Friday, May 05, 2006

Thicker Than Water

A question: What makes salt kosher? Is regular salt unkosher?

Your average Morton table salt is 100% kosher, since it does not contain non-kosher ingredients.

So what is “kosher salt”?

It all begins with the blood. The blood of an animal is its “life” - so eating its blood is akin to consuming its spiritual essence. So what? Well, the primary purpose of life is to elevate ourselves above our animal nature. Eating meat without the blood is like eating the shell that held the animal but not the animal qua animal.

Some add that holiness requires an awareness of what we are doing. When I slaughter an animal for food, I am ending its life, and not eating the blood helps elevate my consciousness to the fact that I took a life in order to eat.

The problem is that when a butcher cuts up meat, there is a lot of blood left in the veins. Big-crystal salt works well to absorb that blood from the meat. So the salt isn’t any more kosher than table salt, but it is called “kosher” because it is used to make meat kosher.

That's not the only use for kosher salt, however. The flavor is distinct from ordinary table salt, and some cooks prefer to use it in all their cooking. Like other coarse salts, kosher salt can be used in recipes that call for a salt crust. You can even use it to salt the edge of a margarita glass. (L’chayim!) (after you down your second one, ask “If you salt a bloody mary, do you get a vodka martini?”)

Nutritionally speaking, kosher salt is identical to table salt, minus the iodine. The human body needs salt to regulate the electrolyte balance inside and outside of its cells. But studies have shown that diets low in salt lower a person's blood pressure. As with many health issues, scientists and doctors don't universally agree on the health benefits and problems related to salt intake. (source:

    Number of crystals in a pound of table salt: 5,370,000.
    Number of crystals in a pound of kosher salt: 1,370,000.
Those stats come from this transcript from the food network (includes photos).

In researching this post, I discovered this handy list of kitchen tips.

“Salt is what makes things taste bad when it’s not in them.” - Irene Chambers

Seasonally yours,

Shabbat Shalom

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