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Sampler Plate: Don’t Pass on the Salt

mortar and pestle with salt

The right salt for the right time.

Salt doesn’t get the craft craze of beer, cheese or smoked meats, but it’s been a driving force in the world for centuries. But the variance of salt, beyond the simple white salt shaker sitting innocently on your table, or the pink Himalayan salt you may have bought on a whim, is worth a closer look.

“This world is so abundant in so many different resources. We can get geeked out about anything. We get geeked out about coffee and beer and wine, and we do that with vinegar as well, and salt is certainly one of those too.” said Adam Monette, dining room manager at Boulder’s Flagstaff House.

Depending on how and where you get it, salt can be mined from natural rock formations in the earth, extracted from salt water through evaporation, or it can be produced in a lab. It’s all pretty much the same chemical structure of sodium and chloride. However, when you’re pulling salt from the earth or from the water, you’ll find a myriad of different flavors, sodium levels and other subtle differences that make up what you’re actually putting on your food. And when you get into the kitchen, there are lots of different ways to use those different varieties.

“We’ve been using it for years,” Monette said. “In fact, we used to do some things where we had these large Himalayan pink salt rocks that we’d cook some of the food items on, and the food would slightly absorb the beautiful flavor of those salts. And in the summer months we’ve done a tomato salad that we shave pink Himalayan salt over.”

The Flagstaff House often uses Kona sea salt since the family once had a restaurant off the big island of Hawaii. They continue to source their salt from there, and use it as their table salt. “It’s from a very deep well off the Big Island and the salt that comes up from that well is incredible,” Monette explained. “I’m no scientist, but there is something different about the sodium content and it pairs really well with food without giving you that ‘oh I need to drink something right away’ feeling you get when you eat something too salty.”

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of salts from the gourmet section of your grocery store or specialty spice shop. You might be surprised at how much flavor and how much better your food can be with just a small adjustment; like the kind of salt you decide to use.

Types of salt to try in your kitchen

Table Salt
Super refined salt mined from underground. It has more sodium chloride than sea salt and is what most restaurants offer. Less than $1 per pound

Kosher Salt
Fast dissolving, it disperses flavor quickly. It’s great for a wide variety of uses in the kitchen.$1 per pound

Crystalline Sea Salt
These add a quick burst of flavor to any dish, the size of the crystals themselves is what determines how fast the salt will dissolve in your food. $3 per pound

Flaked Sea Salt
The flaked variety of sea salt is great for fish and veggies. Crush the crystals between your fingers to get the most it. $6 per pound

Pickling Salt
This is very concentrated, so a little goes a long way. It’s the best choice for pickling your own veggies, and great for brining a big bird. $1 per pound

Fleur de Sel
More of a ‘special occasion’ type of salt. It’s best sprinkled on food right before you eat and pairs well with something sweet like tomato or melon. Fleur de Sal comes from ponds in France where the salt blooms like a flower on the surface of the water. $20-$45 per pound

Himalayan Salt
Mined from ancient sea salt deposits in Pakistan, this type of salt is believed to be the purest form available. It can come in colors from pure white to a deep red and is hand cut into slabs. It can be used for a variety of dishes, from ice creams to cooking meat and fish. $20-$55 per pound

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