Salts are way more expansive than you’d ever imagine. They can be harvested from almost all corners of the globe, and have a staggering range of appearances, textures, and flavors. Those differences couldn’t be more evident in this look at three of our favorite salts: Persian Blue, Beechwood Smoked, and Crazy Salt. While these three ingredients are all salt, their origins, production process, flavor profile, and uses couldn’t be more unique.
Persian Blue Salt is one of the rarest and oldest salts on the planet – extracted from ancient salt ponds in the Semnan province. Specifically, the salt is found in the Ergourz mountain range – in Northern Iran. These salt ponds formed over 100 million years ago – and aren’t actually ponds anymore at all, but rather fossilized crystals, or gem. The ponds have all evaporated! It’s truly incredible to ponder the age of this salt – it was around with the dinosaurs!
The shocking blue color comes from a mineral called Sylvinite – a potassium mineral that is only present in halite salts. The color occurs during the forming of the salt’s crystalline structure, as intense pressure is exerted on the salt deposits. The individual crystals fracture the light in an unusual way creating an optical illusion that makes the salt appear more or less shimmering blue. The finished salt is full of nutrients, like calcium, magnesium, and iron. Amazingly, only a few tons of this precious salt are extracted each year – making it an incredibly rare luxury!
Beechwood Smoked Salt is harvested in the Guerande region of France, a city on the western coast of the country – known for its salt marches Guerande, a medieval town located in department of Loire-Atlantique in Brittany in western France. The inhabitants are referred to as Guérandais, for men, and Guérandaise, for women. The Guérande Peninsula overlooks two contrasting landscapes: the "Pays Blanc" (White Land), because of its salt marshes, and the "Pays Noir", with the Brière peat bog. Since 2004, the medieval town of Guérande has been a member of a national network of 120 towns, the Villes et Pays d'Art et d'Histoire (Towns and Regions of Art and History). The fortified wall of Guérande is one of the best preserved and complete in France. Its circumference stretches 1434 meters.
This coarse Guerande salt is finished with a 10 day beechwood smoking process. Beechwood makes an excellent smoking wood, though it’s more typically known as a firewood than a food smoke wood. Beech is a hardwood, which means that it doesn’t produce large levels of thick smoke that come from softer woods like pine or fir. Those soft woods can also produce the potential for acrid tasting buildup on foods, and potentially harmful compounds. Beech wood provides a light smoke that is mild, sweet, and nutty. The elongated smoking process ensures that the flavor not only adheres to the outside of each salt crystal, but also penetrates deep inside for an intense, smoky finish.
And then there’s Crazy Salt. Let’s dig into what makes this seasoning so special. The spice’s base is no joke – the intensely flavored (and colored) salt is from Guerande France, a city on the western coast of the country – known for its salt marches. In these marches, salterns have been built, where workers collect up to 15,000 tons of cooking salt each year and approx. 300 tons of fleur de sel or “flower of salt” per year. The process is quite simple, tides feed the water reservoirs with sea water, where it gets trapped and begins to evaporate. That process of evaporation continues until there are only a few centimeters of sea water left. Ultimately, the salt crystalizes and produces fleur de sel and coarse salt.
But that’s just the beginning! The salt is then seasoned with six (yes you read that right) powerful spices to give it that ultimate addicting flavor. First, crushed pink and black peppercorns are added. The pink peppercorns alone are a real thing of beauty. Not actually a peppercorn at all, but rather a berry from the shrub Schinus, more commonly known as the Peruvian peppertree. Initially, the flavor is quite sweet. Those hints of sweetness give way to a complex flavor profile of juniper and spruce, spiced woodsy notes, and earthy forest flavors. The black peppercorn used is amongst the best in the world – with a bold flavor and hints of fruit, cocoa, and woodsy spices. On a spice scale, the heat index is milder than the Tellicherry or Wynad pepper cousins. It does have a distinct kick that leaves a pleasant tingling zing.
To that already potent combo, four more spices are added: Thyme, Chili, Cumin, and Coriander. These powerful spices combine to create a blend that is not only super flavorful, but complex, satisfying, and delicious! The only remaining question is, what do you do with it? That answer is easy: just about anything you want.
However you choose to salt your food, the important thing is that you’re using a high quality salt that enhances the food you’re preparing – not distract from it. You can be certain that any of our amazing salts at Lafayette Spices is a surefire way to create an incredible masterpiece of a dish!