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A FRESH Point of View: The Earth’s Only Edible Rock

Have you ever been shopping on aisle six and wondered what the difference is between a box of Morton’s salt and a jar of Himalayan Pink Salt? Or been browsing our bulk foods and noticed some interesting salts like fleur de sel, Hawaiian red sea salt or Yakima Applewood Smoked Salt?  We have quite a number of salt varieties here at FRESH and many guests are often trying to determine the best choice for their cooking, baking or even just for serving on their table.

Salt is one of the five tastes that are detectable by people (along with sweet, sour, bitter and savory).  Not only does it enhance the flavor of food but it also can be added to a dish for its texture as well as its ability to bring out aromas.  There are two main types of salt – rock salt and sea salt.  Rock salt is mined from the earth and sea salt is harvested from ocean waters.

The easiest way to think of salts is to break them down into three categories: table salt, regular sea salts and kosher salts, and finishing salts. I suggest that our guests try to keep all three around: table salt for baking, kosher/sea salt for cooking, and finishing salt for serving.

The most common type is what is known as table salt which is often iodized and is used for baking because of its fine crystals which dissolve quickly.  For cooking, sea salt is superior. There are many price levels and flavors of sea salt available but for everyday cooking, a basic sea salt will work just fine.  Like sea salt, kosher salt is preferred by chefs for cooking because it has no additives and tends to leave a more salty flavor in the food. The flakes of kosher salt are a bit lighter than sea salt, so kosher salt is often preferred for seasoning sautés, brining meats, and salting water. Kosher salt is also particularly useful in preserving, because its large crystals draw moisture out of meats and other foods more effectively than other salts.

Finishing salts are the upper echelon of sea salts and should be used only on finished food, not while cooking. Fleur de sel is an artisan, hand-harvested sea salt, with smallish crystals, often pale gray. It has a subtle flavor and is especially delicious sprinkled on dishes right before serving or to add an edge to sweet goods like caramel.