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So great was the uplift in sales of gourmet seasonings during lockdown that online retailer, Seasoned Pioneers, developed a new product – their Worldwide Salt Gift Collection. For £20.95 customers get 10 pouches allowing them to salt their way round the globe, tasting French Fleur de Sel one day, and Hawaiian Red Salt the next.
There’s even a specialist online retailer called gourmetsalts.co.uk selling salt accessories and over 40 different kinds, from Black Truffle, to Korean Bamboo. The supermarkets are on board and last year, Tesco saw demand for sea salt crystals rise by nearly 2,600% and sales of Himalayan Pink Salt and rock salt by more than 2,000% (The Times).
We’re cooking more and we’re more adventurous. When Jamie, Rick and Nigella ‘finish’ their creations with a sprinkling of the white stuff, we copy. The appetite for sweet-savoury including salted caramel continues as does our enthusiasm for home-pickling and fermenting. For the latter, it’s essential to use a pure salt as additives inhibit fermentation. So says Charlotte Pike, author of Fermented: a Beginner’s Guide to Making Your Own Sourdough, Yogurt, Sauerkraut, Kefir, Kimchi and More.
People with high blood pressure or heart disease should be aware that both ordinary table salt and designer salt are nearly 100% sodium chloride.
Minerals are present in such tiny quantities they carry no worthwhile health benefits. Himalayan Rock Salt is pink because of iron oxide in the area where it’s mined. The issue is rather what posh salt doesn’t contain – anti-caking agents, which many food-lovers think give it a weird taste. Table salt is highly processed, rock salt somewhere in the middle and sea salt least processed.
Pike, who is a cookery teacher and private chef, reckons it’s worth paying more for good sea salt. Her favourite – and she’s not alone – is Maldon which she employs as an all-purpose salt. “When I use something else, the food doesn’t taste as delicious.” Many food lovers we spoke to praised Maldon and Cornish Sea Salt, because the crystals crush so well.
Journalist Joanna Blythman explored this challenge in BBC Good Food. She unearthed a large Canadian study from 2016 which found that, in people with high blood pressure, low sodium intake, compared with average, led to more, not fewer strokes. After she learnt that 75% of the salt Britons eat is in processed food, she relaxed about her salt habit. Her conclusion: if you cook from scratch, you should be okay.
Start local. If the supermarkets carry the original salt, say Natural Dorset Sea Salt Flakes, stock the variants – perhaps their Lemon and Thyme or Chilli Sea Salt. Award winners are safe bets. Last year, Craic Foods won the Great Taste Golden Fork award for their Black Garlic and Porcini Sea Salt. Smoked salts deliver a double whammy of flavour. Try Halen Mon Pure Sea Salt Smoked Over Oak which scooped three Great Taste Award stars.
Oryx Desert Salt from the Kalahari Desert, South Africa has a great story: a percentage of turnover is donated to local communities and the products are packed by women-owned social enterprises. Dorset-based Antipodes is the importer.
Yes! Do what nutritionists do and suggest seasonings based on citrus, vinegar, herbs and seaweed. How about Clearspring’s Organic Yuzu Ponzu, Burren Balsamics Blood
Orange & Cardamom infused white vinegar or Mara Seaweed Shony Flakes. Herb and salt mixtures may help consumers to cut down. We like Crawford Rock’s Seaweed Seasoning
– a sprightly mix of seaweed (41%), smoked sea salt, rosemary (18%), garlic power (12%) and onion powder which won Gold in the Irish Food Awards.
• Sell a package – books on fermenting and pickling with pickling salt
• Look for products that make good barbecue rubs.
• Luxurious salts make great gifts
• Launch your own seasoning in branded or refillable jars
• Sell salt paraphernalia. Perhaps commission a local potter to make ceramic spoons and salt pigs
Once you’ve tried good salt, there’s no going back. As Pike says, “Salt is the most important ingredient in the kitchen. It helps food to sing by enhancing the natural flavours.” Critic Jay Rayner compares salt to the difference between eating in technicolour or black and white.
And the next big thing? Gourmet pepper, of course.