Mother Earth Living

Guide To Pairing Salt with Herbs

By Tabitha Alterman
October/November 2010
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Artisanal salts come from all over the globe, and if you’re crazy for fine foods, you can find some pretty rare specimens. But the following are all yummy, and are available widely in specialty food stores.

• Type: Kosher ($)
  Origin: various sources 
  Color: white 
  Best Uses: Everyday cooking; great texture is easy to pinch and dissolves well; smooth, unaggressive flavor  
  Herb Pairing Suggestions: complements all herbs and spices

• Type: Gray Sea Salt ($)
  Origin: various coasts 
  Color: gray to gray-green 
  Best Uses: Cooking and finishing salt; unrefined; mineral content; moist, briny; sometimes harsh flavor works well with meats, veggies and seafood
  Herb Pairing Suggestions: garlic, cumin, bay leaves, thyme   

• Type: Himalayan ($$)
  Origin: Himalayan mountains
  Color: pink 
  Best Uses: Cooking or finishing salt; potent, rich flavor of mineral; great with poultry, fish and in brines and sauces thyme
  Herb Pairing Suggestions: rosemary, oregano, basil, garlic, bay leaves,  
• Type: Red Alaea ($$$)
  Origin: Hawaii red 
  Best Uses: Great for roasting and grilling, and in rubs; trace minerals; Combined with red clay (‘Alaea’); moist; crunchy texture; color stands out when served; mineral and buttery flavors go well with seafood
  Herb Pairing Suggestions: pepper, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, turmeric, saffron, garlic, bay leaves, thyme   
• Type: Black Lava, or Hiwa Kai ($$$)
  Origin: Hawaii 
  Color: black 
  Best Uses: Finishing salt; sulfuric aroma; combined with activated charcoal; silky texture; sharp, earthy flavor is best on sushi and grilled meats and veggies 
  Herb Pairing Suggestions: pepper, garlic, bay leaves, thyme

• Type: Maldon ($$)
  Origin: England 
  Color: white 
  Best Uses: Finishing salt; thin, flat crystals dissolve slowly on the tongue like snowflakes; delicate flavor, light taste lemon balm
  Herb Pairing Suggestions: delicate flavors such as lavender and
• Type: Sel Gris 
  Origin: France 
  Color: gray 
  Best Uses: Cooking and finishing salt; great mineral content; lower sodium; high moisture; bright mineral flavor 
  Herb Pairing Suggestions: rosemary, garlic, bay leaves, thyme
• Type: Fleur de Sel, rare byproduct of Sel Gris ($$)
  Origin: France 
  Color: white 
  Best Uses: The caviar of finishing salts; unrefined, light, moist crystals; violet-like aroma
  Herb Pairing Suggestions: great garnish for any herbed dish

• Type: Kala Namak, also known as ‘Indian Black’ or ‘Sanchal’ ($)
  Origin: India 
  Color: light pink with gray tinge 
  Best Uses: Cooking and finishing salt; strong sulfur odor; common in vegan and Indian cooking  
  Herb Pairing Suggestions: turmeric, saffron, basil, coriander, cumin

• Type: Applewood Smoked ($$)
  Origin: various sources of aged wood 
  Color: pale orange to light brown
  Best Uses: Cooking and finishing salt; sweet, woody, fruity flavor; use with  poultry, fish and pork, and in curing meats 
  Herb Pairing Suggestions: cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, allspice, rosemary, basil, pepper, garlic, thyme, bay leaves
• Type: Hickory Smoked ($$)
  Origin: various sources of raw wood 
  Color: light to dark brown 
  Best Uses: Cooking and finishing salt; intense smoke flavor; works with red meat and Southern cooking, especially barbecue 
  Herb Pairing Suggestions: pepper, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, turmeric, saffron, garlic


Tabitha Alterman is senior associate editor at our sister publication, Mother Earth News, and wonders if she'll ever get her sweet tooth back after all this salty research. 

Click here for the main article, Pairing Herbs with Gourmet Cooking Salts.

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