Friday, January 28, 2011

Long-term Food Storage- Salt

Throughout the centuries salt has been a highly prized commodity. Have you ever heard of someone being "worth their salt"? Along with their pay, Roman soldiers used to receive a 'salarium' (from the latin word sal for salt) to help them get rations of salt. That is where our word for salary comes from.

Salt was so prized in earlier civilizations for its ability to preserve food without the means of refrigeration. It can preserve meat through curing and also vegetables through pickling. Salt is also vital in assisting many functions of the body including regulating blood and other body fluids and helping with muscle contractions and replenishing electrolytes which become depleted through hard labor and sweat.

The bulk foods that makes up the basics of food storage are pretty bland by themselves, like wheat, beans, and rice. Salt can make anything more palatable if you need to rely on just those essentials. Hopefully you will want to store extra foods to bring more variety to your diet but you could survive on just grains, powdered milk, salt and honey if you had to.

Salt is a great food storage item because it has an indefinite storage life. It is recommended to store 5 lbs of salt for each person over the age of 7 in your long-term storage. See a great food storage calculator here.

When planning your salt food storage needs, there are a few things to keep in mind. The most important is that there are many types of salt and they all do different things.

Table Salt- This is the salt that most people are accustomed to and the least expensive. Most table salt in the industrialized world has had iodine added to it. Iodine is an essential trace mineral our bodies need. Iodized salt can prevent goiter (swollen thyroid) which usually occurs when someone has a iodine deficiency. Most table salt has also had an anti-caking agent added to it to keep it free flowing even when it is humid. In fact, the slogan used by Morton's Salt is "when it rains, it pours" and shows a picture of a little girl out in the rain but her salt shaker still works. One thing about iodized salt is that it may yellow over time. It's just the iodine, it doesn't effect the flavor and is still completely safe to eat.

Morton - Canning and Pickling Salt - 4-lb. Boxes (Pack of 2)Pickling/Canning Salt- This salt is pure, which means that there is no iodine in it nor is the anti-caking agent present. The reason pickling salt is used is because the iodine in table salt can cause your canning jars to turn cloudy and can discolor your food. Make sure you factor the amount of salt needed if you plan to be able to can and preserve your harvest to supplement your 1 year supply of food storage.

Real Salt Shaker, 9-Ounce (Pack of 6)Sea Salt- This salt is very popular right now. Instead of coming from salt mines it's made from the evaporation or distillation of sea or ocean waters. It is also pure salt without iodine added and receives no or very little processing which leaves intact many trace minerals from the water it came from and a stronger flavor. It is more expensive. But with the added nutritional value of the trace minerals which would be so essential in an emergency situation where you might not be getting them all from other sources, I think it is worth having in storage.
This particular brand, Real Salt, comes from Utah. It has over 60 trace minerals which contributes to it's reddish color and a really interesting history. You can read about it here.

Kosher Salt-Surprisingly, Kosher salt is just like pickling/ canning salt but it's in its natural crystallized form or thin flakes instead of the smaller granules. It is called kosher salt because it is what is used to make meat kosher (the salt is spread all over and draws out the un-kosher blood). This salt can be used for canning as well. It is sometimes less expensive than canning salt but because it is less compact it takes up more room in your storage and can alter your recipes if you need an exact amount.

Rock Salt- This salt is used to make homemade ice-cream. It comes in pebble sized crystals and helps lower the temperature while it is turning. I don't know if you can use it to prepare food, but with all the other options of salt I wouldn't bother. Unless of course you love to make a lot of homemade ice-cream.

Salt Blocks- I remember thinking once that maybe I'd just store a massive block of salt and chip off what I needed as I went. You know the kind they use to feed livestock? I have found out since then that sometimes those blocks have chemical additives and medicines added to them so make sure you are really careful in your selection if this is something you have thought about.

Non-food Grade Salt- There are two other kinds of salt. Halite and Solar Salt which are used in melting snow and use in water softeners respectively. They are not safe to eat.

Salt is inexpensive, great to store and will keep forever. Just remember to keep it in an airtight container or it will absorb the moisture and scents/aromas from the things around it. If it does get a little hard from some humidity all is not lost. You can dry it up again by sticking it in an oven.


  1. Hi!
    In Italy we use rock salt to salt the water for boiling the pasta, I love it cos it's so much easier for me to measure the right quantity I need to salt the pasta water with that than using the normal small salt... but unluckily it seems not to be very popular abroad and since I moved to Germany I've been missing my rock salt so much!
    Keep up the good job with your blog (which I only just found today) and thanks for the plastic bag organizer tutorial!

  2. Yeah, we have rock salt too but most of the time it just comes labeled as sea salt. It's just the bigger chunks of it too. I didn't know there was an actual measurement to use when salting your water. My mom just taught me to salt it like the sea.

  3. Good article, thanks.