This is the one indispensable ingredient to enhance any food, so keep some in your cupboard or beside
you’re your cooker. Whenever possible always use pure unprocessed sea salt instead of table salt for cooking. It brings a fresh meaning to the concepts of flavour, seasoning and nutrition. Your body
and palate will bless you for it as it contains less Sodium Chloride than processed salt. This entirely unrefined, natural product is gathered from the pristine Celtic seas of Guérande in Brittany or
from the mouth of the Rhône on the Mediterranean coast using ancestral methods that have been practiced for centuries, indeed some of the salt pans in use today have been used for over a thousand
This wonderful taste of the sea is rich in minerals, Fleur de Sel de Guérande is not the refined, white “sea salt” that we see in many shops. Ask any family here, we simply know what tastes good: the salt on the table in most Breton households is “Sel Marin de Guérande”. Even our top chefs use Sel de Guerande in their dishes; it is delicious in soups and sauces, as well as for seasoning grilled and roasted dishes.
"Fleur de Sel" (best quality unrefined
Due to the eastern winds, salt crystals form in the saltpans on the surface of the water: this is what is called Fleur de Sel (the caviar of salt). A natural sea salt, unprocessed, unrefined, unadulterated, unlike anything you have ever tasted. At first pink when it is collected, it becomes white as it dries naturally in the Sun. The salt is collected using what is called a "lousse". Sprinkled sparingly on food is a refined way to “finish” the taste. I use it as a condiment at the table and find it is a fine replacement for ordinary table salt as it has a rich, sweet flavour that melts under the tongue. (About 10€ a kilo)Fleur de Sel" (best quality unrefined salt)
Coarse and wet, fleur de sel de Guérande retains its crisp texture better than other salts when sprinkled over dishes such as grilled sardines, heirloom tomatoes and steak. In Brittany fleur de sel is commonly sprinkled over the regional speciality, buckwheat crêpes, known as ‘galettes’.
Aside from its big mineral flavours, fleur de sel de Guérande is also renowned for its slightly sweet finish, which has made it a popular addition to chocolate, caramel popcorn and macarons. In recent years, Fleur de Sel has taken the pâtisserie world by storm. Be it a few grains sprinkled on top of a chocolate, a rich salted caramel sauce or even added to hot chocolate – there seems to be no end of desserts and treats that taste better when their sweetness is balanced against the complex saltiness of fleur de sel.
So what is it about fleur de sel that makes it so irresistible to pâtissiers and chefs?
Fleur de Sel is hand-harvested from the delicate surface layer of salt marshes. The irregularly-sized crystals are scraped off the surface of the sea brine using a rake called a ‘lousse’. They are laced with natural minerals providing full, complex flavours. Fleur de sel is the extra virgin olive oil of the salt world. Cooking with it would be wasteful – it is a luxurious finishing salt.
The salt picker, known as the ‘paludier’, also picks a less delicately flavoured salt from underneath the top layer, known as “sel gris” which is more suitable for salt crusts and cooking.
Fleur de sel has a residual moisture content, up to 10%, which means that it melts slower when sprinkled on dishes. Hence fleur de sel is appreciated as much for its complex mineral flavours, as it is for its crunchy texture.
“Fleur de Sel is the extra virgin olive oil of the salt world. Cooking with it would be wasteful – it is a luxurious finishing salt.”
Guérande or Camargue?
Fleur de Sel de Guérande is the most celebrated variety of Fleur de Sel, having obtained protected geographical status in France. It is harvested off the coast of Brittany in salt marches or ‘marais salants’ stretching 2000 hectares between the Loire and Vilaine rivers.
Drier and finer than many other varieties, Fleur de Sel de Camargue comes from the mouth of the Rhône on the Mediterranean coast. Unlike Fleur de Sel de Guérande which has an off-white colour, the Camargue variety is pure white. It works beautifully as a finishing salt on all sorts of dishes – from grilled fish and vegetables to ‘oeufs en cocotte.’ Try sprinkling a little on top of butter at the table, or serving a little bowl alongside bread and olive oil.
Fleur de Sel also works well when blended with other flavours, bringing an unusual twist to some classic dishes:
Lime Fleur de Sel
This salt has a Madagascan fleur de sel base, laced with lime zest. It is a strongly-scented finishing salt packed with spring-summer flavours.
Try sprinkling a pinch of the lime salt over grilled fish or ceviche. A little really lifts a plate of green vegetables, and is also great with South East Asian coconut dishes. Also use a little to top chocolate truffles, or even in cocktails – for rimming the glass or for a twist on the traditional margarita!!
"Gros sel" (cooking salt)
The crystals lay at the bottom of the saltpan. Using a tool called a "las" (big rake), the "paludier" (salter) pushes the water to detach the crystals. Then he gathers together a pile of salt and hauls it up on to the "ladure". Around 50 Kg of "gros sel" is gathered in each saltpan each day. (About 3€ a kilo)