Exotic Salt Review - Who Knew?

A few years ago, I visited a four-star restaurant in Dallas, a steakhouse. My server and my menu  proudly boasted that its beef benefited from several months in a refrigerated room lined with Himalayan salt. I visited that room and enjoyed my steak, ,but It was hardly different from meat I’d consumed  in restaurants which made no claims about Himalayan salt.

 

Tube bamboo, Photo: courtesy of The Spice Lab

Until recently, I’ve had limited experience with exotic salts and have always felt that one salt was just like another.   I use kosher salt when a recipe demands it and a coarse sea salt in my salt shaker because it grinds nicely. I have seen the term fleur de sel on French menus and I appreciate that it is a higher form of salt.  And of course, like many of us, I have been reducing my salt intake.

  

All Collections, Photo: courtesy of The Spice Lab

Sea salts are a general descriptor for unrefined salts emanating from a living ocean or sea.  They are traditionally harvested in salt pools. The salt crystals form after the sea water has been vaporized by sun and wind. Rock salt might also be considered as sea salt since mine deposits of rock salt were produced from ancient seas which dried up millions of years ago.

  

The grinder, Photo:courtesy of The Spice Lab

The people who market what I call exotic salts cite many arguments against using cheap table salt and generic sea salt found in grocery stores. First, they say table salt is surface mined from large salt flats, and its beneficial elements and minerals were washed away long ago.  They also argue that tables salts tend to be highly contaminated. Generic sea salt, they claim, is subject to a long term washing out process, which also strips away most mineral content and the heat process destroys the complex micro structures of sea salt and salt water.

 

Salt, however, is, the most commonly used of all seasonings and the exotic sea salts people says their processes and products deliver the minerals and other elements that our bodies need. Sea salt, they say, gives more crunch to the bunch, so we do not need to use as much salt to receive its benefits.    

  

Himalayan salt food service, Photo:courtesy of The Spice Lab

Well, you can take all those arguments with a grain of salt—excuse the word play—but the simple fact is that the exotic (for lack of a more definitive term) sea salts taste better. That, despite my first impression, seems to extend to Himalayan Pink Salt, which is perhaps the most popular variety in the category. Obviously, many people enjoy it.

 

In this case, I shall be happy to eat my words (again please excuse the expression).  Himalayan Pink Salt, the Spice Lab explains, is found in salt beds formed in the Jurassic era, more than 250 million years ago.  It is valued for its 84 minerals and natural nutrients as well as its clean fresh taste. This variety is actually from salt mountains in Pakistan, hand mined, sorted and cleaned. The darker its pink hue, the more minerals that lurk in the crystals. Other rock salts from Spice Labs include Kai Namak Black, a mate for Indian cuisine, coming from deep mines in Pakistan, Bolivian Rose-pink Sunset salts, from the Andes, and Bergkern, from the Austrian Alps.

  

Daily Chef collection, Photo: courtesy of Hampton Salt

You may find this difficult to believe until you experience fine sea salts, but they can become somewhat addictive and fans often carry favorite salts in little containers in their purses   when they dine out. I’ve been converted by an extraordinary truffle loaded variety from Hamptons Salt. Here is owner Peter Pierce describing the origin of his firm, based on Long Island, NY.  

  

Hamptons Black Salt, Photo: courtesy of Hampton Salt

”I have always loved the sea.  Little did I know that growing up on an island would guide me to create a company with all natural products derived from the great oceans of the world. As a concerned father, I am cautious about what my family eats and once I began researching salt I discovered that most of the salt Americans consume is actually nothing more than chemicals. Refined salts are stripped of all natural minerals found in the sea and most contain potentially unhealthy anti-clumping additives, Using this wasn’t a smart choice for my family.  So I went to our cupboard and got rid of all the refined salts, including my kosher salt. This is how Hamptons Salt Company was born and since then, I’ve created an amazing assortment of all natural salts from around the world.”

 

That list includes Bali Pyramid, Cypress Flake and flavors such as. Vermont Maple Syrup, Smoked Chardonnay Oak or the almost too hot Ghost Pepper

  

Artisan Sea Salt - Cooking Salt, Photo:courtesy of Hampton Salt

Truffle salt from Hamptons Salt is the little gem that made me a convert to the cause. It is a fine sea salt dotted with powerful flecks of black truffle. The earthy, barnyard scent of those precious truffles is enough to make me salivate even before they touch down on my palate. Most recently a little bit of the truffle salt added a totally new dimension to an otherwise unexciting piece of chicken breast. After expeditions to Italy, I’ve carried home truffles protectively nestled in rice, but they never gave me the one-two punch of salt and explosive flavor I get from the Hamptons truffles in salt.

  

Hamptons Salt Espresso and Mesquite, Photo: courtesy of Hampton Salt

Hamptons Salt and The Spice Lab offer a variety of sizes and gift packages, as well as related culinary accessories. Check the websites, which list prices and stores which stock their products.


  

Peter & kids, Ownwe of Hamilton Salts

 

 

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