There are a lot of smoked salts on the market today, no doubt about it. There are salts of every shape and size and flavor and country of origin. What’s all the hype about? Well, for one, smoked salts are a fantastically easy way to add huge amounts of flavor to your food. They add pops of smoky intensity wherever they’re sprinkled, often boosting notes of umami and making a dish really sing. They can be used to increase smokiness of a dish already smoked – like steak, salmon, or ribs. Or they can be used to add smoked flavor where there was otherwise none. Dishes like sliced raw tomatoes, striped bass crudo, and chocolate ice cream with a rich brown butter caramel sauce.
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 Guerande, a medieval town located in the 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.
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.
The true beauty of this salt is in its versatility. You may immediately think of putting it on smoked or grilled foods – which is a great place for it! But where this salt really shines is on foods that don’t already have those smoky/grilled characteristics. Think for instance about oven roasted vegetables – a little sprinkle of Beechwood Smoked Salt, and suddenly it’s like they were roasted over an open fire! Or perhaps a few crystals on a rich chocolate pudding. The smoky salt would play beautifully with the sweet cocoa notes of the pudding. Finally, consider a little bit of the Smoked Beechwood Salt on crudo or raw fish preparations. The two make an incredible combination - delicate flavors of raw fish and intense smoky salt crystals are a match made in heaven!
Whatever salt you choose, just be sure it’s a quality product. There are a lot of poor knockoffs out there. The smoked salt you choose should be a natural product that adds texture, beauty, and unparalleled flavor to your dish!