Here it is… meet Fleur de sel! You two are going to get along just fine!
Think you know all there is to know about salt? Think again! Fleur de Sel is here to blow it all out of the water- quite literally. First of all, what is Fleur de Sel?? This salt is a rare sea salt – that can only be harvested from the coasts of France. Like certain cheeses and wines, it must be from a precise location and meet an exacting set of requirements to be considered Fleur de Sel.
There are two methods typically used to harvest salt for human consumption: mining and sea water evaporation. Mining involves digging deep into underground salt deposits that have been left by ancient salt water lakes, rivers, and oceans. The salt can be dug out of the ground – much like coal or other minerals. It can also be removed through a fracking process, similar to oil, where water is pumped into the ground above a salt deposit, then the salt infused water is pumped back out. Alternatively, salt can be harvested from ocean water, through a collection and evaporation process. Fleur de sel production utilizes this procedure, but the process is much more time consuming. It involves scooping thin sheets of salt that rise to the surface of shallow pools along the coast of France.
Because of the labor intense processes involved with harvesting Fleur de Sel, it is considerably more rare and therefore more expensive than average table and sea salts. It forms naturally only under certain weather conditions, and it must be skimmed off the surface by hand – using special sieves. Ordinary sea salt is made by evaporating sea water and then collecting the remaining salt.
Fleur de Sel is first and foremost, salty – but it also contains a host of other nuances that make it so special. It has a fairly high moisture content (not totally dry) and retains some of those mineral sea brine flavors. Because the cost of Fleur de Sel is fairly high, it’s best used as a garnish, rather than something you’d mix into a recipe. Plus, you don’t want to lose those beautiful crunchy crystals!
Use it to top some gooey brownies or rich creamy caramels – or even a freshly torched crème brulee. Makes a perfect gourmet garnish when added to sliced beef or lamb. Sprinkle it over a fresh summer salad, juicy ripe tomatoes, or a piece of crispy skinned fish. Any way you use Fleur de Sel is guaranteed to make your food shine. Its iconic appearance, crunch, and flavor gives a chef automatic credit – that they choose the best ingredients the world has to offer.