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FRESH In: Salts of the Earth

If you thought salt was just salt, you haven’t been keeping up. Chefs have now moved beyond sea salt and kosher salt – prized for their pure, clean flavor and large, flaky crystals – to even more gourmet varieties.

Chefs like exotic salts for the subtle flavor, extra crunch, and dramatic flair they can add to a dish – but certain salts really do work best in certain dishes, and some may even have extra health benefits.

FRESH sells several kinds of specialty salts in our bulk department. Curious about what’s what? Here’s a primer:

Fleur de sel: An artisan, hand-harvested sea salt, with smallish crystals, often pale gray. Subtle flavor; especially delicious sprinkled on dishes right before serving or to add an edge to sweet goods like caramel.

Applewood smoked sea salt: If you liked applewood smoked bacon, you’ll love the savory taste of this flaky salt, flavored by being smoked with the wood of the fruit tree. Especially good with pork products or shellfish.

Hawaiian red sea salt: This salt is harvested from Hawaiian reefs and then mixed with a volcanic red clay called alaea, which gives it the reddish color, and left to air-dry. The clay adds a mellow flavor and a host of minerals that other salts don’t have.

Hawaiian black sea salt: Sometimes called lava salt, these dark crystals are a blend of sea salt, sourced from pools formed by lava flows, and purified volcanic charcoal. Some say the charcoal provides nutritional benefits, including serving as a digestive aid; it also imparts a slightly smoky flavor. Dramatic appearance if used tableside or to finish a dish for serving.

Pink Himalayan: These beautifully hued crystals – ranging from rose to pink to pinkish-ivory – are actually a form of rock salt. The color comes from traces of iron oxide; chefs prize it for its large, crunchy crystals.

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