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!
This time of year, we like to use it on all the decadent summer ingredients we can get our hands onto. Think freshly shucked crab with bowls of molten butter. Or a dollop of crème fraiche just before it hits the blini. How about slices of bouncy fresh striped bass, raw and divine with a crunch of sea salt. If veggies are more your thing, what better time of year than now to hit the farm stands? Juicy ripe tomatoes just aching for a splash of salt. Or crunchy cucumbers. Or sweet tender zucchini and summer squash… The list goes on and on!
When it comes to luxury, the word means it’s usually pretty expensive. But it doesn’t always mean that. Sometimes it just means it’s rare or of unusually exquisite quality. And that describes our Fleur de Sel perfectly. An easy to find and totally affordable luxury, that you’re never going to want to go without again. This summer, do just that! Happy cooking!