained from evaporation of seawater, or by mining rock salt (the mineral form of NaCl).  the Rock salt was formed by evaporation of enclosed, ancient lakes.

Sea salt is also mostly NaCl, but it does have a mineral content, resulting in a different flavor than table salt.  The mineral content (and flavor) can vary based on the location it was harvested from.  It tends to have a much coarser texture as well. 

Kosher salt is also pure NaCl, but usually does not have any iodine added, making it the most pure salt you can purchase at the grocery store.  Kosher salt also has a large grain size, but the structure is a bit different from other NaCl salts.  It gets its name due to its use in making meats kosher, by drawing the blood out during processing.

Leave it to Morton's to make up a bunch of other kinds of salt I have never heard of!  Check out their website for more salt types; they are basically variations of typical NaCl, I believe!  They have a nice section on where salt comes from, too.

 

Tonya

AKA sunmoonstars

The Science Spot

 

 

 

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Comments:

Mythi...
Jun. 26, 2009 at 9:56 AM

OK. I'm done eating ice cream. The only inedible salt has to do with making icecream. That can't be healthy (all though they probably don't put it in the ice cream, I really do need to stop eating it). lol.

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justa...
Jun. 26, 2009 at 10:44 AM

Doesn't the salt for ice cream go in the ice around the tub?  I've never actaully made ice cream but I'm seen the machines.

Anyway, I'm in love with sea salt.  We started buying it last year and It's all I use on my food and popcorn.  And I love that the dispensers let you change the size of the granuales.  I like mine a little coarser.  My husband insists on using our plain old table salt.

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scien...
Jun. 26, 2009 at 11:43 AM

That's right - the salt doesn't go IN the ice cream (I am sure it has SOME in there), it goes around the outside to help make the ice cubes colder, so it can freeze  the cream mixture into ice cream.  here's a quickie explanation:

http://chemistry.about.com/cs/howtos/a/aa020404a.htm

 

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arthi...
Jun. 26, 2009 at 1:44 PM

This post reminds me of a friend in college who was disturbed by my habit of putting salt (too much, he thought) on the pineapple served at the dining hall, so one day he put a big sign on my door that said "Salt is Evil." :) I use kosher salt in cooking, which, I discovered, goes further than regular table salt, like Morton's.

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Lians...
Jun. 26, 2009 at 6:38 PM

I avoid using salt in cooking but it's my favorite home remedy for a sore tonsils. I love celery salt which basically ground celery seed. I checked out the morton's site. I had to LOL over low sodium salt. I also had to laugh at the pp's story. Hubby and I don't add salt usually either when cooking or eating but we do pepper in copious amounts. Once at a holiday dinner, my uncle stared in disbelief as I added pepper to my plate then said incredulously, "you know, that's not salt!" He would literally salt every bite.

stick out tongue mini

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justa...
Jun. 27, 2009 at 2:24 PM

Ooh, we always loved onion salt.  We haven't bought any in awhile because we usually just shop at Costco.  Onion salt on sweet corn...absolutely devine.  My dad thinks we're nuts.

I don't usually put a lot of salt (or any) while I'm cooking.  I leave that to the individual.

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