Sea Salt - Gourmet Guide

June 12, 2019 | By Dave Mattingly

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Sea Salt, the most basic of seasonings, can also be one of the most exotic. Experience the difference that artisan Sea Salt can make as the final touch on an elegant dish. Hand-harvested Sea Salt from the Brittany coast adds a delicate mineral quality to grilled sole or roasted vegetables. Use a more striking, obscure variety to add new flavors to old classics, such as Himalayan Pink Salt, Smoked Salt, or Black Lava salt. Once you taste the flavor and purity of these Sea Salts, you'll never be able to return to table salt!

Types of Sea Salt: Salt is the most basic seasoning for food. Just as the soil impacts how vegetables taste in different parts of the world, where salt comes from tells a lot about its unique characteristics. Some salts have a higher mineral content, which can make them taste smoky, flinty, or even sulfurous. Most natural salts and sea salts do not contain iodine, so they do not have the chemical taste associated with table salt. Sea salt has a purity all its own, which is why it is so highly prized by chefs. Then of course, smoked salts and infused salts are in their own category.

Cooking with Sea Salt: You can find countless uses for these salts, which can be categorized into two basic types: Finishing Salts and Infused Salts. Finishing Salts are the pure, single-origin varietals often named after the region of the world they are sourced from. Infused Salts can be anything as simple as a smoked salt to a salt infused with saffron or bottarga. Keep a few simple tips in mind when using these salts and you'll be amazed at the results:

  • Color is important: black salts look stunning when crumbled over white asparagus, cauliflower, or root vegetable purees. Red salts can add a rustic finish to rice pilafs, saffron risotto, or veal scallopini.
  • You’ll get the most from high-quality sea salts if you add them towards the end of a dish or in raw preparations.
  • If you are not familiar with a sea salt, taste it before using it. Certain varieties, such as our Portuguese Sea Salt and the Velvet Fleur de Sel have an intensely salty flavor.
  • Smoked sea salts and infused salts are wonderful as simple rubs. Rubbing smoked salt on to a steak the night before give it a deep, smoky flavor.
  • Truffled Salt is perhaps one of the hottest seasoning right now. While it’s wonderful on haut-cuisine dishes such as squab and sweetbreads, try it as a way to perk up more common dishes. We happen to love truffled popcorn here!

Salt and Health: Salt plays a crucial role in maintaining the body’s ability to process fluids and move moisture through cells. Using salt in moderation is an important part of maintaining a healthy metabolism and cardiovascular health. So if you're going to use salt, why not go for the best, purest salt available?

Sea Salt Production: Sea Salt is an unrefined Salt that is produced by the evaporation of salt water from an ocean or sea. While Salt has been mined for thousands of years, in coastal areas where mineral salt is not available, Sea Salt has been produced. The production of Sea Salt has been established in warmer dry climates since the heat of the sun is key to the salt water evaporation process. When an alternate source of drying is used, the cost of production (i.e. using expensive fuel) often becomes prohibitive. As a result, most Sea Salt production is centered on the Mediterranean region and similar warm dry climates. Sea Salt production regions were historically called "salterns" hundreds of years ago, while in modern times, these locations are called "salt works". Sea Salt is harvested by directing salt water into shallow clay pans and allowing the heat of the sun and air to evaporate the water. Sea Salt’s appearance and flavor are vastly different than table salt, as Sea Salt may be sweet, flowery, strong, or delicate. Since unrefined Sea Salts are processed less than other kinds of salt, they are plentiful in minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and iodine. Available in coarse, fine and extra fine grain sizes, you’ll taste the difference when you try a fine gourmet Sea Salt.

Sea Salt History: Sea Salt has been used throughout the millennia not only as a flavor enhancer for food, but for many other uses. Sea Salt has played an important role in civilization since ancient times. Not only is Salt essential for maintaining the balance of fluids in the human body, Salt also been used in religious ceremonies as a symbol of purity, in the textile industry, in manufacturing, in soaps and detergents, as a preservative, and even as a currency. Roman soldiers were often paid rations of Salt in addition to their wages, hence today’s term for paid currency, "salary". During ancient times, Salt was an extremely valuable commodity, and in some cultures, Salt was nearly worth its weight in gold! Taxes were often levied on salt in countries such as England and France, so much that the French Revolution was sparked by French rulers developing a monopoly on salt by selling production rights to a limited few who exploited these rights causing a salt shortage! Clearly, throughout history, Sea Salt's economic importance cannot be understated.

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