You see it on the grocery store shelf under many different names: canning salt, kosher salt, sea salt, and table salt. Are they interchangeable for your canning needs?
It goes by many different names, NaCl, Halite (also known as rock salt), sodium chloride, or salt. This crystalline mineral has been used for over 8,000 years in food flavorings, trade, religious rituals, and has caused wars because of its scarcity and benefits. It has been used to preserve meats primarily for many thousands of years. It hasn’t been until the last 100 or so years that salt has been used in preserving other foods. Salt is procured from a salt mine, shallow mineral rich spring pools, or from evaporating sea water.
Fun fact: Did you know that the word salary is derived from salt? It is because, during the Roman Empire, Roman soldiers were often paid in salt.
Table Salt v. Sea Salt
So what’s the difference between table and sea salt? Sea and table salt is essentially the same thing. They maintain the same basic nutrition value and contain comparable amounts of sodium by weight. The only real difference despite sea salt boasting that it’s better or healthier than table salt, table salt is processed down into smaller granules and has iodine added. Because table salt has been processed into a much more compact salt crystal, it has a higher salty flavor than the other salts.
Sea Salt v. Kosher Salt
The difference between sea salt and kosher is that kosher salt has much larger crystal flakes ao you have to add more kosher salt crystals to get the same flavoring of table salt. There is no difference between rough sea salt and kosher salt because both are minimally processed from their natural state. Kosher salt has no additives in it and is typically used for brining poultry, salt rubs for meat, or rimming your margarita glass.
Canning Salt v. all other salts
So what’s the difference between canning salt and all the other salts? Canning salt is the purest form of salt. There is no removal of the other minerals during processing like in table salt, although canning salt contains more refined sodium crystals than sea or kosher salt. More importantly, there are no additives in canning salt; this means there are no anti-caking agents or iodine added. It also means it’s incredibly important to store your canning salt in an airtight container to keep out moisture to avoid clumping. It’s significant to note that canning salt is an excellent substitute in baking.
Because canning salt is pure, there is less sediment that will be left at the bottom of you canning jars after processing.
Fun fact: Only 6% of all salt manufactured is actually used for consumption. 12% is used in water conditioning processes, 8% is used for de-icing highways, 6% is used in agriculture, and 68% is used for manufacturing and other industrial processes
So what’s the bottom line? Can I use any salt for canning?
Table salt is the worst salt to use in your canning, but in a pinch, it will do the job. Just know that if you use it in canning, avoid iodized table salt as it tends to turn your canned goods funny shades of color that aren’t normal. Also know that if you use table salt in general, your canning liquid will be cloudy.
Bottom line – table salt: yes, if you don’t mind the cloudiness.
There are lots of different types of sea salt; I like the Himalayan pink sea salt, it has a nice flavor. Because this is a very natural form of the salt crystals, it may take some time to fully dissolve the salt in your canning process if you don’t grind it up. It’s also important to consider how much salt you need to use in its different forms. Typically course sea salt is measured 1 for 1 with table salt, but fine sea salt needs the addition of an extra teaspoon or tablespoon. (find out more at the Morton Salt Conversion Chart)
Bottom line – sea salt: yes, but you’ll need to grind it into smaller grains before use. Plus, it’s the most expensive alternative, so take that into consideration.
One preparedness blogger, Jane at MomWithaPREP.com said you could make your own canning salt, by grinding up some of the kosher salt you have on hand. She used it the same way as canning salt. This is a practical and simple way of continuing your canning day without pausing and dashing out the store for salt. Although depending on the brand you buy, some companies also put additives like anti-clumping agents into this type of salt as well.
Bottom line – kosher salt: yes, but you’ll need to grind it into a smaller form before use.
Simply put, while it is the purest form of salt around, no additives are introduced; all the hard work of grinding up sea or kosher salt is done for you. While having canning salt on hand would be ideal, you have to store it properly in an airtight and waterproof container.
Bottom line – canning salt: yes, the most natural option, store it properly for long shelf life.
Salt Shelf Life
In case you were wondering, salt in all of its forms has an indefinite shelf life. It should be stored in non-metal containers and kept away from excessive moisture. Keep those two things in mind, and you can be certain that in 10 or 20 years your salt will still be there, ready for your next canning project.
So are all these different types of salt a marketing ploy for more money and to fill your pantry shelves with four different kinds of salt? You decide.