While it may be hard to imagine right now with a chill still in the air, spring is right here. Most home cooks agree that avoiding the oven or even the stovetop in the heat of the season is one of the best ways to beat the heat. Unfortunately, that often corresponds with lazy cooking and food that doesn’t have much flavor. Well that’s just sad! And certainly not the way it should be. Even food that doesn’t involve a stove can be delicious, exciting, and flavorful. One of our favorite spring combinations is freshly sliced watermelon and Beechwood Smoked Salt.
The combination couldn’t be easier to pull off, and can be as simple as a little sprinkle over some melon or a more elaborate salad preparation. For something a little more involved, dress the sliced cubes of watermelon with a citrusy vinaigrette and some crumbles of salty feta. We like to finish it all off with some torn herbs like mint, parsley, and tarragon. It’s a ridiculously delicious and refreshing way to enjoy both the ingredients!
But what about the salt itself – let’s learn a little bit more about how it’s made. Not all smoked salts are created equal though, and Lafayette Spices offers one of the absolute finest varieties on the market. Many variations are on the market today, some smoked with Applewood, some mesquite, hickory, and cherry wood. Some of them are very fine and some of them are so large and coarse they would require a grinder to use them. We can say with sad confidence that some (but certainly not all) use artificial smoke flavor – the horror! Ours of course, is 100% natural smoke – applied to the beautiful salt crystals over a 10 day period!
Our 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. 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.
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.
This summer – don’t just settle for a boring piece of melon. Spice it up with a little Beechwood Smoked Salt! You can thank us later.