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Making the Most of Your Gourmet Salts
The first thing that you need to do before reading this post is erase everything from your brain that you thought you knew about using salt in food. A pinch here, a dash there - used in recipes and baked goods as a catalyst for an edible science experiment. The plain old Morton table salt that you grew up with is not the salt we are talking about here. That salt, although a good basic, is like the difference between t-ball in preschool and the major leagues. The salt we are talking about is what makes the difference between ‘good' food and ‘I had no idea you were a professional chef' food.

What is Salt?

In order to understand the complexities of gourmet salts you must first understand what salt is. Salt is a mineral (also known as sodium chloride) that is found naturally in different parts of the world, mostly the Mediterranean and other warm climates. It is mined through different processes depending on the type of salt. Most sea salt is mined where there are shelves in the ocean and water is channeled into small ponds. The water is left to evaporate over time and salt is left over. During this process, the salt is raked very carefully by hand to help in the evaporation process. Salt can range from white to black and almost any color in between. Some salts are a brilliant white, while others come in different shades of pink. Smoked salts develop a color anywhere from tan to brown from absorbing the smoke, while back salts are colored with a naturally occurring ingredient called activated charcoal. Salts also come in a variety of shapes depending on the mining process.

Finishing Salts

Finishing salts are interesting because, unlike table salt used just for taste, they are used for added texture and to make the dish more visually appealing. Finishing salts can give your food a delicate crunch before giving off a light salty taste and then quickly dissolving. These are used only at the end of the cooking process to ‘finish' a dish and are not used during the cooking process.

Flake Salts
Flake salts are an interesting type of salt because they are so light and delicate, but also take up more area than most salt. The shapes of flake salts can range from flat and rugged around the edges to exquisite pyramid shapes. This type of salt is light and beautiful and no two crystals are exactly the same, similar to a snowflake.

Cyprus Flake Salts
Flake salts, such as Cyprus Flake Salts are incredibly interesting looking. These salts are a type of finishing salt that look like small pyramids. Like Kosher salt, flake salts are very thin and add a tasty crunch to your food before quickly dissolving. Flake salts are popular because they sit on top of a dish without melting into it which gives a great presentation value. We love using it on top of vegetables, summer salads, fish, sweet potato fries and ice cream just to name a few.

Kosher Salt
Kosher salt is special because its' name can refer to two different types of salt. The first is the shape of the salt. This type of flake salt is extremely popular for its large surface (but not as large as other flake salts) area without adding too much bulk. It is used by Jewish butchers in the preparation of meat. The taste is light and clean because it is less refined than table salt. It is often used on top of pretzels and to rim margarita glasses. The second term ‘Kosher' that refers to this type of salt means that the salt has been certified by a prestigious organization and has met the guidelines of Kosher described by Jewish Law.

Smoked Salt

First off, not all smoked salts are created equal. When choosing a quality smoked salt you must look for one that has been naturally smoked, as opposed to having smoke flavor added. Our naturally smoked salts are one of our most popular categories of salts. These salts are smoked in chambers using different types of wood which give them a distinct smoky taste with subtle undertones depending on the type of wood used. The reason that everyone loves these salts so much is that they taste like "a campfire in a jar". Don't have a grill? Are the elements keeping you inside? Your guests won't know the difference after you master the use of smoked salts. We like to use these salts on almost any food that you would otherwise cook on the grill. Some of our favorites are burritos, grilled chicken, corn on the cob and mac and cheese.

Bourbon Barrel Salt
Bourbon Barrel salt is cold smoked over bourbon barrels for anywhere between three and five days until it is intoxicatingly infused with smoky flavor. The amount of time depends on the amount of smoke that is provided by each batch of wood that is smoked. The wood that is used to make this type of salt comes from bourbon barrels, which Kentucky state law says can only be used once in the making of bourbon. The barrels smoked to make our salt have held bourbon for a minimum of seven years and are always made of Oak.

Hickory Salt
Our Hickory Smoked Salt is extremely high quality and flavorful. Its flavor is added by taking sea salt and cold smoking it over Hickory wood for five to ten days. This results in the smoke seeping into the salt to change the flavor and color of the salt. The taste becomes smoky yet delicate and the color turns a deep dark brown.

Our Applewood smoked salt is cold smoked over aged Applewood for two to three days. The result is a flavor that many competition barbecuers love because of its fruity and smoky flavor. Although one of our milder smoked salts, the flavor that Applewood Smoked Salt provides is one that is perfect for your "secret recipe", especially on chicken, fish and pork (RIBS!).

Smoked Alderwood Sea Salt, also known as Pacific Sea Smoked Sea Salt, is cold smoked over Northwest Red Alderwood resulting in a clean smoke flavor. This salt was originally used by Native American Indians and Northwest Red Alderwood has been used to smoke salmon for hundreds of years. We like using Smoked Alderwood Sea Salt on salmon, red meat, creamy pasta, shrimp, baked potatoes, breakfast Tacos, stuffed peppers, poached fish, Fettuccine, sandwiches, soups, roasts, and chicken.

