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Rock salt is nothing but halite, the mineral form of sodium chloride (NaCl). It is generally colourless or yellow, but may also be light blue, dark blue or pink depending on the amount and type of impurities.
Derived from salt mountains, rock salt occurs in vast beds of sedimentary ‘evaporite’ minerals. That is, it is water-soluble mineral sediment that results from the drying up of crystalline material in aqueous solutions in lakes, sea water, etc. Salt beds may be up to hundreds of metres thick and underlie broad areas. Commercially-mined rock salt is then prepared for human consumption.
Apart from its culinary and medical uses, rock salt is also sprinkled on roads in cold climates to reduce the freezing point of water thereby preventing ice formation on roads.
How to select
• Rock salt is a large-grained, unrefined salt. It is advisable to buy clean rock salt from a reputed store because the impurities in rock salt are generally inedible.
• Since India has a very low production of rock salt, the price of this form of salt is very high. It costs almost four times more than common table salt.
• Since it is less salty, one needs to use much more rock salt to get the same taste level as marine salt. So, the cost is higher and quantity needed is also higher—hence it is not very economical.
• So, although it is readily available in stores, it is used mainly during fasts only.
• Rock salt is used as a condiment and preservative in Indian cuisine, especially during fasting days.
• It adds a great flavour to chaats, chutneys, raitas and many other savoury Indian snacks and vegetable preparations.
• Its coarse texture makes it easy to pick up and sprinkle on food during or after cooking.
• Homemade ice-cream recipes often instruct you to sprinkle rock salt on the ice surrounding the cylinder filled with the ice cream mixture. Salt makes ice melt faster, and the resulting salt and water mix freezes at a lower temperature than ice alone. This makes the ice-cream freeze faster.
• Rock salt is also used in Ayurvedic remedies.
How to store
• Store rock salt in an air-tight container; else it will coagulate.
• Rock salt does not increase blood pressure, unlike common marine salt.
• It is considered a cooling spice in Ayurvedic medicine and is used as a laxative and digestive aid.
• It is also believed to relieve intestinal gas and heartburn.
• In many ways, it is considered the best salt for the body.