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Preserving food with Salt

Salt is one of the most misunderstood ingredients of the culinary world. For the past sixty years, it has been engaged in an ongoing battle with its crystalline cousin, sugar. A battle it seems to have lost. But new research points to the fact that salt may be a lot healthier than we think – and it’s without a doubt the best natural preservative out there.

 

PRODUCTION AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY JAN HENDRIK VAN DER WESTHUIZEN
WORDS AND GRAPHICS BY HANFRED RAUCH

ADDING SALT TO THE CONVERSATION 

Ah, salt. So infinitely useful yet deeply contentious. Very few substances have endured such scrutiny. In ancient Rome, salt was considered so valuable for its role in food preservation that it was used as currency. But over the past six decades, research demonising salt has soared, recently blaming it for 1.65 million annual deaths worldwide.

But according to new research conducted by leading cardiovascular research scientist, Dr. James Dinicolantonio, the vast majority of people don’t need to watch their salt intake. For his book, The Salt Fix, Dinicolantonio and his team reviewed over 500 publications to investigate its impact on blood pressure and heart disease. His conclusion was that salt had unfairly lost the battle against sugar as the main cause of these ailments.

In fact, he argues that too little salt can lead you to crave more sugar and refined carbs, can send the body into starvation mode, lead to weight gain and can even result in insulin resistance. Eating enough salt, on the other hand, can improve your sleep quality, energy levels, mental focus, fertility and even sexual performance.

So, how much salt should we eat? According to the World Health Organisation, the average person should consume between 1500 and 2000 milligrams of sodium per day. That’s about a teaspoon of table salt, of which 40% is sodium and 60% is chloride.

ADDING SALT TO THE CONVERSATION

Ah, salt. So infinitely useful yet deeply contentious. Very few substances have endured such scrutiny. In ancient Rome, salt was considered so valuable for its role in food preservation that it was used as currency. But over the past six decades, research demonising salt has soared, recently blaming it for 1.65 million annual deaths worldwide.

But according to new research conducted by leading cardiovascular research scientist, Dr. James Dinicolantonio, the vast majority of people don’t need to watch their salt intake. For his book, The Salt Fix, Dinicolantonio and his team reviewed over 500 publications to investigate its impact on blood pressure and heart disease. His conclusion was that salt had unfairly lost the battle against sugar as the main cause of these ailments.

In fact, he argues that too little salt can lead you to crave more sugar and refined carbs, can send the body into starvation mode, lead to weight gain and can even result in insulin resistance. Eating enough salt, on the other hand, can improve your sleep quality, energy levels, mental focus, fertility and even sexual performance.

So, how much salt should we eat? According to the World Health Organisation, the average person should consume between 1500 and 2000 milligrams of sodium per day. That’s about a teaspoon of table salt, of which 40% is sodium and 60% is chloride.

JAN | Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen | Preserving food with Salt
JAN | Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen | Preserving food with Salt

HOW TO PICKLE

BRINE

Before you start, here are a few things you need to consider about making brine:
Use enough water to completely cover the food you want to preserve.
It’s a fine balance. You need 10% salt to inhibit microbial growth, but the higher the salt concentration goes above 10%, the more detrimental its effects on the flavour, texture and structure of the food.
Choose your salt carefully – aim for good quality pickling salt or Kosher salt. Many table salts contain other, undesirable additives like iodine and are low on flavour.
When preserving meat, use lean meat – salt can’t penetrate the fat, so it will go rancid quicker.
If you’ve cooked the meat you want to brine, allow it to cool first.
If you are planning on becoming your local village pickler, you might consider investing in a salometer to test the salt percentage in your brine, like the pro that you are.

INGREDIENTS:

Pickling salt

Distilled water:

Different foods call for different strengths of brine. See the guide below for directions on how much salt to use:

JAN | Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen | Preserving food with Salt

At the end of this period, change the brine if you want to keep the food in the container. If you’d like to dry-cure it, drain the excess brine and cover the food in salt. To dry out protein, like meat or fish, cover it in salt and place in the oven at a low temperature.

References:

Alison Abrey, www.npr.com, August 2014
James Dinicolantonio, The Salt Fix, 2017
www.homepreservingbible.com

Ricardo Meggiato, www.finedininglovers.com, October 2014
Mickey Parish, www.scientificamerican.com

Sodiumbreakup.heart.org, July 2014
World Health Organisation, www.who.int, January 2013

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