Salt of the Earth and Sea

By Lauren Titus / Photography By Amy Robb | June 29, 2016
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Salt varieties
Salt comes in a variety of flavors and textures.

For something that ends up as small as a grain of salt, NaCl has had a seismic impact on history.

This compound of sodium and chloride ions is an essential element in our diet, critical to survival of life as we know it. Salt has been a form of currency, a commodity traded and fought over between countries and used as a preservative so we can eat foods that might not be in season or from our region. The word “salary” originated from the word for salt, dating back to early Roman soldiers receiving salarium argentum—salt rations. The expression “not worth his salt” is used when referring to someone who does not deserve the compensation paid for work.

The two main sources of salt are sea water and the mineral halite, or rock salt. On an industrial scale, salt is produced by one of three ways: solution mining, deep-shaft mining or solar evaporation of brine or salt water. Most table and industrial salt is produced by solution mining, where the salt reaches the surface as brine, from which the water is evaporated leaving salt crystals. The following is a list of some of the wide variety of culinary salts used for savory and sweet dishes.

salt varieties

SALT 101

French Grey
French Grey, or Sel Gris, is harvested using the traditional Celtic methods. This prized process is done entirely by hand, using only wooden tools. This preserves the pure taste of the French salt and produces a very special moist crystalline texture. The color reflects the fact that this salt retains more of the trace minerals that naturally occur in sea salt. Sel Gris is lower in sodium chloride content than average sea salts, generally containing anywhere from 83% to 87% sodium chloride. French sea salts are ideal for use on salads, cooked fresh vegetables and grilled meat.

Alaea Hawaiian Red Sea Salt
A natural mineral called “Alaea” (volcanic baked red clay) is added to enrich this salt with iron oxide. This natural additive is what gives the salt its distinctive red color. The clay imparts a subtle flavor that is said to be mellower and more earthy than regular sea salt. It is the traditional and authentic seasoning for native Hawaiian dishes such as Kalua pig, poke and Hawaiian jerky. It is also delicious on prime rib and pork loin.

Brazilian Pure Ocean® Sea Salt
Quite possibly the best-tasting sea salt in the world! Completely unrefined, the natural minerals add subtle nuances of flavor that make this sea salt superior. Pure Ocean is simply solar evaporated ocean water with no additives of any kind. Visualize the crisp blue waters, warm sun and gentle winds that naturally produce this premium sea salt. It is perfect for baking, cooking and seasoning, and the coarse grind is specially sized for use in salt mills.

Himalayan salt is a pure, hand-mined salt that occurs naturally deep within the pristine Himalayan Mountains. Crystallized over 200 million years ago, ancient sea beds were protected from modern-day pollution, lending to the belief that Himalayan pink salt is the purest salt to be found on Earth. It contains more than 84 elements and trace minerals that are the same found in our bodies. Use it as a replacement for your table salt, liberally in pickling brines or try your hand at salt-roasting fish or chicken for a moist and flavorful result.

Cyprus Black Flake Lava
Cyprus Black Lava flake salt is simply Mediterranean flake salt mixed with activated charcoal. The dramatic color and texture makes it a beautiful finishing salt for roasted vegetables, soups, stir-fry and grilled dishes.

Ghost Pepper
With a taste only for the very daring, this is the hottest salt in the world! Made from pure, unrefined sea salt and the Naga Jolokia pepper, this salt has a spicy-hot flavor that is without compare. This pepper, also known as the King Cobra Chili after one of the most venomous snakes in India, has a blazing heat that is out of this world. For some flaming flavor, sprinkle over chicken wings, chili or your fajitas, but beware: This salt bites back!

Alderwood Smoked
This Pacific sea salt combines traditional alderwood flavor with sea salt to create a most unique and beautiful spice to use in any of your favorite recipes, both on and off the barbecue. Slow smoking over real alderwood results in an authentic, clean smoke flavor with no artificial coloring or flavoring. In fact, Northwest Red Alderwood has been used to smoke salmon and other meats for hundreds of years, making it a true Northwest tradition.

Indian Black
Kala Namak or Black Salt is a special type of Indian mineral salt. It is actually pinkish grey rather than black and has a very distinctive sulfurous mineral taste (like hard-boiled egg yolks). Vegan chefs have made this salt popular for adding an egg flavor to dishes like tofu scramble and tofu “egg” salad. Black Salt is used in Indian cuisine as a condiment and is added to chaats, chutneys, raitas and many other savory Indian snacks.

Espresso Sea Salt
A fusion of sea salt and roasted espresso beans, this salt is a delicious addition to desserts—think salted caramel brownies, or a rich chocolate torte. It is also pairs wonderfully with red meats, adding flavor to prime rib or burgers. Bring it to your cocktail hour—rimming glasses of, say, chocolate martinis.

Salt descriptions above provided by Martha Smith, Green Man Gourmet

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