Salt is humble magic. It dissolves hardness. It exfoliates and clarifies, sloughing off the old and making way for the new. Salt offers tempering minerality and preserves what’s worth saving.
And, what's more, the energetics of salt attunes us to seasonal change.
In the symbolic language of Chinese medicine, all flavor has direction, and each flavor co-resonates with a web of inter-related energies in our bodies and in nature.
Acrid disperses, sour gathers, sweet moderates, bitter consolidates, salty softens.
- Huang Di's Inner Classic of Delicately Pure Questions, Chapter 22
From the perspective of this tradition, salty flavor is said to soften hardness. Salt resonates with the season of winter, the element of water, with our kidneys (referred to as the Kidney Organ Network to include the meridians), and with the emotions of awe/wonderment (balanced) or fear (imbalanced).
So, salt is not just a taste but an exploration of how our bodies interact with the world. Can we let our energy turn deeply inward just like nature does in winter? Can we be humble and seek the lowest place, like water? Can we connect with the wisdom of our inseparableness, as all water eventually converges in the salty ocean? Can we spend our reservoirs of energy (our Kidney qi) wisely, conserving and acting from our root?
You might put these flavor explorations into practice with the following Recipe-As-Ritual for Citrus Sea Salt. The result is a combination of the warmth of summer sunshine and briny ocean oneness; a solstice-time renewal.
CITRUS SEA SALT
- Basic proportions are 1+ tablespoon zested citrus peel (about 1 medium-sized orange) per 1/2 cup flaky salt.
— Salt: Choose a coarse, flakey salt if you have one (e.g. Maldon salt, fleur de sel, sel gris). Experiment: you may need to adjust your proportions to taste.
— Citrus: Choose your favorite citrus (e.g. lemon, orange, grapefruit, kumquat, lime, kaffir lime). If you can, buy organic. Wash, gently scrub, and dry completely.
- Zest your fresh citrus peel very finely (a microplane, peeler or grater works well).
- Mix the salt and zested citrus peel — about 1+ tablespoon citrus peel to 1/2 cup flaky salt. Take your time to mix thoroughly, allowing the volatile oils to meet the crystals. Avoid shattering all the flakiness (I like to infuse the mix with my intentions at this stage, especially if I’m making this as a gift). Taste and adjust proportions as desired.
- Spread your salt onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Dry in the oven at 200°F/95°C for 70 minutes or until your citrus peel is completely dry (crumbles between your fingers).
- Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit. Optional: pulse your citrus sea salt in the food processor a few times to adjust the texture and blend completely.
Save in an airtight jar for several months.
These flavor-infused salts help avoid flavor ruts and excesses by shifting your palate. Get curious about the energetics of flavor and what your system is drawn to. Here are some suggested uses:
- Blood orange sel de gris on the rim of a sparkling breakfast beverage.
- Grapefruit kumquat sea salt on dark chocolate desserts.
- Kaffir lime finishing salt on curry bowls.
- Meyer lemon salt on steamed asparagus.
- Play with adding other spices (chili, ginger, curry) or herbs (rosemary, thyme, basil, fennel).
When consumed in appropriate combinations the qi and flavors serve to supplement the essence and enrich the qi. – Huang Di’s Inner Classic of Delicately Pure Questions, Su Wen Chapter 22
1. Unschuld, P. U. Huang Di nei jing su wen: an annotated translation of Huang Di’s Inner Classic – Basic Questions, 1st Ed.
Dr. Hamilton earned her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine and Master of Science in Oriental Medicine, at National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR. Dr. Hamilton has studied Western biomedicine as well as integrative naturopathic therapies broadly and deeply. She trusts the languages of osteopathy and Chinese medicine to be loyal to the continuities in the body-mind-narrative. Dr. Hamilton has also been trained in an herbal lineage that emphasizes gathering information from the body.