Filed under: Chicago, natural, refined salt
Living in Chicago, it is almost impossible not to notice the giant “Morton’s Salt” sign brazen across the cityscape view. This is the center of a polar opposite world standing in stark contrast to Beyond the Shaker. Coincidentally, this mammoth factory is mere blocks away from my condo but surprisingly I have never driven past it…UNTIL TODAY!
As I neared the factory, that must have been sitting on at least half a city block of land, I was in shock at how large this production facility is…especially up close. Driving by it from high atop the highway that circles Chicago does not do the sheer size of the place justice. The other characteristic that surprised me was truly how much this facility was an actual factory (the way that I had envisioned at least such a salt factory to be…not being an expert, I honestly have no clue). If you look closely at the photo I shot from the car on my iphone, you will notice forklifts moving pallets around which presumably contain refined table salt in one of its stages of processing. In fact, I was partially expecting to see some little oompa loompas scurrying to and fro amongst amongst the giant salt works of the factory floor (for you info buffs, oompa loompa is defined by the Urban Dictionary as a girl/woman who wears too much fake tanning solution…which seems fitting for some reason).
We at Beyond the Shaker are not in the business of preaching about the health benefits of naturally occurring sea salts versus processed table salt. In fact, we do not even believe refined salt is in the same category, nor is it a competitor to our all-natural products. That being said/written, we do receive from time to time questions about the differences between our salts and refined table salt. And so here is our take on it: The real distinction between the naturally harvested unrefined sea salts at Beyond the Shaker (our Pure Foundation Collection) and the other stuff a.k.a., refined table salt, is in the name…simply put, refined salts endure intense commercial processing to make them more suitable for mass production and consumption.
During factory processing, rock salt or sea salt is put through a chemical transformation that strips the salt of its natural mineral content. Sea salts in their natural form can contain up to 60+ trace minerals plus countless macro-nutrients which give these salts their distinctive color, flavor and texture (not to mention potential health benefits from the mineral content).
On the other hand, the goal of such factory processing is to be left simply with a white powder that is easy to store and has an infinite shelf life. In commercial salt production, the chemical change described above occurs when rock salt is superheated driving almost all natural minerals out of the ‘salt’ leaving just sodium and chloride. Typically bleaching agents are also added in this stage of the processing to give the salt a sterile white color.
As a further step in the refinement process, anti-caking chemicals are infused into table salt to allow the salt to resist moisture content that would otherwise reduce its shelf life. Why are anti-caking agents bad (shouldn’t it be obvious that anything which is not PRO cake must be wrong?! hahaha. )? First, these chemicals interfere with the natural taste of the salt, and in fact can sometimes create a very bitter flavor which then must be counteracted by the addition of sugar to the factory processed salt. Odd but unfortunately true. Second, putting aside the fact that anti-caking agents interfere with the natural flavor of the salt, the other problem is that commonly these anti-caking agents are either alumino-calcium silicate or sodium alumino-silicate. Both chemicals can be found in household air freshners and latex paint (yummy!). There are some that say excess aluminum in the human diet can have negative health ramifications as well. Regardless, we certainly do not want these chemicals in our salt or food!
In a nutshell that is the world of refined salt for you. We are sticking with the all natural stuff, and we hope you chose to do so as well. And next time you are in the Chicago-area, feel free to drive by the Morton’s factory to see if you can spot any oompa loompas lurking amongst the vats of table salt.