Mesquite salt is a less common smoked salt, compared to the salts we have mentioned previously. It is cold smoked over Mesquite wood for anywhere between five to 10 days and has a deep smoky flavor with a hint of sweetness. Mesquite wood comes from a tree that is indigenous to South America and now also grows in Texas and New Mexico. This type of wood is especially popular in Texas style barbecue and is a favorite to use when making Texas beef brisket.

Two other popular smoked salts are Cherrywood smoked salt and Chardonnay smoked salt. Cherrywood smoked salt is cold smoked over Maine Cherrywood for days until the end result is a rich caramel colored salt that had an aroma of smoke and tobacco. Chardonnay smoked sea salt, on the other hand, is a smoked French salt the uses either Fleur de Sel or Fumee de Sel salt. This is cold smoked over oak wood that was used to hold Chardonnay wine. The result is a smoky flavor with subtle hints of citrus and herbs.

Colored Salts
Some gourmet salts, although many times used for their excellent flavor and high mineral count, are also coveted for their beautiful colors that range widely depending on where they are mined. Some of the most popular are Himalayan Pink Salt, Red and Black Hawaiian Salts, Peruvian Pink Salt and Australian Salt. These salts add a touch of sophistication to any dish they are added to.

Himalayan Salt
Himalayan Pink Salt is unique because it is mined by hand in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. Experts believe that this is the purest form of salt because it is harvested from ancient sea salt deposits. For hundreds of years this salt was a highly sought after trade commodity and was brought down from the mountains and traded for goods or currency. The color of this salt can range from white to a medium pink or even red in some cases and has 84 minerals and trace elements that are promoted for its therapeutic properties. Many gourmet and home chefs use Himalayan salt as a table salt, but it can also be used in soups, stews, pasta, salads and vegetables.

Hawaiian Salts

Hawaiian salts can be used as finishing salts because their color provides a pleasing contrast with the food. Black Hawaiian salt is unique because it has purified black lava added to it which results in a higher mineral content and an earthy flavor. It can also be used when roasting food such as chicken or fish. Adding a light layer before cooking will help retain moisture while cooking.

Hawaiian Red Salt has a deep, rich earthy pink color provided by the Alaea clay that is added during the harvesting process. It is also called Hawaiian Sea Salt and Alaea salt and provides an earthy flavor to dishes. Composed of over 80 minerals, this salt is held in high regards and is used not only for food, but also for traditional Hawaiian ceremonies. We like to use this salt as a rub on prime rib roast, a garnish on top of dips and potatoes. When mixed with herbs, it can be used as a roasting salt and locks in the moisture of meats.

Himalayan salts and Hawaiian salts are not the only ones that are beautifully colored. Peruvian Pink Salt, also known as rose salt, comes from a warm water spring high in the mountains of Peru. This natural salt has been harvested for over 2,000 years. It is great to use for seasoning but can also be used as a finishing salt. Another colored salt that we love is Australian pink flake salt that comes from the Murray River. This salt is actually a light peach color and makes a great finishing salt. The water that this salt is collected from runs down from the Snowy Australian Alps into the Murray River, which is one of the most prominent rivers in Australia.

Wet Salts
Many salts are considered dry salts. This means that when the salt is mined, it is allowed to dry until its moisture content is somewhere between 0 and 0.3%. They may even go through an artificial drying process to remove any excess moisture. Some cooks even go to the extent of adding rice to their salt shakers to keep their salt dry during the humid months of the year. Wet salts, on the other hand, are the exact opposite. These wet salts are more 'moist' than they are 'wet', similar to the texture of damp sand. These salts are favored by many because they do not steal any moisture from the foods that they are used to prepare.

Sel Gris

Sel Gris is also known as Celtic Salt and French Grey Salt. It contains 13% residual moisture which will not absorb any moisture from food. Sel Gris is harvested from the French Atlantic coast region of Brittany and has a light grey color that is provided by minerals that are absorbed from clay at the bottom of the salt ponds. The flavor of Sel Gris is a complex balance of sea minerals. This salt can be used in cooking or as a finishing salt because of its size and texture. We like to use this salt on heartier foods such as seasoning meat and vegetables.

Fleur de Sel
Fleur de Sel is a French salt that is widely considered the "caviar of salts". Its name translates to "flower of salt" and has been harvested in France's Guerande region since the seventh century. These salt crystals are very light and delicate and are harvested by hand from the very top layer of many famous French ponds. Fluer de Sel lacks a strong salty taste, but brings out natural flavors in food. We like to use it on lighter dishes such as salads and fish, as opposed to heavier meat dishes. Many people consider this to be the best go - to salt for everything from cooking to finishing.

Now that you have an overview of gourmet salt, you may realize that there is almost no end to the variety of dishes and ways that salt can be used. There are many different varieties of salt, all which shine in different situations. No matter what food you are preparing, there is most likely a salt that is perfect for that specific dish.

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