Salt is the oldest food seasoning known, as well as an essential element for human life. Salt's ubiquity often leads to the assumption that all salt is the same, but this could not be further from the truth. Salts vary a great deal depending on where they come from and the particular mineral composition of those areas. These salts are important for nutrition as they supply minerals including iodine. Iodine has been added to salt for years to combat iodine deficiency, however good-quality salt that has not been further refined contains naturally-occurring iodine in addition to several other essential minerals.  

What we know of as iodized table salt is a more refined salt that tends to have a much saltier, almost burning flavor. Furthermore, the shape of table salt crystals is such that you need to use a lot of it to achieve that flavor. Good quality sea salt or unrefined mined salt (like the Himalayan) have differently-shaped crystals with more surface area, providing more flavor with less salt than if you used table salt. These different shapes also provide a variety of textures that can enhance a dish almost as much as the flavor of the salt itself. Oftentimes these larger crystals are used whole since they dissolve so  rapidly, but they are also perfect for use in a grinder or to be crushed with a mortar and pestle. Flake salt however, should not be ground because its texture and rapid rate of dissolution is an important characteristic.  

Sea salt is harvested by evaporating water so that crystals form. There are a few different ways that this can be achieved but the basic idea is the same. Fleur de Sel (flower of salt) is like the cream that rises to the top of the milk. Fleur de Sel is the very top layer of salt crystals that form and is thus more scarce. Salts that are harvested from the Himalayas or the Andes come from deep deposits where ancient seas and salt lakes once existed. The salt crystallized around 200 million years ago (that's the Jurassic Period, folks!) and have been covered in volcanic lava ever since. The pinkish color of these salts is a result of the iron oxide content. Flake salt occurs naturally and can also be achieved by a variety of evaporation methods, resulting in shapes that can range from pyramid shapes to various sized shavings. Salt flakes are usually smaller by weight than other salt crystals, but have a greater surface area, providing a stronger flavor while melting very rapidly. 

At PFI we have recently started carrying a number of different salts in bulk in addition to the usual ones we carry in packages. The following is a list of some of the new salts we have and their unique characteristics.  

  • Italian Sea Salt:  This is the standby. It is a great, inexpensive salt for all purposes. It is nice and salty, but without the burning bite that ordinary table salt has. We have it in both coarse and fine crystals. The coarse crystals are perfect for a grinder. 
  • Guerande Sea Salt: The most famous sea salt comes from this region in western France. It is harvested using the traditional Celtic methods in which only wood tools are used. Guerande sea salt has a gray color and quite a bit of residual moisture. It has a bright yet mellow flavor and a good crunch. 
  • We have a Guerande Fleur de Sel, regular coarse crystals and super-fine "velvet".  The velvet feels like pastry flour and is ideal for popcorn, nuts or French fries. Do not use this in a grinder. It has too much moisture to grind properly. Use whole or crush it with a mortar and pestle.  
  • Murray River Flake Salt:  The Murray River is Australia's largest river, running through the southeastern part of the continent before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. This is one of the more rare and unique salts that is derived from underground basins rather than pools on the surface. It has peach color from the carotene in the algae that lives in there and a mild flavor. This is a fantastic finishing salt that melts on the tongue almost instantly.  
  • Cyprus Flake Salt: This Mediterranean sea salt has huge, flattish, pyramid-shaped flakes that are ideal for finishing. It provides a rush of saltiness that disappears as quickly as it is crunched.  
  • Bali Pyramid: Unlike the Cyprus flake, this Indonesian sea salt is in the form of tiny, hollow pyramids. It is a little bit mellower as well and is a great finishing salt. Like the other flake salts, this can be crushed in the fingers or simply used whole.  
  • Aguni: This Japanese sea salt is derived using a complex process involving filtering the sea water through bamboo leaves. It is rare and expensive, but very good. The crystals are tiny and the flavor is well-balanced.  
  • Alaea: Iron oxide in the native red clay gives this Hawaiian sea salt its striking reddish-brown color. It is very rich in minerals and has a flavor that begins intensely and salty, then finishes clean and mellow.  
  • Hiwa Kai Black Lava: The black color of this Hawaiian salt comes from activated charcoal. It shares the flavor profile of the Alaea salt to a great degree.  
  • Kala Namak Black Salt: Probably one of the most unique salts available. Kala Namak is an Indian salt that is very mineral-rich. It is a purplish color and it has a pronounced sulfur aroma and taste, like a hard boiled egg and is essential for certain Indian dishes.  
  • Bolivian Rose & Himalayan Pink:  These salts are mined from deep within Andes and Himalayas. They are considered some of the purest salts since they have been protected by lava deposits for millions of years. Their flavor is very bright and clean and both have a high mineral content. This is the type of salt you see in slabs and in large chunks as well.  

In addition to these bulk salts, we also carry a variety of salts in different sorts of packages from several different countries. We carry the famous Maldon flake salt, a very nice Swedish flake salt and a Sicilian salt in very large chunks that crushes or grinds perfectly. These are just some of the more notable ones among many, many others. We will continue to experiment with different salts from all over the world as we see what we all like the best and what sells the best. Please come check out this newly-expanded section and take a salt tour!