Salt – how much you need, where to get it, what are its uses
Let’s start with the requirements in your diet. Most of the salt in your diet is already in your food, particularly processed food like processed meats (like bacon or salami), cheeses or salted food (chips, salted nuts, olives, pickles). Salt has been used through history to preserve food as we will discuss below. And salt is included in many recipes like bread and pasta so the amount of salt you need on your table in a salt shaker during a meal is much less than the total daily requirement.
The recommended amount of salt intake by various agencies and advocacy groups varies from 1500mg to 2300mg per day. This is roughly 3.5 to 5 mg or a teaspoon or less. That equates to a couple of pounds per year all things being equal but as stated above – that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have half dozen Morton’s 26 oz salt containers on hand in your pantry if you have already processed food stored in your pantry. It may contain some salt already. LDS recommends five pounds per adult for a year. Bottom line: it keeps forever if you store it in a dry place and it is cheap - go buy a 4 lbs box for each family member and you are good to hook. (about $3 on Amazon)
High salt is linked to high blood pressure but you need both sodium and chloride for regular body functions so no salt isn’t an option for most people. Plus salt makes bland food taste better so again, most people want to have some salt in their diet.
Sea salt and refined (from mines) is usually 35-40% sodium. Pure sodium chloride is white so discoloration just means that there are impurities in the salt (Himalayan salt from the Khwera mine in Punjab is pinkish due to the presence of some iron). Interesting factoid – Dead Sea Salt is high in bromide so it is not edible.
Much of the table salt we use is mined from old salt deposits and if one of those is near your home, then you might be in luck. If not, you would have to get it from the ocean (if you didn't buy the boxes of Morton's like I mentioned above).
You can get roughly a pound of salt from boiling or evaporating 3.5 gallons of sea water (35 grams per liter). So if you live near the ocean, you should have a ready source of salt. If you don’t want to use the energy to boil the water – you can get brine and eventually salt from the evaporation pan of a solar still.
The process is pretty straight forward – place the sea water in a pan and boil off all the water and then dry in an oven or in the sun to remove the last bit of moisture. You will be left with a hard crust that you can then scrap into a bowl and mash up (with a pummel or potato masher) to get it into grainy form.
If you don’t have ready access to sea water or a salt mine – you need to buy some in advance and store in your pantry. Luckily it keeps damn near forever so shelf life is not an issue, but you want to keep it dry as if it absorbs water it may cake. We mentioned in a separate article that salt might become a barter item if the SHTF solely based on its availability.
Salt can be used to preserve meat by rubbing a mixture of salt and sugar (a half pound of salt and a quarter cup of brown sugar mixed together will cure roughly ten pounds of meat). Adding sugar counterbalances the salt and gives in a better flavor. You can substitute honey or maple syrup for the sugar. To avoid botulism, you should add some sodium nitrate which occurs naturally in leafy greens like spinach, celery, and lettuce or you can get pink salt or Prague Powder #1 which also contains sodium nitrate. You can also add any herb or spice you like to flavor the meat. Cut the meat into slabs and cover with the mixture. Pack it into jars or crock pots and store it at just above freezing temperatures (33-38 degrees) for about a month. You can now pull it out and re-package the slabs for long term storage or dry it.
Wet curing is similar but you pack the meat in jars or pots and then add a brine mixture (a pound of salt and a half cup of brown sugar mixed with three quarts of water, don’t forget any herbs and spices you wish to add for flavouring) to cover the meat. Close the container and again store for about a month but you have to tend to the mixture weekly (pull the meat out, stir the brine, replace the meat). If the brine gets too thick you can make a fresh batch and replace it.
But let’s get to the most important use of salt – its contribution in making BACON: everything is better with bacon on it so as long as your religious beliefs allow, please continue reading.
Making bacon takes some time but it is so worth it. You can get a specific recipes from cook books or on the web but here are the basics.
1-get your pork belly
2-remove the rind or skin (don’t throw it away as you can use that to make several delicious artery clogging foods such as pork cracklings).
3-prepare your cure mixture (salt, curing salt = sodium nitrate, brown sugar, and pepper). You can add any other herb or spice to suit your palate (maple syrup for example).
4-rub in the cure mix, place in a covered container, and then place in cool storage for 4-5 days. If you have power, it can go on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. If you can seal it in a plastic bag that is great, you should turn it over each day so any moisture that forms on the bottom gets distributed uniformly.
5-rinse and dry and now place in cool storage for at least 4 hours, not more than overnight, but not sealed up so the meat can dry out (you can place it on a wire rack over a large flat pan).
6-smoke the bacon for 2-3 hours
7-chill again for 4 hours or more (overnight)
8-slice it up and cook it. If you have a meat slicer, you can get pretty thin with the strips but thicker bacon is also tasty, just takes a little longer to cook
Ok, now that my hedonistic desire for making bacon has been temporarily sated, just note that salt is a staple ingredient in many other recipes (bread, pasta, many sauces) so having access to a source of salt or stockpiling a bunch in your pantry is always a good idea.
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