Do we really need that many “designer” sea salts?

I grew up without ever thinking about which salt shall I buy. I went to the store, picked up a blue box with that cute little girl with the umbrella on it and we had salt supply for months. Then suddenly food shows mushroomed on the TV and I was looking for nothing less than Kosher Salt (although I was asking myself how they made the salt kosher? just because the crystals are larger, is that makes it kosher?) Never mind that today.

Finally I understand the story my mother was telling me for years when we kids dismissed or trivialized something that she thought we shouldn’t have.
The Fairy Tale
This is an old fairy tale, originating from Chehoslovakia,  known as „Sůl nad zlato“ (Salt is more than Gold); A King, who had three daughters,  wanted to find out how much his daughters love him. The oldest one compared her love for the King to gold: “I love you more than gold”- she said. The king was delighted. The middle child jumped up and exclaimed: “Father, I love you more than diamond, emerald, ruby and all the other gems of the world.”  The King kissed her and thanked her for such a strong love and devotion. Then it was the youngest daughter’s turn and she said: “Father, I love you more than salt”. The King became all red and furious and threw her out of the palace. She left with nothing more than the clothing she wore and a box of salt. As time passed, there was a story circulating in the town where the King youngest daughter was living that the King depleted the salt supply of the entire kingdom and no new shipment of salt was available. People started to get sick and pretty soon there was a rumor that the King is dying.  When the King youngest daughter heard the story she went back to see her father for the last time. She took  along the box of salt that she kept for all these years. When she arrived to the palace, the first thing she did is prepared a piece of bread for him with butter with sprinkles of the salt she brought with her. Then she cooked broth and other light food, all with the salt from the box. Pretty soon the King became healthy; he felt as if he was never ill.  The King looked at her youngest daughter’s eyes with tears in his own and apologized for the way he treated her. Only now he understood that the strongest love for him came from his youngest daughter. (I still love this story). Basically, the story emphasizes the importance of salt’s role in human life.

Answer to the question
So, the answer to my question, is a weak yes. Weak, because I am not sure we need that many varieties, but there is no comparison between the so called “pedigreed” salts and even the Kosher salt.  Please continue to read, however, before you run out to get a bottle of that pretty pink Himalayan salt instead of the ocean front condo you were dreaming about for years.

Basic Information About Sea Salts
Salt is either mined or harvested. You guessed it; most salt is mined, but designer salts are hand harvested mostly from local sea costs and processed through a special evaporation system that is labor intensive and time consuming – there you have the justification for the high cost. Once again the adage that “you got what you paid for” stands tall.   These salts are rich in mineral and trace elements and lacking any unwanted chemicals, drying agents and additives. Most of these salts are loaded with flavor and will enhance any dish. However, you still have to be an informed consumer and read labels. Once a product is picked up as these salts did, there will always be imitators that are ready to jump into the market. Buy only from reputable places, make sure the label informs you about the origin of the salt, (i.e. from coastal areas, like Great Britain, The Mediterranean, etc.), contain any ingredient that you cannot pronounce, and some will inform you about the process used for the creation of the salt.

Quotes from http://www.greatgrub.com
Andrew Sachs of greatgrub.com recommends Grubman salts produced by Halen Môn in Wales. He particularly likes their smoked salt which he uses on grilled meats. Another interesting product he mentions is a vanilla sea salt produced by the same company. He sprinkles it on chocolate ice cream and he cannot stop raving about the flavor-rich product this combination creates. It makes sense, dough, since we all know that salt brings out the sweetness of sweet things (Although I tried it on my sister, but it did not work).

Mr. greatgrub, however, thinks that putting these salts into soups or sauces is a waste of money. I disagree. It is true that once you sprinkle the salt into liquids, it will dissolve and blend into the soup or sauce,  but depending on the salt, it will impart its own flavor and the end result is a better, more flavorful product. Why should the salt be more overwhelmed than a dry herb, or a spice we sprinkle into sauces daily?

Selective Samples of Designer Salts
I have selected a few samples; it is by means and exhaustive one, but a pretty good to start to select from for your pantry:

Fleur de Sel is the most known.  It contains a highly halophilic bacterium (meaning bacteria that tolerates high salt concentration) which is responsible for the slight violet scent this salt  emits.  It is mostly harvested from the Mediterranean sea using an evaporation system for its production (it can only produce 1 kg salt/35 square meter).
Maldon Sea Salt is a mild, highly refined product. The pyramid shape crystals are so thin that they can be easily crumbled between two fingers; so it is easy to use it on salads, roasted vegetables, or potato. It is harvested in Maldon on the Essex coast of Great Britain.

Hawaiian Red and Black Sea Salt – both salts are volcanic origin. Extremely rich in iron (1g of salt contains a quantity of iron five times higher then the average salt). The red salt processed with red clay that is high in iron oxide (that is where the beautiful red color originates) and the black salt is processed with black lava stones. It is slightly sweet, so can be used in desserts, but mostly used with seafood and imparts great colors on salads, sushi or  grilled steak.

Denmark Smoked Sea Salt– the crystals smoked with wood oak tree, juniper, cherry tree, beech and redelm, which creates a sweet-smoke flavor.  Excellent with roasted meat and potato, but also imparts great flavor to fish and raw meat like carpaccio.

Cyprus Sea Salt – this salt is very light and fluffy with cute pyramidal shape of crystals.  It is produced from the Mediterranean sea using the traditional evaporation system without any additives. Its consistency allows the immediate dissolution at the contact with food, and you only need a minute amount to impart intense savory taste to the food it is used in. This salt is very popular in baking.

Bretagne Gray – is from Brittany’s coast. It is hand harvested using the unrefined celtic method; that is why it keeps its distinctive grey color. It has extremely high levels of minerals and nutrients (contains 80 different nutrients). Coarse Gray Sea Salt From Guérande is a very similar product.

Himalayan Sea Salt – Harvested from deep inside the Himalayan mountains; its pink color originates from the mountains’ high concentrations of minerals. It provides highly rich seasoning with tangy flavor, and eye-pleasing color to the food. This salt also known for its healing properties; it is used in medical spas to relax the body and mind, to lower blood pressure, and to remove toxins, such as heavy metals from the body.

To be continued… but in the interim I would love to hear from you; please send me your comments and feedbacks about your experiences with designer salts.