Salt has come a long way in recent years. Since Ancient times it has been considered one of humankind’s basic commodities, prized in every corner of the world for its use in cooking, for preserving, and its medicinal qualities. It has become so ubiquitous that, until recently, most rarely gave it a second thought: salt was just salt.
The industrialisation of salt also meant that, for the most part, all types were created equal. Manufactured by the tonne and shipped off to groceries stores, the little white grains found in shakers on kitchen tables around the world are basically identical.
Most common table salt is refined, kiln-dried with anti-caking agents added - a far cry from the kind once hand-harvested by artisans. This refinement process removes any trace minerals found in salt, such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, which are derived from the environment that the salt is harvested from.
While these minerals are only found in small amounts, they are what give certain salt its character, just as different environmental factors produce different tasting wines and cheeses. By processing the salt, it is stripped down to its basic chemical structure: sodium chloride (NaCL). This is fine for basic cooking, but what about when you want a little more?
For so long, salt was just salt - simple, vital and elemental. But today, it is so much more. There is a whole salty world out there to explore. Let’s take a look the gourmet salts you should definitely try.
Today, professional chefs and home cooks have begun to differentiate between salts and utilise their unique properties for a range of uses in the kitchen. Gourmet salts are nothing like your standard table salt, differing in everything from flake size and texture, to flavour and colour. They are speciality salts, deliciously unique and perfect for enhancing an otherwise ordinary dish (or drink). There is a whole salty world out there to explore. Let’s take a look at some beautiful gourmet salts you should definitely try.
The King of Salts - Himalayan Pink Salt
Himalayan Pink Salt is the purest and arguably the most majestic of all the salts. Many consider it the King of Salts. It is an unrefined, unprocessed raw mineral mined from caves formed 250 million years ago in the Himalayan mountain range.
The salt from these mines has experienced tremendous pressure over the years, and for this reason is extremely pure. It is also packed with trace minerals like iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium, which are responsible for its gorgeous pink hue and its bold, intense flavour. It is fantastic for brining or for seasoning something with a subtle flavour, such as lean meats or steamed vegetables - a delicious alternative to your standard table salt.
The Queen of Salts - Fleur de Sel
Considered by many as the Queen of Salts, Fleur de Sel is a salt that is harvested using traditional Celtic methods in Guerande on the western coast of France. Just as authentic Champagne must come from Champagne, true Fleur de Sel must come from Guerande.
This exceptional salt is hand-harvested according to Celtic tradition and is characterised by irregular, relatively fine crystals. The smaller crystals dissolve quickly, while the larger crystals take longer, and as such, the delicate salt flavour unravels across your palate in a wave. Regarded by many chefs as the finest of all sea salts, it is favoured for its elegant appearance, complex flavour and moist texture. It is suited to all foods - from fried eggs to veggies, salads and roasted or baked meats or fish.
The Perfect All-Rounders
Kosher salt is an excellent all-rounder, and should be a key weapon in the arsenal of any chef. Its flakey texture makes it easy to pinch when cooking. This means you can distribute your salt with greater precision. It is also less refined than table salt, and thus more pure. The flakes aren’t quite as compact as table salt, meaning it isn’t as dense The larger flakes distribute evenly and take longer to dissolve, which makes it perfect for seasoning meat or veggies with your hands.
Kosher is the salt of choice for pickling and brining because it has no added anti-caking agents, which can turn the liquid brown. It is also the salt of choice for smoking as the smoke can penetrate the layers of the flakes, infusing all that smoky goodness. But don’t stop there! Kosher salt is perfect for anything that calls for “coarse salt”, and is a fantastic alternative to your standard table salt.
Sel gris is another excellent all-rounder. It comes from the same salt pans as Fleur de Sel, but is harvested using different techniques. The striking grey colour comes from the French clay lining the ponds.
This delectable all-rounder brings depth to food when dissolved in cooking, has moist crystals which don't dehydrate meat, and the coarse grain variety has a hearty crunch when used as a finishing salt. As you might have guessed, you can use it just about everywhere in the kitchen: in your sauces, on your roasts, on your BBQ, or in your desserts and baking.
Indian Black Salt
Also called Kala Namak, Indian black salt is a little deceiving; it is actually pinkish brown in colour. Made from crushed Indian volcanic rock salt, it is unrefined and full of minerals (such as sulfur, which imparts an intriguing aroma).
It is packed full of flavour too, and is perfect for a range of Indian dishes like pickles, salads, chutneys, curries and raitas. Looking for the flavour of Indian chaat in your cooking? This is what you need. It is also an excellent choice for vegans. The strong savoury flavour is reminiscent of eggs, which will impart a hard-hitting flavour to tofu or vegetables.
Cyprus Black Flake Salt
Cyprus black flake salt is a Mediterranean sea salt that naturally forms in beautifully large pyramid-shaped crystals that have been blended with activated charcoal to give it a dramatic black colour. It is a bold and powerful salt with a unique earthy flavour.
Perfect for seasoning, try it on pretzels or on bread, on fish, roast veggies, a caprese salad, frittata, haloumi, tomatoes and over fruit. Or make the most of the gorgeous black flakes as a garnish, sprinkled on the edge of a white dish.
Hawaiian Black Lava Salt
Hawaiian Black Lava salt is a naturally derived Hawaiian sea salt that has been blended with activated charcoal derived coconut shells.
This black wonder is at its best when paired with red meat, pork, fish, eggplant, potatoes, sashimi, scallops, fruit, kale, buttered popcorn and avocado. Or try garnishing the rim of your favourite cocktail with it - a bloody mary or margarita anyone?
Smoky salts are an intriguing bunch, and are amongst the boldest, most exciting ways you can season your dishes. Hand-crafted using a slow smoking process with real wood, they are an excellent way to add a smoky complexity to your dishes without resorting to the artificial bitterness of liquid smoke. They can transform your meal with minimal effort, and with a range of smoky flavour to explore, the creative possibilities are practically endless. From the robust flavour profile of alderwood to the subtle sweetness of applewood, there are so many unique dishes crying out to be made with smoked salts: get inventing!
Chilli salts are crafted by fusing the flavour of naturally spicy ingredients to sea salt crystals, and are a brilliant way to add a fiery kick to any dish.
Ranging from subtle to explosive, chilli salts can take a dish to a whole new level. They are excellent for seasoning food that might be lacking in complexity or zing. There is something for everyone too: if you like just a little bit of tingle, try the jalapeño or chipotle infused varieties, or for those who are really adventurous, try the Scorpion salt, infused with Trinidad scorpion peppers, which are amongst the most hottest in the world.
Flavoured salts are those that have been naturally infused with another natural flavour companion, creating something that is so much more than just a seasoning. No blends, powders or extracts are used, all flavoured salts are infused with fresh, natural ingredients. They can turn any old dish into a flavoured-packed, mouth-watering delight.
Need a roast garlic infused sauce, or a toasted onion stuffing? Or maybe a merlot gravy? Wild porcini butter sauce? Or a Matcha green tea white chocolate soufflé? Look no further. These salts will take you to places you have never been. Enjoy the ride and get creative!
At The Salt Box, we love naturally delicious products. And, best of all, we love helping you make beautiful food that is full of flavour.
Our gourmet salts are 100% natural with no anti-caking, free flowing additives, conditioners, allergens or genetically modified organisms. This is of the highest importance to us! Check out our entire gourmet salt range here.