If you've ever walked through the spice aisle of your grocery store and found yourself mystified by the different varieties of salt on the shelf, you aren't alone. That pink salt might be pretty, but what on earth do you do with it?
Don't let them daunt you - here's a quick run down on what you need to know about those crystals and how they can help improve your next culinary creation:
Distinct from its ubiquitous cousin table salt (which also contains a lot more sodium chloride), Kosher salt originates from either the earth or sea, and is named for its use in the preparation of Jewish kosher meats. It features larger, coarser crystals and has a mild flavour, which makes it an excellent all purpose salt.
Sea salt is made by evaporating seawater, and generally features larger, coarser crystals than table salt.
Because the process of harvesting sea salt is complex and time consuming, the result can be rather pricy. Rather than cook with them and waste their visual appeal, reserve them for your finishing touches, where their distinct colours, textures and flavours can really be appreciated.
Fleur de Sel
Fleur de sel (which translates to “flower of salt”) is considered the cream of the crop when it comes to sea salts, and is also one of the most expensive. Why?
Found in the same region of France as Celtic sea salt, fleur de sel is harvested by maually scraping the top layer off the salt before it sinks to the bottom of a large evaporation pond. Delicate and irregularly shaped, the crystals dissolve gently, and beautifully enhance the flavours of pork, fish, and vegetables.
Hand-mind from ancient deposits in the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan, Himalayan salt is rich in minerals and believed to be one of the purest salts available. Colours range from pure white to shades of pink and even deep red. Cut into slabs it is frequently used as a surface for serving foods, and due to their ability to hold specific temperatures for extended periods of time, these slabs can be used for anything from serving ice cream to cooking vegetables.
For those cooks looking for a more simple application, Himalayan salt also rocks as a finishing salt, or as a cocktail rim.
Also known as canning or preserving salt, pickling salt is pure granulated salt that, unlike table salt, does not contain anti-caking ingredients, which can turn the brine cloudy, or additives, like iodine, which have a tendency to turn pickles dark.
And while it may be true that we could benefit from reducing our overall sodium intake, the good news is the salts mentioned above (excluding table salt) are all-natural and, in moderation, a lot better for you than what you'll find in processed foods.
Hawaiian sea salt
Fine or coarse, Hawaiian sea salts are most popularly either red (made by mixing white sea salt with alaea clay, a native Hawaiian volcanic clay rich in iron and historically honoured for its beauty and health benefits, and spiritual properties), or black (often called volcanic, which are made by combining activated charcoal to sea salts to achieve the dark colour and detoxifying properties).
Traditionally used for seasoning authentic Hawaiian dishes like Kalua pig, try Hawaiian sea salts the next time your roasting or grilling meat.