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.
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!
Big John's PFI 1001 6th Avenue South Seattle, WA, 98118, USA
Monday: 9 AM - 5 PMTuesday - Friday: 9 AM - 6 PMSaturday: 10 AM - 4 PMClosed on Sundays