Once upon a time, commercial salt was just sodium chloride fortified with iodine. All that has changed in the last decade, however, since artisanal salts began hitting the American market. Artisanal salts, which are also known as gourmet salts or finishing salts, showcase menus in exclusive restaurants and are increasingly found in the pantries of food-savvy consumers. Spice companies in Florida are well ahead of the artisanal salt curve.
What Are the Top Gourmet Salts?
Artisanal salts come in a variety of colors and textures. Here’s a look a look at some of the more popular finishing salts.
• Fleur de Sel: Aficionados swear that Fleur de Sel salt tastes ever so slightly of violets. This salt is harvested from evaporating seawater and derives its name from the floral spiral patterns that form on the seawater crust. Fleur de Sal has been prized as a medicine since the times of ancient Greece. Today, however, it’s chiefly used as a garnish. Most of the world’s supplies of Fleur de Sel salt come from France.
• Himalayan salt: Himalayan salt does not actually come from the Himalayas; rather it is mined from salt deposits in Pakistan’s Punjab region. It is said that these salt deposits were first discovered by Alexander the Great’s troops when their horses used the deposits as a salt lick. Himalayan salt owes its distinctive pink color to the presence of trace minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium. It can be used like ordinary table salt for cooking and preserving.
• La Baleine: La Baleine is a white crystalline sea salt that’s produced in the Provence region of France. In France, it’s considered as essential a spice as freshly ground black pepper. This gourmet salt is manufactured through the evaporation of Mediterranean sea water.
• Alaea salt: Alaea salt originates in Hawaii and derives its distinctive reddish-brown hue from particles of volcanic clay, which are rich in iron oxides. It has been used by native Hawaiians since long before the arrival of the first Europeans. Connoisseurs say that Alaea salt has less of a bite than other types of salt.