Sea salt has been farmed on France's Southwestern coast, especially in Brittany, since the time of the Romans. The area has the right combination of sun, wind, and lowland marshes to allow the evaporation of the nutrient and trace mineral rich waters of the Bay of Biscay. The three most prominent areas, Guérande, Ile de Ré, and Ile Noirmoutier, produce what is now considered some of the best sea salt in the world. The coastal area around Guérande has a microclimate that is ideal for salt production. Salt workers - paludiers - are really farmers, and cultivate the salt marshes by hand. They channel the seawater into a series of basins of increasing salinity, and then let the sun and wind do their work. Most evaporation takes place during the sunniest months, June, July, and August, when the paludiers continually rake their salt beds. When the evaporation process is complete, the grey salt, sel gris, is harvested. But there are special days, which occur intermittently all summer long, before the evaporation process is complete, when the wind and the sun are just right: a white bloom appears on the water - the "Fleur" - the lightest of the salts, rich with the flavors of Brittany. Aware that nature only offers this gift erratically, the paludiers quickly, gently, gather it. There was a time when they harvested only the grey salt, and the white crystals that accumulated on the surface were considered a nuisance because they slowed further evaporation. Then French chefs discovered the wonderful qualities of this salt, and a market for "Fleur de Sel" was born. Most of the salt farmers belong to a cooperative, which mixes all the salt together, the above average and the below average. Didier Aube is one of the individuals who choose to go it alone, and with good reason since his Fleur de sel is divine. Use the salt in this little sack to finish grilled meats and fish and simple or composed salads.
Culinary Salt Descriptions
How Salt Is Made
All culinary salts are derived by evaporation. Table salt is made by
driving water into a salt deposit (in a mine). This process forms a
brine which is then evaporated leaving dried "cube-like crystals that
look like granulated sugar". The salt is then refined. Kosher salt is
made in a similar fashion except the brine is raked continually during
the evaporation process. The resulting product has a light and
flaky texture. Sea salt is evaporated sea water. All salts are
nutritionally the same. Sea salt has trace amounts of minerals not
found in mined salt.
Black salt named Kala Namak in India, is really a blend of
minerals characterized by a strong sulfur odor. It is commonly
used in snack foods in North India.
Fleur de Sel de Guérande is the premier quality of Grey
Sea Salt from France. Before the evaporation process is complete
a light film of salt forms. This is harvested and sold as Fleur de Sel.
g r e y s e a s a l t
Grey salt (sometimes sold as "gray" salt) sel gris is organic
sea salt from the coastal area of Guérande, Brittany, France. The
salt is "moist" and unrefined. It remains a light grey, almost light
purple color because of the clay from the salt flats where it is
collected. The salt is not collected by machine but by hand using
traditional Celtic methods. It is available in coarse or stoneground
fine grain. It is considered by many to be the best quality salt
available. This salt has really gained fame in the main stream
culinary world in the last few of years.
Hawaiian sea salt is produced from the Hawaiian waters. A
natural mineral called "Alaea" (a red clay from Kauai rich in iron
oxide) is added to the salt to add beneficial trace elements to the
product. This natural additive is what gives the salt it's distinctive
pink color. It is said to have a more mellow flavor than regular sea
k o s h e r s a l t
Kosher salt is an additive-free coarse-grained salt. It is
required for Kosher cooking and preferred by some chefs. By
nature of it's "flake" texture it melts easily and is lighter (less dense)
than table salt.
Lite salt is a mixture of salt and another substance such as
potassium chloride. Read the label. Don't bother using these
products unless you have a medical reason to do so.
Pickling Salt - Pickling salt is fine-grained salt that does not
contain iodine or anti-caking preservatives which cause darkened
pickles and cloudy brine.
Popcorn Salt - This is just a superfine, flakier crystal version of
table salt. We can't think of any real good reason to use it.
Pretzel Salt - A large-grained salt that does not melt quickly. The
preferred salt for pretzels, salted bread sticks.
Rock Salt - Is a large crystal salt that is a slightly grayish color. It
is less refined and still contains minerals that are removed from
normal table salt. Rock salt is has a few culinary uses such as in
mechanical ice cream makers and is sometimes used a a bed for
serving certain types of shellfish.
Salt substitutes, are available for people on low-salt diets. They
contain little or no sodium normally made of potassium chloride.
f i n e s e a s a l t
Sea salt is produced by evaporating sea water. This process is
more expensive than salt produced from mines. Sea salt comes in
fine-grained or larger crystals. Many of these salts are refined and
use some of the same additives as table salt. Read labels carefully.
The crystal variety can be crushed in a mortar and pestle or a salt
c o a r s e s e a s a l t
Seasoned salt is regular table salt blended with other herbs such
as celery, onion, and garlic.
Sour salt is not salt at all but it is citric acid. It is used to add an
extra tart flavor to sour dough and rye breads. It may be used in
canning to prevent fruit from turning dark.
Table salt is the most commonly used salt. It is a fine-grained and
looks the same in appearance as fine grained sea salt. Iodized salt
is just table salt with Iodine added.