June 13, 2006

Le Sel de Guérande

Le Sel Guérande is considered by many to be the finest sea salt. Its coarse chunky texture and greyish-brown color make for an appealing image, and most importantly, fine flavor. I just bought 1 kg of sel gris for 1 Euro! Although, the best of the best is Fleur de Sel, this coarse salt is prized as well, and much cheaper.
Salt is produced in the salt marshes around Guérande (in Brittany along the Atlantic coast) in the same way today as it was a thousand years ago. Since the middle ages, salt has been important politically and economically for Bretons and was once smuggled on the black market because of being highly taxed outside Bretagne.

Le Sel de Guérande is a natural product and admired for its rich taste and abundance of magnesium. There are a range of salts, including fleur de sel, the best and most delicate salt removed from the top of the salt flats which has dried quickly and is naturally white. It's known to give off the scent of violets and can be sometimes pink in color from the red seaweed in the water. There are a variety of salts from Guérande, some flavored with seaweed and a variety of grinds to choose from. One gets the sense that this is a topic requiring a good amount of investigation.

I've found that my lowly sel gris, large and grey, is the best tasting salt I've had. It's a moist salt and should be kept that way.
"Honey, is there a hole in this bag? It looks all wet!"
"I know, it's supposed to be like that."
"Really?"
"Yes."
"Are you sure?"
"YES! It's sea salt. It's like that."
"Huh. I thought it was a bag of rice" (walks away, still in disbelief.)
I find myself licking this salt off my fingers after sprinkling it on food! After tasting the sel gris and then my crap pulverized and iodized salt, there is just no comparison. The powdery white salt tastes of bitter chemicals. Coarse sea salt lingers on the tongue in the nicest way.
Fleur de sel should really be reserved as a finishing salt. (You know, when you've sauteed that nice slice of fois gras, throw a few crystals on there.) My Sel Gris is more suitable for cooking but could also be a finisher, though it has a bolder flavor than fleur de sel, so it might be better on meat. I find the cost and flavor of this salt to fit my cooking needs very well. I'll mention that if you've ever had the hankering a roast a whole fish in a salt crust, this is what to use. My kilo of coarse, humid salt can envelope a whole fish and roast it to perfection. Crack open the hardened crust and you have amazingly tender fish. I love recipes like this where you know it became a Breton specialty just because they were swimming in salt.

So, go buy some good sea salt. It'll change your cooking.

3 comments:

Tanna said...

You are right, it has changed my cooking. It is a wonderous thing!

tina said...

megs

grrr. how do you DO that? i've told you before, i am a moron to read your blog while eating...because i'm always eating pasta or ramen. but i figured reading an entry about 'salt' would be safe enough while i ate my noodles. but nooooo. she's done it again! you went and made SALT sound appetizing! sheesh!

xo
tina

Ivonne said...

Hi Megan,

Thank you for this information! A friend recently brought me back some sel de geurande from France and I wasn't completely sure how to use it.