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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Know Your Salt - Part 2

In the last post we talked about finishing salts including sea salts. They are really fun to explore and taste the differences between each salt and the impact on your food. 

This time we are going to explore flake salts, flavoured sea salts, shio salt and rock salts.  All these can enhance your dishes with the finest flavours, colours and textures.

Flake Salts

These crystals of sea salt are reminiscent of snowflakes or pyramids. Salt brine from the sea, produced by natural evaporation, is slowly heated in an open evaporating pan, forming pyramid shaped salt crystals.  Flake salt is light and delicate.  It is available in several flake sizes and comes is some wonderful hues such as Cyprus Black Lava salt or apricot coloured Murray River pink salt.

Flake salt is a perfect finishing salt for all types of food. It gives a subtle crunch and wonderful flavour explosion to salads without overwhelming the greens’ natural flavours.

Flavoured Sea Salts for Finishing

Hawaiian Sea Salt

The Hawaiian Islands are famous for two distinctive sea salts.  

Alaea sea salt is made by adding alaea—volcanic red clay, which enriches the salt with iron oxide and gives it a unique reddish hue.  Alaea is traditionally used as a table salt and a cooking salt for authentic Island dishes such as the pork dish Poke. I think it has a bit of a tang and is great on fruit such as pineapple.

Black Hawaiian salt (Hiwa Kai) is a beautiful ebony sea salt produced by adding activated charcoal to the salt.  Although activated charcoal is known for its detox properties. Hiwa Kai comes in coarse crystals and is great on many dishes.

Smoked Sea Salt

Another great finishing salt, smoked sea salt is produced by either hot or cold-smoking the salt with hardwood. The flavour depends on the length of time the salt is smoked, the type of salt, and the type of wood used.  Smoked salt flavours range from grill char to caramel sweetness.  They will give your popcorn a gourmet flare.  They are grand finishes for meats and seafood and can be used in cooking some dishes.  

Some great smoked salts include Yakima Applewood, Salish Alderwood, Bonfire Extra Smoked and Fumee deSel Chardonnay Oak Smoked.

Infused and Flavoured Sea Salt

These intriguing salts are combined with herbs, spices, and even chocolate.  Flavoured salts are recommended for use as finishing salts, rather than cooking salts. Infused salts are fun to experiment with.  Try Black Truffle if you want a woody, garlic flavour. Or, Thai Ginger if you would like to season with the flavour of salt and fresh cut ginger. 

Shio Salt

Shio Salt is made by a traditional Japanese method.  Sea water is first evaporated over a fire and then the salts are crystallized over the fire.  Shio salt has fine crystals and brings a clear, crisp taste to food.

Kosher Salts

Kosher salt refers both to a certain flake salt used in the preparation of kosher meats and to salt certified as kosher by official kosher certification agencies.

Mineral Salts or Rock Salts

The term mineral or rock salts refers to salts that are mined from under the ground rather than harvested from the water. Although rock salt must be quarried, it is really sea salt produced eons ago by ancient oceans which have since dried up.

Mineral salts can provide important trace nutrients to the body, such as zinc and phosphorus.  

Great rock salts include Kala Namak, Bolivian Rose, Peruvian Pink, and Himalayan Pink salt.

Kala Namak

Also known as Sanchal, or Black Salt, Kala Namak comes from India. This unrefined mineral salt has a sulfuric aroma and taste, which makes it perfect for adding egg-like flavor to vegan tofu dishes.  Although it is called black, it is really a grayish-pink hue with a pearly sheen. 

It is often used in mango lassi (smoothies) and is an ingredient in many authentic Indian recipes.

Table Salt 

Table salt refers to the common sodium chloride salt used in most households.  Much of it is taken from salt mines and processed to remove most of the minerals, except sodium chloride. Most table salts also have additives incorporated to prevent clumping or caking. 

Table salt is available in plain and iodized varieties. While iodine is a necessary ingredient for health, especially to prevent goiter of the thyroid gland, it is needed by the body in only trace amounts and is naturally available in foods such as dark greens.

Minimally refined or unrefined sea salt has the advantage of containing vital minerals needed by the body and is recommended by many health experts.

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That’s the end of our journey on salts.  We would love to hear your thoughts about your favourite salts and recipes. 

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