Modern Commentary

Torah & Spirit
Family Life






Salt and Pepper

Salt, a natural mineral called sodium chloride, is taken from underground deposits. Salt mines are generally no longer used to recover this mineral for food use. Although salt used to melt snow and ice may continue to be dug from the ground, such salt contains too many impurities for general use.

The salt we eat is called evaporative salt. It is removed from the ground by pumping water into an underground salt deposit, and collecting the liquid brine that is formed as the salt is dissolved into the water. This brine is then heated and concentrated, evaporating the water and allowing the salt to crystallize. These crystals can be grown to many different sizes. For example, the term "corned" beef comes from the use of oversized corn-like salt crystals that are used to coat and preserve the meat. The size of the crystal is determined by the manner in which it is allowed to crystallize. "Kosher" salt is merely salt that is crystallized into larger particles. Some culinary experts prefer to use "kosher" salt because it generally contains no additives (see below). Chemically, however, "kosher" salt is identical to all other pure forms of salt.  

Sea salt is generally produced by solar evaporation. It contains numerous trace minerals found in seawater, and tends to impart a slightly different flavor due to these elements.

Salt, however, may not be entirely pure. For example, it may be used as a means of delivering a necessary, but unrelated, nutrient. Goiter, a disease of the thyroid gland, results from a deficiency of iodine in the diet. Fifty years ago, nutrition experts developed iodized salt. Today most common table salts (i.e., Morton Salt) contains this nutrient in the form of potassium iodide. Potassium iodide, however, tends to degrade in the presence of moisture; in order to protect the iodine, a small amount of dextrose often is added to the salt to prevent oxidation. Dextrose is derived from corn (and sometimes wheat) starch, and therefore poses an issue for Passover use.

Other ingredients, such as calcium silicate or yellow prussate of soda, are added to table salt to ensure that it pours even in humid conditions.  These items and poses no concerns. 

Certain salts used in industrial applications, such as glycerated salts contain glycerin - which is a concern, as most glycerins are tame’ (see glycerin). Other large crystal salts may contain polysorbates; and, again, these items present issues as polysorbates are usually tame’.

Classic peppers are the fruit of the vine piper nigrum L, which grow in long pods of small berries called peppercorns. The term pepper, though, refers to a number of unrelated items. When the immature fruit from the black pepper vine is harvested and dried in the sun, it turns black. When the fruit is allowed to mature on the vine and then dried, it remains white. Green peppercorns are prepared from unripe berries that are preserved in brine. On the other hand, cayenne pepper (also known as red pepper) is actually a variety of chile noted for its pungent taste. Similarly, paprika is a variety of chile adopted by the Hungarians.

Pure pepper, no matter what type, does not pose any concerns.