Salt is more than a simple seasoning. Even before recorded history, salt has played an important role in religion, global trade and commerce and, of course, cooking. In ancient Rome, salt was so highly valued that it was worth its weight in gold and was used as payment to soldiers. (In fact, the word “salary” derives from the Latin word for salt.)
Travel with Salts from Around the World
From salt deposits in ancient sea beds high up in the Himalayas to famous salt ponds in Sicily, Italy, we have salts from all over the world. Our all-natural sea salts are harvested from waters all over the globe—from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, the Southern Ocean to the warm waters of the Mediterranean.
You can travel to France with a sprinkle of grey sea salt, or taste the tropical waters of Indonesia with Flower of Bali. or add the flavor of Hawaii to Kalua pork, all in the comfort of your kitchen with our range of specialty salts.
Salts are harvested in different ways. Ocean waters are funneled into ponds allowing the sea water to slowly evaporate under the sun, leaving behind pure sea salt. Sea salts are often harvested by hand with the same methods and tools as have been used for centuries. Some salts “bloom” on top of ponds and are gently, carefully pulled from the water. These unique, young crystals are often called the “caviar of salt.”
How and where salt is harvested affects its color, taste, texture and mineral content. Salts range in color from pure white to pink, gray to dark red and even black (with the addition of activated charcoal.)
Sea Salt, Table Salt, Mineral Salt, Rock SaltWhat’s the Deal with All These Salts?
Salt is a chemical compound of a base and an acid and comes in many forms. The most well-known, of course, is salt: sodium chloride (NaCl). Different base/acid combinations make different types of salt: magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt), sodium carbonate (baking soda), magnesium chloride (road deicer), sodium nitrate (smoke bombs, rocket propellant), potassium nitrate (gunpowder), and so on.
The sodium in salt is an essential dietary element for humans, animals and even some plants. Natural and unrefined sea salts and mineral salts (aka “rock salts”) also contain trace amounts of minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, sulfur, phosphorous, bromine, zinc and iron.
Table salt is chemically refined (stripped of its trace minerals) and is almost always mixed with anticaking agents which often contain aluminum and silicon.
Though it can still season your food, pure sodium chloride just doesn’t live up to the potential of natural sea salt in taste, texture or rich trace mineral content.
Cooking with Salt
In addition to using salt for trade and currency, Romans also seasoned their fresh greens and vegetables with salt. Salt also remains one of the oldest and most effective preservatives. Indeed, the words “sauce” and “sausage” are also derived from the word salt. Before modern technological advancements to process and can foods, salt was essential for curing meats and fish, and extending the life of other perishable foods.
Salt can help you get a savory crust on seared meats while also making tougher cuts more tender by breaking down proteins. It helps tighten the gluten structure of breads, aids the caramelization of sautéed veggies and enhances the overall flavor of a dish.
A salt’s salinity, taste, texture, aroma and color depends on where it’s harvested and how it is processed. These differences make salt truly integral to every step of the cooking process and every recipe. Moist, crunchy, coarse crystals are ideal for roasting and grilling because they help to retain meat’s juicy flavor and moisture throughout a long cooking process. Flake salts, on the other hand, dissolve quickly and are ideal for baking and everyday cooking when you don’t have a lot of time to wait around as the salt dissipates.
Flakier salts have a delicate but noticeable crunch, making them a good way to finish different recipes too. A sprinkle of a large flake salt on a caramel, for example, gives a crunchy contrasting texture to the smooth, chewy candy and just a pop of salt before it quickly dissolves on your tongue. Fine grain salts are versatile, perfect for everyday use and utilitarian tasks like salting pasta water or using in your salt shaker on the dinner table. Velvet powder-like grains of salt adheres beautifully to snack foods, perfect for coating tortilla chips, roasted nuts and especially on popcorn.
What is finishing salt?
Finishing salt is any salt you put on food after it is prepared. By using less salt--or no salt at all--while cooking, then finishing with a salt that works best with the food you are eating, you bring the salt crystals and the food into much more intimate contact with your palate. The result is a radical improvement in the flavors and aromas of your food, not to mention textures and appearances.
What is gourmet salt?
Gourmet salts have crystal, mineral, moisture, aesthetic, even aromatic qualities that make using them part of the creative process of cooking. In the loosest definition, gourmet salt is a term for any salt that is not refined sodium chloride kosher salt, table salt (with or without additives), and inexpensive sea salts are not gourmet salts. There is an irony in the term gourmet salt because prior to the industrialization of salt production in the mid 1850s, there was no salt that did not have special crystal, mineral, moisture, and aesthetic qualities. In the stricter sense, gourmet salt is any salt that costs more money because it requires a higher standard of production, or because it comes from an exotic place, or both.
What is artisanal salt?
Artisanal salts are made by hand, usually using traditional methods. As the term implies, the key is that the production requires the labor of a skilled worker. Artisanal salts require specific knowledge of the resources, conditions, and methods for making a salt that has specific qualities that make it great for using on certain types of food. Anything coming out of machines that are largely automated is not artisanal.
Why do you stock so many gourmet salts?
N.W. Saltz offers over 30 salts from around the world. There are as many (or more) salts in the world as there are culinary traditions. Each has mineral, moisture, and crystal properties that give it specific behavior on food and unique flavors in your mouth. Finding the two or three or ten salts that will give you the most satisfaction from cooking and eating can be a life-long pursuit or it can be a relatively straight-forward process of selection. That is what we are here for.