Salt is one of the most sought after substances in the world for its flavor enhancing qualities. Gourmet artisan sea salt has become increasingly popular in recent years. The variety of sea salts available are almost endless. Anywhere there is salt water or where there used to be salt water, there can be salt production. Each sea salt-producing region produces salt with its own color, texture, mineral content, and flavor profile. How fascinating!
Sea Salt vs Table Salt
The main differences between sea salt and table salt are in found their tastes, texture and processing.
Regular table salt is typically mined from underground salt deposits. Various chemicals are used to mine the salt and to strip it of all the naturally occurring minerals through a vacuum extraction process. Then, anti-caking agents are added to the refined salt.
Sea salt is extracted in a way that is natural, ecological and sustainable by evaporating pure sea water in salt basins. Exposed to the unique combination of the sun and the wind, a salt crust is formed which is then harvested in a variety of unique and specialized ways. Because sea salt is minimally processed, it retains trace minerals including iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and iodine.
Compared to refined table salt, natural sea salts have a stronger saltier flavor, which means you will not need to use as much to achieve that salty flavor you desire. Replacing your refined table salt with sea salt can help you reduce your sodium intake without compromising on flavor. The crunchy textures also add a pleasant surprise to any dish. Some of the more common varieties are below.
Fleur de Sel (French Flower of Salt) is the crème de la crème of sea salts. This versatile artisan sea salt has a light and crunchy texture and pairs well with any food preparation.
Traditional Fleur de Sel is harvested off the coast of Brittany in France. Seawater is collected in estuaries then put into marsh basins or salt pans to evaporate, leaving behind the salt that was dissolved in it. During this process, some salt crystals float on the surface of the water forming a delicate crust of intricate pyramidal crystals. The salt that floats to the top is the Fleur de Sel. The centuries-old technique requires that it be harvested carefully by hand using very traditional methods and traditional wooden rakes.
Fleur de Sel is one of the finest finishing salts in the world. It can only be collected when it is very sunny, dry, and with slow, steady winds. Because of the nature of its formation, Fleur de Sel is produced in small quantities. Since it is dependent on the perfect weather conditions and is very labor-intensive to harvest, it is one of the most expensive of salts. Given its delicate flavor and light and crunchy texture, it one of the most sought after artisan sea salts by chefs worldwide.
Sel gris de Guérande is delicious as an ingredient salt or finishing salt providing a deep briny flavor. This salt pairs well with heartier foods like steak and root vegetables, lean fish, and fatty meats due to its mineral complexity. It is also excellent on breads and sweet confections such as caramels.
Sel gris de Guérande (French Grey Sea Salt/Celtic Sea Salt) is harvested from seawater in the estuaries near the town of Guérande in France. As the tide comes in, seawater is first allowed to settle in clay silt ponds where the combined effects of wind and sun form a dense brine. The brine is then channeled to shallow salt pans dug in the native clay where it crystallizes via solar evaporation to form salt.
Sel Gris contains a higher concentration of minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and potassium resulting in the light grey mineral coloring.
Flake sea salt has an eye-catching dramatic appearance. The unique hollow pyramid shapes add a crunchy flair and the salt perfect as a finishing garnish for grilled meats, roasted vegetables, and adding bursts of flavor to bread dipped in olive oil. The flakes are naturally lighter by volume then traditional sea salt. It melts quickly and blends well with other dry ingredients also making it a great choice for seasoning blends or in products such as soups and sauces.
To make the salt, seawater is taken from estuaries, which is a partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea. The brine is filtered, then put into large salt pans where the water is gradually heated. Crystals form on the surface of the water and then sink to the bottom. After the water is cooled, the salt crystals are raked, drained, and dried in an oven or over a fire.
The black variety is made by combining the natural flake salt with activated charcoal from the shells of coconuts, which is known to have powerful detoxifying properties.
Hawaiian sea salt adds an exotic touch to a variety of foods and beverages.
Alaea Red Hawaiian Sea Salt is an all-natural combination of Pacific sea salt and purified red alae clay from the island of Kauai. Alaea clay is a volcanic byproduct and rich in iron oxide giving it its red color. Indigenous Hawaiians have used pa‘akai (“to solidify the sea”), for many generations and for many purposes including seasoning and preserving foods, religious and ceremonial purposes, and as medicine.
Beautiful in color with full flavor and especially hard crystals, Alaea holds its own in hearty, juicy, or saucy dishes. The added native alae clay helps seal in moisture, and make this an idea choice for roasting meats. This salt is also great for root vegetables, corn, fish, and seafood. It is often also paired with chocolate to intensity the bitter and sweet flavors and is a perfect cocktail salt.
