Salt secrets

Join our food writers as we explore salt, the most basic and most important of seasonings

Salt

Leigh Beisch

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USING AND BUYING GOURMET SALTS

Once we started exploring salts, we got as excited as cattle trotting up to a salt lick. Good old table salt has its uses, of course, but when you've got jars of fluffy kosher salt; moist, mineral-rich gray salt; and crisp pink pyramids in front of you, why not step out a bit? Here's a sampling of our favorite fancy salts, how we like to use the more unusual ones, and where to buy them.


Our six favorite salts

  1. Diamond Crystal kosher salt, sold at many grocery stores. About $4 for 3 lbs.
  2. Most any unrefined, mineral-rich sea salt such as sel gris, sold at many grocery stores.
  3. Maldon sea salt. Crisp, delicate, flaky pyramids, sold at many grocery stores and through SaltWorks. $6.50 for 8.5 oz.
  4. Murray River Australian flake salt. Pretty pink pyramid flakes sold through SaltWorks and The Meadow (called Murray Darling Finishing Salt here). From $6.25 for 2 oz.
  5. Halen Môn sea salt with Taha'a Vanilla. Welsh flake salt blended with Tahitian vanilla for a tantalizing aroma and flavor, sold through The Meadow and Market Hall Foods (888/952-4005). From $12.50 for 2 oz.
  6. Japanese Iburi-Jio cherrywood-smoked salt. Aromatic, fine-textured, and delicately smoky sea salt sold by Market Hall Foods (888/952-4005) and The Meadow. From $18 for 3.5 oz.


Our favorite uses for unrefined sea salts


Our favorite uses for flake salts

 

 

Our favorite uses for flavored salts


SALT SOURCES

1. Most grocery stores sell Diamond Crystal kosher salt.

2. At The Meadow in Portland (3731 N. Mississippi Ave.), self-proclaimed "selmelier" Mark Bitterman and his wife, Jennifer Bitterman, sell more than 70 varieties of salt, including some more unusual finds.

3. SaltWorks, based in Woodinville, Washington, sells 50 varieties, including naturally derived flavored salts in their Fusion line, at fine cooking stores, Whole Foods Markets, and online.

4. Napa Valley chef Holly Peterson imports hand-harvested gray sea salt ($14.50 for 3/4 lb.) and fleur de sel ($14.50 for 1/4 lb.) from Brittany and sells it under the label Sea Star, available online and at Whole Foods Markets.

5. Hawaii Kai Corporation makes Soul of the Sea Hawaiian Molokai sea salts in white, red, and black; they're available online and at Whole Foods Markets. $19.99 for 12 oz.

6. The Pasta Shop in Berkeley (1786 Fourth St.; 888/952-4005) and Oakland (5655 College Ave.; 888/952-4005) and its online store, Market Hall Foods, carries Halen Môn sea salt with Taha'a Vanilla and two outstanding Japanese salts, Japanese Iburi-Jio cherrywood-smoked salt and Amabito No Moshio ($12 for 3.5 oz.), a sea salt with subtle kelp essence and a texture like soft snow.

7. Northern California–based Xroads Philippine Sea Salts sells hand-harvested Ilocano Asin (a moist white sea; $10 for 5 oz.) and sugpo asin (a moist pink sea salt that gets its color and slightly briny flavor from shrimp; $12.50 for 5 oz.) in handmade woven nipa-palm baskets.

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