In Search of Salt
Written By: Kathryn Sussman
It seems the salt world gets more interesting every year as fine retailers make it easy to help you broaden your horizons and experiment with different salts. The more we learn about new types, uses and geographies, kosher and table salt, the mainstays of the kitchen cupboard, seem like old news. In the interest of broadening your horizons and palate, it’s time to become better acquainted with light flaky sea salts. Salt enthusiasts recognize finishing a dish with sea salt isn’t just a matter of aesthetic or culinary indulgence.
Their crystalline structures and pastel tones bring an element of fun and variety to your cooking and presentation. It’s also one more way to take care of your health. Unrefined salts contain essential minerals like magnesium and potassium, helping to metabolise sodium in a more effective way and making them healthier than traditional table salt.
Sea Salting 101 - Getting Started:
- Finish: Instead of adding salt to food while you cook, try sprinkling a finishing sea salt over your dish just before serving. The finishing salt will add texture, flavour, aroma and visual flare.
- Go Niche, Ditch Mass: When choosing a salt, look for artisan salts that are handmade or gourmet salts that are produced in exotic locations, rather than mass-produced salts you find in your everyday grocery store.
- Palate Check: Take into account the palette of those for whom you are cooking to determine the intensity and potency of your salt-selection. This will help you decide whether a delicate fleur de sel or a coarser sel gris is suitable.
- Conversation Piece: Consider investing in a Himalayan salt slab or brick on which to serve your food. These can be purchased at a shop such as The Meadow and are just too cool.
Fabulously Global Flakes:
01 USA: Jacobsen Salt Co- On the shores of the Oregon coast, Kickstarter funded entrepreneur, Ben Jacobsen hand harvests sea salt from Netarts Bay.
02 Scotland: Hebridean Sea Salt- Move over Maldon and Cornish sea salt (both from the UK), there is a new player in town from the Isle of Lewis, one of the Hebridean Islands on the North East coast of Scotland.
03 Portugal: D’Aveiro- The 45km Aveiro Lagoon is separated by a sand dune from the Atlantic Ocean and is prized for the collection of fleur de sel along the coast.
04 France: Sel de Guerande- 2000 year old salt marsh located in Southern Brittany on the Atlantic Ocean.
05 Iceland: Saltverk- Located between two fjords on the Reykjanes peninsula produced with geothermic energy.
06 Slovenia: Piranske Soline- In the Sečovlje Salina Nature Park, on the Slovenian/Croatian border lies a 700 year old salt pan which is used to harvest sea salt from the Northern Adriatic.
INTERVIEW: On Salt with Mark Bitterman, Food Writer, Author and Owner of The Meadow (Portland, OR + New York)
01 When did the pendulum swing and people start paying attention to trading up in the salt category?
About five years ago, when we first opened the store, there was tremendous interest but also tremendous skepticism in artisan salt. Today, I’ve seen that skepticism completely evaporate.
02 What are the most common questions you get asked about salt?
Some of the questions I get asked frequently are: Can you really taste the difference between artisan salt and refined salt? How many salts do I need? Is artisan salt healthier than refined salt? Is it expensive?
03 As a consumer, what is the best way to demystify salt choices?
Pick three salts that you can use for your everyday cooking. I suggest Fleur de Sel or a Sel Gris for all purpose cooking. That same Fleur de Sel can also be used as your all-purpose finishing salt. Sel Gris is a great finishing salt for meats, roasted vegetables, and other roasted foods. The third salt I suggest is Flake Salt. It’s great on fresh greens or salads, and adds visual or textual pizzazz to any dish.