Historians believe that the practice of pickling food may have originated around 2400 BC. The Mesopotamians may have been the first to pickle foods but some sources claim that it actually began in one of the world’s earliest cities called Mohenjo Daro, located in present-day Pakistan. The original purpose of pickling was to preserve foods that were out of season. Pickles have been prized by the likes of Cleopatra — who claimed that they preserved her beauty — as well as Aristotle. The word pickle comes from pekel, a Dutch word that means in brine.
Salt has been mined or harvested from seawater for thousands of years and is used to preserve and flavor food. In pickling, salt helps to draw water out of the food to make it firmer while also inhibiting the growth of microbes. Despite its long history, the use of iodine in salt is a relatively recent development. The first iodized salt showed up in 1924. Iodized salt is not good for pickling and may have spurred the demand for a more suitable salt.
Pickling salt flavor profile
The flavor of pickling salt is the same salt flavor that you get from any other cooking salt. Tasted on its own, it may seem to be more concentrated than regular table salt for the same reason that powdered sugar seems to be sweeter than regular sugar: grain-size. Smaller granules dissolve more readily on the tongue leading to a more immediate perception of the flavor.
Because pickling salt is formulated with pickling in mind, it does not contain ingredients like iodine that might make pickle brine bitter or that might discolor it. Pickling salt’s fine grains means that you can pack it into a measuring spoon or cup tightly so the measurement will be more accurate when compared to coarser salts. You will get more salt flavor from pickling salt than you will from an equivalent measure of another salt. Pickling salt also has the benefit of dissolving in brine more quickly than salts with larger grains.
Pickling salt health benefits
Like any salt, pickling salt’s nutritional value is limited. As far as its chemistry is concerned, pickling salt is almost identical to sea salt and to other culinary salts like kosher salt. While excessive salt intake does have some serious negative health effects such as a contribution to high blood pressure and heart disease, some salt is essential for good health. Some of the main health benefits of all forms of NaCl including pickling salt are:
- Regulation of fluids in the body: Sodium helps to maintain the proper balance of fluids inside and outside of your cells. The right amount of salt in your diet will ensure that the water you take in stays balanced with the water you excrete.
- Transmission of nerve impulses: Your body needs sodium to transmit nerve impulses including those that control your heartbeat.
- Production of hydrochloric acid: The chloride component of sodium chloride is essential for the production of hydrochloric acid, which your body uses to kill the microbes in food that cause illness.
The main use for pickling salt is for making pickles but you can use it as a regular table salt since it is just a purer form of salt. Note that if you are using it in a shaker, the finer granules make it more prone to caking. Prevent caking by placing a few grains of rice into the shaker.