Tuesday, August 19, 2014
How to Get Himalayan Pink Salt Cheaper Than Stores- Turning a Salt Hunk into Usable Salt
Salt is one of those other things that are generally consumed in the refined form, so that the salt you eat is stripped of all its nutritional benefits, pretty much, and then has chemicals added to it, like free flowing, anti caking agents, etc...
I have heard about the benefits of Himalayan pink salt, how it includes in it over 84 different minerals and trace elements, but unfortunately, the cost of it is daunting. At Iherb, Himalayan Pink Salt usually costs a couple of dollars for less than half a pound - the cheapest I've seen is $5.93 per pound, plus shipping.
So I bought it just a few times and used it sparingly, though would like to use it more often.
A reader sent me an email, saying that in equine stores, they sell giant blocks of Himalayan pink salt, called Himalayan salt licks, and that if you buy those and grind it up, you can get Himalayan pink salt for much cheaper than what they sell it for in the health food stores.
So, I did my research.
First off, I wanted to find out if the stuff they sell for horses is the same exact Himalayan pink salt they sell for people, if they're both pure salt.
Then I wanted to find out if its safe to use "horse salt" for people.
For this, I contacted some companies that sell horse salt licks, and they told me they couldn't guarantee that it would be prepared with the same standards as it would have been if it was meant for food. But they also told me that stuff they sell as bath salts are food grade, they just label it certain ways for customs, etc...
So, its "politics" and technical issues... and in short, I'll take what they're saying with a "grain of salt" (pun certainly intended). After all, this is a solid block of salt, sliced out of the mountain. It's not like it's being mixed with other ingredients, chemicals, etc... It's solid salt, no different for animals than for people. At most, it might have touched something that it might not have touched had it been designated for human consumption, but a salt block is washable...
In short, after my research, both contacting companies and doing research as to how Himalayan pink salt is mined, I feel confident enough that these Himalayan salt licks are fine for human consumption.
But the real question is- is it cheaper?
For this, everyone will have to do their own calculations, based on how much shipping of various sized blocks would cost to their location. I had to pay for overseas shipping, so that affected my price. For me, I decided to buy 2 salt blocks (labeled 4.25 kg each, but actually weighing 22 lbs total) for 25.1 British Pounds each, ($42.20) which worked out to be 42.6 British Pounds total, or $71.63 including shipping. This worked out to $3.25/lb, one half the price of the cheapest stuff on iherb, being sold at $5.93/lb. (I ordered 2 salt blocks at once, to get a discount on the shipping.)
Bear in mind that I don't live in the US, so I pay quite a lot extra for shipping, etc...
It seems that the cheapest salt block per pound to buy in the US is this one, which works out to $20.64 (including shipping) for 10-12 lbs, working out to roughly $2 a lb, one third the price of the cheapest Himalayan pink salt from Iherb. (You might be able to find something even cheaper on Amazon or Ebay, especially if you qualify for free shipping. Or you can look in an animal feed store in person, so you don't need to pay for shipping.)
So yes, from a financial perspective, it definitely is worth it to buy a salt lick and grind it up to use for your kitchen.
Question is- is it too much work, take a ton of special equipment to do it, or is it easy?
Well, in short, its a little time consuming, but definitely doable. It took a drop of trial and error until I got it right, but once I figured it out, it was smooth sailing. And took no special equipment.
Here's how I did it. (With the help of my kids.)
First, take your salt lick/salt block. Put it on a table to photograph it with its packaging. Just kidding. You can skip this step.
Remove your packaging, and place it on your work surface. I used a garbage bag as my work surface, since I wanted to be able to catch any bits of salt that flaked off.
You'll probably have a rope with your salt lick, either wrapped around or strung inside, to hang the salt lick up. You don't need this rope.
Remove the rope, and if you see any fibers stuck on to the salt from where it was touching the rope, use a knife to scrape off any bits of fiber.
Then go wash off your salt. You can just rinse it or scrub it, take your pic. But don't get it too wet, since salt is water soluble and you don't want to wash the whole thing away...
Dry off your salt.
Use a hammer to bang away at your salt block- lots of chunks will start falling down.
I found the best way to do this was to hit the salt block at an angle, so that the hammer was hitting the edge of the salt block, and instead of hitting it towards the center of the block, hitting it away from the center, to help chips fly off, instead of being compacted by the hammer towards the center.
To stop chips from flying off to who knows where, and to keep as much of the salt as possible, I put the salt in a big garbage bag and held the top of the garbage bag up and over the area I was hitting the salt, so the salt just flew into the garbage bag.
Note that the edges of your salt block may be sharp enough to rip a hole in your garbage bag if you move it around too much, so you may find it best to put your salt block on a piece of fabric inside the bag, and not directly onto the thin plastic.
Once you hit off your salt and have a decent amount, collect it and put it into a container.
If you only want fine salt, you can just stick whatever you have into a coffee grinder or food processor. I wanted various sizes of salt, so here's what I did.
Put your salt into a colander with wide holes, like a standard pasta strainer. Sift.
You'll be left with something looking like this, without all the big chunks.
Then sift this salt in a mesh strainer.
Coarse salt will remain behind in the mesh strainer, and fine salt will be what came through the strainer.
You now will have three grades of salt. Big crystals, coarse, and fine.
I put my coarse salt away, some into my salt grinder, and some to use for baking.
I put my fine salt into my fine salt container, which I use for nearly all my kitchen needs.
And the big salt crystals? I stuck those in my coffee grinder until they were all fine, then I added them to my salt container.
Of course, I didn't do all the salt at once. I'd rather not. Its easier to store the salt in block form than in ground form. But as soon as I use up the salt that I've already ground, I'll do it again.
Not too hard. Not too time consuming.
And the kids had fun with it.
We even made it into a few different homeschooling lessons, like how they mine salt, about levers and getting more force in a hammer swing by holding it further down the handle, etc...
So, was it worthwhile for me? Definitely. Its much cheaper this way, and I don't mind a bit of extra work.
I'll definitely be doing this again.
Once I finish up all 22 lbs of salt.
I wanted to send a shout out to the reader who sent me this idea- very much appreciated! Thank you!
And for everyone else...
Do you use Himalayan pink salt? If so, why? How much does it cost you per pound?
Have you ever heard of Himalayan salt licks before? How much do they cost where you live? Do you think you'd be willing to do something like this, grinding up a salt lick to get salt for your family's use?
Linking up to Real Food Wednesday and Allergy Free Wednesday.