I am not a big salt eater. In fact, I am often so concerned by how much salt is hidden away in food without my knowledge that I tend to actively avoid it as much as possible. My palate has adapted accordingly, to the point where I now find even quite normal quantities of salt, such as in store-bought vegetable stock, quite overwhelming.
Every now and then, though, I have to surrender to the fact that some foods just need a little bit of salt to taste good; accordingly, and much to the consternation of those around me, I have found two artisan brands which I pressure everyone to use if salt is required.
The first is Olsson’s Redgum Smoked Salt Flakes, which are smoked for 72 hours on the Pialligo Estate in Canberra. Traditionally a Scandinavian seasoning, Olsson’s have adapted this European practice of smoking salt to suit more local palates; wood chips from the Australian redgum (Eucalyptus Camaldulensis) provide Olsson’s salt flakes with a distinctly Australian, aromatic and complex flavour, making this my absolute go-to salt. Sprinkle it on anything.
Every now and then, though, I cannot convince those around me that a pinch of smoked salt is the obvious match for [insert food of choice], and so I have been forced to find a second salt which I will whip out on occasions when a more tame flavour profile is required. And what other than the Fleur de Sel de Guerande, from that wonder of spice shops, Gewurzhaus? This French sea salt is my version of a ‘plain’, gentle salt, but of course it is no such thing; translating as ‘Flower of Salt’, Fleur de Sel is known in France as the ‘caviar’ of salts, composed of “only the youngest crystals from the very top layer of the salt ponds” to create a product which melts in your mouth with an ever-so-slight sweet aftertaste.
If you are going to use salt, I think these two should be the brands sitting pride-of-place on your pantry shelf.
We are constantly warned about the dangerous effect too much salt can have on our health, but as with all things in life, moderation is key; just be aware of how much you are actually consuming, and where it is coming from. Cooking at home is always a good idea to help track your consumption, as it forces you to be conscious of when salt is needed to enhance flavour, and you can adjust (and limit) the amount you put in accordingly.
Not all salts are created equal, and almost any table salt you’ll find on the supermarket shelf is likely to have been heat-treated, synthetically iodised, and filled with anti-caking agents. Swapping to pure, good-quality salts (such as sea salt or rock salt) ensures the naturally-occurring minerals which are essential for healthy brain function are retained, while eliminating any dubious additives or agents. Choosing to support companies which produce artisan salts also raises the status of this seemingly mundane ingredient, changing it from an unexceptional, habitual addition in your dish to a feature flavour; think black-truffle salt on pasta, or merlot-infused salt sprinkled on your slightly caramelised roast-vegetables.
Live well. Eat well. Salt to garnish.