Rock Salt, or Road salt as it is often called, is the mineral form of sodium chloride which is commonly known as table salt. The salt is often referred to as 'halite', especially when it is used in industrial terms. It is less refined and grayish in color. The prime difference between table salt and halite is the size. While the former forms in small crystals, the latter forms in very large, chunky crystals. Like table salt, its larger counterpart also has an assortment of trace minerals which can have an impact on how it behaves chemically.
Ice Cream Salt, Sidewalk Salt and Land Salt are some of the other common names of the salt.
The larger form of table salt is used in various recipes. It is, however, not usually used directly in cooking as it takes a long time to dissolve. A large amount of the commercially mined road salt is prepared for human consumption. It is also applied to road beds in cold climates to help reduce the freezing point of water on the road.
Origin of Rock Salt Recipes
Although the origin of the recipes which require the use of Rock Salt is not exact known, they are believed to be almost as old as the salt itself. This means that the recipes and preparations have been around for centuries. It is, therefore, an almost impossible task to trace their exact and actual origin. There are, however, various legends but their truth and accuracy are largely debatable.
Culinary Uses of Rock or Road Salt
Rock Salt is mostly not used as an edible flavoring mixed into fruits but it is used in cooking methods like baking potatoes or to encrust or embed meat, poultry or seafood for baking. The salt also makes an impressive bed for oysters on the half shell and is widely used for this purpose.
One of the most common and popular uses of the salt is in preparation of ice cream. When packed with ice in an ice cream maker, the salt lowers the freezing point which allows the ice cream to get even colder and set better. The salt can be used for pickling and curing also, as well as to make salt crusts for food items.
If being purchased for consumption, it is important to buy only food-grade Road Salt, as some companies treat their salt with chemicals.
Cuisines Using Road Salt
Rock Salt is perhaps most extensively used in Indian cuisine. In India, the salt is known as 'sendha namak' and is used in many preparations. During the fasting days in particular, the salt is used extensively in preparations. It is also used as an ingredient in chaats, chutneys, raitas and other Indian snacks and vegetable preparations which have a savory flavor. Mostly, some Road Salt is sprinkled all over preparations to add a tangy flavor to them. The coarse texture makes it easy to pick up the salt and sprinkle it all over the food during or after cooking.
The salt is also used in European and American cuisines, but not as extensively as it is used in India. However, some of the best known and most popular American and European dishes require the use of the salt. In fact, it is one of the most important ingredients.
Popular Rock Salt Recipes
Super Pot Roast, Upside-Down Meat Loaf, Salted Egg, Apple Crostata, Beef Jerky, Fish Coating Mix and Slow Cooker Party Mix, Chaats, Sauces, Chutneys and Raitas, to name a few, are some of the most commonly prepared recipes which call for the use of Rock Salt. These are recipes from all over the world, but the salt’s use is not limited to these handful recipes alone.
While it is mostly sprinkled in small quantities over preparations to enhance their flavor, the salt is also sometimes cooked with the dishes, but that is not a very commonly followed practice.
Nutritive Value of the Salt and Rock Salt Recipes
The sodium content of Rock Salt is actually much lower than the normal table salt used; therefore while the latter is a common cause of hypertension, the former actually keeps blood pressure under check. Also, because of low content of sodium, the salt helps relieve intestinal gas and heartburn.
Road Salt- Buying and Storing Tips
The salt can be purchased easily from stores and supermarkets at a very nominal price. It is, as mentioned earlier, important to buy only food-grade salt and the packaging must be checked properly to ensure that the correct salt is being purchased. Rock Salt is stored in a container which is air-tight and it has to be kept moisture free at all times.
Rock Salt Recipes- Non-Food Uses
The salt has uses apart from cooking as well and road salt recipes are not the only place where it is important. Land Salt is considered a cooling spice and often used in Ayurvedic medicines. It is also used as a laxative and digestive aid. Homeopathic doctors believe that Rock Salt is the best form of salt for the human body and has many medicinal properties.