With the popularization of the gourmet universe, one item gained prominence: the flower of salt . But, after all, what is this seasoning so talked about? Anyone who thinks that this is an exotic and inaccessible spice is wrong.
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After all, what is the fleur de sel?
Flower of salt is the name given to the crystals that form on the surface of sea water. Its main characteristic, in addition to its irregular shape, is its high capacity to enhance the flavor of foods, superior to other types of salt that exist.
A pinch of salt is essential in preparing most foods. Even in sweets, the presence of this ingredient tends to make the dish more balanced and harmonious. However, salt can never be the main attraction of a meal, as its excessive consumption is extremely harmful to health.
Contrary to expectations, the fleur de sal changed its role and became the protagonist of many haute cuisine dishes. If the palate is grateful, health is not left behind. While the kitchen is ultra-processed and nutrient-free, the flower version is much healthier and purer, without any type of additives.
The process of “production” of the fleur de sal is delicate and totally natural. Unlike the other types, which can be extracted at any time of year, this one need sun and heat to bloom. That’s because its formation depends on the evaporation of marine water. After the small crystals are formed, which look like thin sheets of salt, they need to be gently removed and taken to dry.
Making fleur de sal requires a care not seen in large industries. No wonder it is called marine caviar. Careful size results in a product a little more expensive, but with unparalleled flavor. Due to the absence of industrialization and chemical products, the fine spice preserves more than 80 minerals and nutrients.
According to Patrícia Oliveira, nutritionist at the Quality-of-Life Center (CQV), among the minerals present in this ingredient are zinc, iron, iodine, magnesium, potassium and calcium. They are essential for the dynamic balance of our body, as they act on immunity, muscle contraction, bone health, formation of antioxidants to prevent chronic diseases, among other benefits.
Among these, iodine deserves to be highlighted. This mineral is essential for the synthesis of some hormones that help regulate the body and its functions. The functioning of the thyroid gland, inclusive, is essentially dependent on iodine. Among its benefits are aid in physical and neurological growth, elimination of toxins, metabolism and maintenance of body temperature.
Just read the label on the packaging of table salt to find the term “iodized salt”. This is because during the industrialization process, refined salt loses all its minerals, including iodine. This is no longer the case with fleur de sel, which has the proper concentration of natural iodine.
Another great advantage is the lower level of sodium compared to other types. This, in addition to the minerals present in the precious seasoning, help to combat various ailments caused or accentuated by the exaggerated consumption of common salt. Among them, hypertension, kidney stones, overweight, fluid retention, premature aging, heart problems, among others.
Still, the nutritionist warns that its use should be done sparingly by hypertensive patients. It is important to emphasize that, depending on the region from which the ingredient was extracted, its components may also be different. This mainly influences the presence and concentration of certain minerals.
Know the difference between fleur de sel and other types of salt.
Is fleur de sel coarse salt? What makes it different from other types of salt? Doubts like these became more common after the popularization of this ingredient. Although all are, in some way, salt, and used in food preparation, there is a big difference between coarse salt, refined salt and fleur de sel.
As is well known, table salt is heavily processed before reaching the packages to be consumed. After being washed, ground, centrifuged and dried, the refined salt is sieved. After that, some additives are added, such as stabilizers and anti-humectants, in addition to potassium iodate. Only then is it packaged, reaching the shelves.
Coarse salt, in turn, does not undergo the refining process, keeping its original shape. Its production process can take place through mineral extraction or the evaporation of sea water. Unlike the previous one, this one does not receive additives and/or preservatives. Perhaps this is why this is commonly confused with the fleur de sel.
However, both are completely different, as the crystals depend on several variables to be formed and extracted, in a delicate and slow process. Thanks to the ingredient’s constitution process, strongly influenced by its place of formation, the fleur de sal has an unrivaled flavor, which gave it the status of “white gold” in cuisine.
How to make fleur de sel
According to nutritionist Patrícia Oliveira, the salt flower is manually scraped from the surface layer of the salt pans, without touching the bottom of the water. It has an intense and crunchy flavor. It is used mainly after food preparation, as heating can change its nutritional properties, as well as its crispness.
The difference in relation to refined salt is that it is not processed, keeping a higher proportion of minerals and has no added chemicals.
So, if you ask yourself which type of salt is best for your health, gourmet salt will certainly top the rankings, leaving ordinary refined salt in last place. If possible, avoid it, always preferring the less industrialized versions, after all, health is priceless.
Use of fleur de sel in gastronomy
The list of ingredients revered in haute cuisine is long, and so is the sophisticated recipes that can be produced with fleur de sel. Unlike what happens with common salt, the gourmet version is the protagonist and not supporting the preparation of dishes.
This means that it is not used as a common seasoning, much less during the cooking of dishes, which would remove all of its outstanding characteristics. Thus, most of the time, fleur de sel is used in the finishing of dishes, as an extra addition of flavor and texture.
Contrary to what you might think, gourmet salt is welcome in various types of dishes, including meat, fish, vegetables and sweets, even. In all these crystals come as an element of elegance and differentiation and should be slowly appreciated. The salt notes are responsible for sharpening the taste buds and accentuating all the other flavors of the dish.
Don’t know how small crystals of pure salt could harmonize with sweet and delicate dishes? Check out the recipe below:
Recipe for fudge chocolate fudge, caramel and fleur de sel
- 100 g of sugar
- 540 g of fresh cream at room temperature
- 180 g of dark or semisweet chocolate
- 2 teaspoons of fleur de sel (or to taste)
- 100 ml of milk.
Way of doing
Caramelize the sugar until you get a nice guarana shade. Add 300 g of heavy cream (be careful, it will sneeze) and mix well to break up the caramel lumps. Add the fleur de sel, turn off the heat and set aside. Separately, melt the chocolate in a bain-marie or on the medium power of the microwave and add the rest of the cream. Pour this chocolate mixture over the caramel and mix until you get a smooth syrup. Tune it up with milk. Serve warm over ice cream.
The syrup can be refrigerated for a week, or frozen for up to 30 days.
Where to buy fleur de sel?
A few years ago, it was a little more difficult to find fleur de sel to buy, becoming something practically exclusive to the great chefs and restaurants. However, thanks to its popularization, gourmet salt is more accessible and can be easily found, including on the internet.
To make an assertive purchase, it is necessary to verify the origin of the ingredient. A good tip is to be wary of values much lower, below the market average. As for the packaging, the fleur de sal can be found both in small bottles and in bulk, in specialized stores.
Regardless of the dish to be prepared, fleur de sal can be a card up your sleeve to add refinement and flavor to meals. The most important thing is to remember that, as in the most haute cuisine, the key to everything is in balance.
My name is Ellie Lauderdale, MD and I am USA based professional Nutritionist .
I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and board certified specialist in sports dietetics who is trained in integrative medicine. I have worked with hundreds of clients, from those suffering with chronic disease to professional and olympian athletes. My goal is to help optimize you from the inside so that you can feel, perform, and look your best on the outside.