Hawaiian black salt (sometimes called black “lava” salt) is also made from evaporated sea water. The salt is coated with activated charcoal from the shells of coconuts, which is known to have powerful detoxifying properties.
Hawaiian sea salt describes the style of salt as well as where the salt is made. If the salt is made outside of the Hawaii, it is Hawaiian-inspired sea salt, which is also quite common.
Himalayan salt is a very versatile salt. It can be used as the primary salt for all recipes or as a finishing salt on your prepared meals, including savory dishes, desserts, and beverages. Some people even like to use pink Himalayan salt blocks as a cooking surface or serving platter.
Himalayan salt is a rock salt (halite) mined from the Punjab region of Pakistan. It is made from rock crystals of salt that have been mined by hand by skilled workers using traditional methods. Himalayan pink salt was formed millions of years ago when a sea spreading over this region dried up. It is believed that Himalayan salt is composed of remnants of the primal, original sea, as it comes from salt mines located more than 5000 feet deep below the Himalayan Mountain range. It has experienced tremendous pressure over hundreds and thousands of years and known to be extremely pure.
It is estimated that Himalayan salt contains up to 84 different trace elements and minerals. It is these minerals and especially iron which gives it its pink color.
Kala namak salt is known by many names including Indian black salt, Himalayan black salt, sulemani namak, and kala loon.
Kala namak is an Indian volcanic rock salt commonly used in Pakistan, India and other Asian countries. It starts out as Himalayan Pink Salt or sodium chloride and is then heated to extremely high temperatures and mixed with Indian spices and herbs including the seeds of the harad fruit which contain sulfur. It also contains traces of sulfates, sulfides, iron and magnesium which all contribute to the salt’s color, smell and taste.
Kala namak offers a sulphury, umami taste that can add depth to traditional dishes, vegan meals, and snacks. It has gained popularity in the west in recent years as more people are choosing vegan diets. The eggy taste and smell of kala namak is perfect for breakfast foods such as tofu scramble and chickpea omelets.
Kala namak is considered a cooling spice in Ayurveda and is used as a laxative and digestive aid.
Shio is Japanese sea salt. Japan's mineral-rich and umami-laden sea salts are key ingredients to help dishes be light yet flavorful and for making Japan's two great fermented salty seasonings—soy sauce and miso—for dishes that rely on a heartier flavor.
Japan’s sea salts are some of the most interesting in the world. Japanese salt makers have been handcrafting their salt in a very unique style for thousands of years. Different sources of seawater and types of harvesting methods create myriad combinations of taste, texture, consistency, color, and even aroma. Given the many possible combinations of seawater, seaweeds and other flavor enhancers, harvesting methods, and craft of the salt maker, there is practically a salt for each specific use when cooking, as well as a fun, beautiful, and delicious range to choose from to finish dishes.
Amabito No Moshio (Seaweed Salt) is a popular example Japanese shio. Moshio salts have the broadest range of tastes.
Shio is great with any food where the ingredients should stay front and center but the fullest complexity of flavor is desired. Shio is perfect for broth, ramen, sashimi, popcorn and steamed vegetables.
Smoked sea salt is an aromatic salt smoked with any number of select bark free woods for up to 14 days. The kind of wood used for smoking impacts the flavor, which can range from subtle to bold or even sweet. The most common choices are alder wood, apple wood, hickory, mesquite, and oak.
Infused smoked salts are popular because of their dynamic flavor profiles. They are used to enhance the inherent flavors of a dish, while also imparting a smoky taste. Smoked sea salt differs from smoke-flavored salt, as the latter contains a smoke-flavored additive, and is not classified as a natural salt product.
Smoked sea salt can be used as an ingredient salt or finishing salt. The salts are excellent on roasted or grilled meats and vegetables, barbeque, marinades, sauces and condiments, snack foods and even cocktails. They also add a natural barbeque flavor to spice blends and rubs without using additives like liquid smoke.
Infused sea salt is sea salt that has been infused and blended with other flavor such as herbs, citrus zests, vanilla, coffee, and berries, etc.
Infused sea salt blends are an excellent way to boost the flavor of any dish. The salt blends add texture, flair and a delicious finishing touch. They are great served on roasted or grilled meats, poultry, vegetables, cheese, and even desserts and confections. Infused sea salts are also great for specialty beverages and cocktail/mocktail rims.
Salflow’s gourmet artisan sea salt blends contain the highest quality of natural and unrefined sea salt and are infused with 100% organic ingredients. Our sea salt blends do not contain any MSG, soy, gluten, dairy, anti-caking agents, processing aids, artificial flavors and colors, or other additives. Our products are handcrafted in small batches and packaged locally.
Saltflow’s infused sea salt blends are a great addition to any kitchen. They also make great gifts and special event favors.