Gourmet Salt

Salt is essential to life and has been one of the most sought after natural resources in history.

Salt has been harvested and mined since ancient times, which is a testimony to salt’s importance. Ancient Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Chinese, Africans and Indians all knew the secrets of extracting salt from the earth’s crust.

In some cultures salt was once traded as currency. In fact, at one time Roman soldiers received a portion of their pay in salt.

Throughout history humans have craved the taste of salt and have consumed it in various ways. Once used primarily to preserve food by brining, curing, or drying, ( or added to food to keep it  from tasting bland ), gourmet salts are being appreciated today for much more than their flavor boosting ability.

Savvy cooks know that adding salt judiciously changes the way that our tongue tastes food. Properly salted food does not taste salty because salt is a unifying element that harmonizes the ‘conversation’ between foods and condiments in the dishes we prepare. And today, unique salts are offering chefs and home cooks a lot more than just that.

Good salt is tasty and has flavors beyond just plain table salt ‘salty.’   Gourmet salts, especially sea salts, have distinctive  textures, colors, shapes and flavors, too.

And salt is good for us when it is used appropriately. Salt contains trace minerals that help us regulate the balance within our cell walls, but the consumption of too much salt in a diet comprised of processed foods, fast foods, and canned foods can lead to health problems.

It is easy to control salt intake when cooking food from scratch. Today, many cooks are using less salt in their cooking and are instead using salt as a finishing condiment.  How, you ask ? A little sprinkle of crunchy sea salt across a salad or atop a grilled pizza adds zest and crunch to each bite without adding a large quantity of salt to the recipe.

Gourmet salts come in all stripes and from many places: sea salts, flavored salts, smoked salts, earth-mined salts. But most often, crunchy sea salts, with their sweet, clean, briny goodness, are the staple salt of choice for chefs and connoisseurs.

When customers peruse our selection of gourmet sea salts we are often asked why one should choose one of these sea salts over refined table salt that is sold in the supermarket.

We have three good answers to this question.

1. Our sea salts are free from additives and have not been bleached.

Our sea salts ( also called solar salts) are the result of the solar evaporation of collected sea water by the natural forces of the sun and the wind. Pure and simple. This is how it works: sea water is collected in shallow salt pans that have been created along the shoreline to collect the sea water. As the water starts to evaporate and the salt begins to collect, workers carefully rake the salt deposits into stacks, turning them as they collect so that all the surfaces of the salt crystals have exposure to the sun and air. All that is left after the water is gone is to grind the salt into various particle sizes and package it for sale.

Many consumers do not realize that everyday commercial table salt is refined salt made by solution-mined evaporation of brined water.  This is how it works ( condensed version ): water is injected into underground salt deposits where it dissolves a precentage of the salt. When the water has become saturated with as much salt as it can hold, the water is brought back up to the surface and refined by one of several evaporation methods to remove impurities and to obtain the salt. After the salt is finely ground, anti-caking and free-flowing additives such as ferro-cyanide, sodium aluminum silicate and magnesium carbonate are added, and sometimes iodide is added as well.  These additives, coupled with the fine, sand-like grains, give table salt its harsh, bitter flavor.

2. Our sea salts taste better

Your food will taste better, too. Sea salt contains no additives, so there is nothing in the flavor but the taste of pure salt. While all salts are ‘salty’ in taste, sea salt also has an an underlying sweetness and clarity of flavor and is never bitter. It tastes good and fresh and clean. The colors and flavors of various sea salts reflect the place ( terroir ) where it was harvested, and local particulars to the manner in which the water was evaporated. This is similar to the influence of terroir on cheese, coffee, olive oil, tea, wine, and a host of other food items.  So, while all salt can be classified as sodium chloride, the flavor and color of pure sea salt will vary because of its origins.

Our sea salts contain only naturally occurring minerals from the sea water. And, in most cases, these salts are produced seasonally on a small scale by artisan salt producers ( paludiers ). For example, no more than 3,000 tons of our hand-raked French Esprit du Sel Fleur de Sel sea salt is made each summer, compared with the more than 1,000,000 tons of commercial table salt  produced per year from commercial salt producers.

3.  Our sea salts have interesting textures, too

Some sea salt is ground after harvesting, but the most distinctive sea salt has a unique crystalline structure ( like a fingerprint ) that will range from fine to slightly coarse. Most sea salts are slightly moist, too, which means that cooks must dip their fingers into a salt cellar the old-fashioned way and sprinkle the flakes or crunchy bits of salt over salads and plated dishes rather than shake the salt from a shaker or container. Crunchy sea salt gives food a delicious and agreeable ‘ snap ’ which awakens the palate without oversaturating it.

To order from our selection of fine sea salts, and to read more about salt, please visit our website: http://www.CooksShopHere.com

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Gourmet Salt

    • Dear Elyse,
      Glad to hear that you enjoyed my post. I too am amazed that something as seemingly simple as salt can actually be complex and far from simple. Such is the nature of most foods when one digs deeply enough to find the good stuff !

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s