09 May2005

Organic Sea Salt

by Marketman

Organic sun dried and hand collected sea salt is asalt2consumed by perhaps 98% of the Philippine population. This naturally sourced salt usually has relatively large squarish crystals and ranges in color from grayish off white to almost white. It is usually a little damper than processed salt but the organic stuff comes chock full of important minerals such as sulfur, calcium and potassium. At the edge of several coastal towns in the Philippines you can spot salt flats that look like really shallow fishponds where sea water is made to evaporate (especially in the hottest of summer months) until salt crystals remain and these are scooped up into baskets and allowed to drain before they are packed in sacks and sent off to the market. I always wondered how they separated the salt crystals from the muddy bottoms until I went for a much closer look…

On the way to the beach, I frequently pass a field of salt flats that are very close to a medium sized already brackish river emptying out to the South China Sea. The area is heavily populated and if I am not mistaken there are no sewage facilities… hence the likelihood of fecal saltmatter in the water being very real and somewhat disconcerting. Add to that the outflow of waters from nearby agricultural fields and you have to add insecticides and fertilizers to the brew. On closer inspection, it turns out that the salt flats are made of cement and tile, and about an inch or less of salt water is added to the cement flats and this is allowed to evaporate. The salt water has previously been passed through a series of ponds and is increasingly concentrated due to the effects of evaporation. After a day or so in intense sunshine, the salt crystals are gathered up and put in baskets to dry a little more. Apparently not much bacteria or other “bad stuff” can thrive on pure salt so my fears of cooties are somewhat unfounded. But just the same, I would rather my salt come from cleaner surroundings.

Several years ago, I purchased some Guimaras salt for several times the cost of regular market salt on the belief that it came from cleaner waters. asalt3It was actually a little grayer than the Luzon salt but it tasted good and it pushed the pristine water angle. I have been unable to find it again and hope they are still in business. I have also at some time or another had several chi-chi salts in my pantry from the expensive English Maldon Sea Salt to French Fleur de Sel, Sel de Guerand, Kosher rock salts, etc., but I am really not that discerning enough to tell the difference in cooked food. For my own use to sprinkle on food before I eat it, I am partial to Maldon or French sea salt because the flakes are so light, almost ethereal and they taste shockingly pure. I do not like most processed salts that are bond paper white, pour easily and taste of iodine because all of the bleaching and processing. Iodine also makes them taste funny when compared to natural sea salt. If you have reached this far in the post and haven’t fallen asleep yet, you may want to check out a chapter in one of Jeffrey Steingarten’s books that has this incredible review of all the “best” salts in the world…it’s extremely interesting.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Mila says:

    I received a gift of the red (more like orange) salt from Hawaii that J. Steingarten wrote about and reviewed (from the book “It must have been something I ate”). It’s a lovely colored salt, reminded me of the lentils I get from Indian groceries. After reading his review last year of salts, it has made me less picky over the kind of kosher/sea salt I use, so long as it’s not the processed kind. I’ve been sprinkling pineapple slices with my fleur de sel and kosher to see if it makes any difference. Can’t say I’ve noticed any mouth feel or aftertaste difference.

    May 9, 2005 | 10:29 am

     
  2. ENYA says:

    Funny that you and Clotilde of “Chocolate and Zucchini” have the same topic today = SALT.

    By the way, I finally was able to check out the Salcedo Market in Makati and the one at the parking lot of Lung Center in Quezon City. You’re so right. These two places are awesome. I spent more than I planned, but it’s worth it. For how can you resist the moist and delicious lechon Cebu? or the crisp produce of Isabela Farm? the yummy baked goodies? the grilled-to-perfection tilapia and catfish? the bottle of garlic cheese salad dressing? the fresh seaoods? Not to mention the fact that the sellers/vendors are very polite and accommodating?

    Thank you, Mr. Marketman, for telling us about the things and places you write about.

    May 9, 2005 | 12:55 pm

     
  3. schatzli says:

    I thought there is NO organic salt..because WATER CAN NEVER BE ORGANIC. Natural salt, rock salt maybe.
    Check this site
    http://www.saltworks.us/salt_info/si_organic_info.asp

    I have HIMALAYAN PINK SALT which I brought from the UK
    which I spilled (so i thought maybe time to post about salt)
    The other day my husband gave me a present:
    FLEUR DE SEL of Camargue and just before reading this post I served balsamic and olive dip with a small bowl of Maldon.

    What is life without a pinch of salt.
    Great pic!

    May 10, 2005 | 2:34 am

     
  4. Marketman says:

    Yup, perhaps “natural” is a better word to use. But they do still refer to organic salts in the sense that they are produced without additives, irradiation, artificial processes… Organic typically refers to something living and salt is a mineral, but it is in sea water that has lots of other living things in it… At any rate, I do mean salt from the sea, with nothing but evaporation to create it!

    Maldon is my current favorite, and it’s not as expensive as some of the other chi-chi salts. At a Williams Sonoma store in the U.S., I saw the pink Himalayan salt, some reddish Hawaiian salt, very expensive French salts, outrageous Balinese salt (that looks exactly like ours), etc. at up to $15 for a cup or two! Outrageous. Thanks for the site address…really interesting stuff.

    May 10, 2005 | 5:44 am

     
  5. stefoodie says:

    ah, another maldon lover. i prefer mine sprinkled on tomato concasse, freshly harvested from the garden in the summertime…. just the tomato and the salt, but a divine combination…. juice dribbling down my chin…. wonder if steingarten and rosengarten ever talk to each other…hmmmn… they’re both so anal about their food.

    May 11, 2005 | 11:36 am

     
  6. Chris says:

    Hi MarketMan!
    I read somewhere that the pyramid shaped maldon salt crystals are formed in a specific area of the saltbed. I think around the edges? and the rest of the salt produced are shaped liked regular salt crystals so they have to carefully harvest the pyramid crystals by hand. I wonder if local saltbeds also produce those pyramid crystals?

    Jul 7, 2005 | 3:04 am

     
  7. Marketman says:

    Chris, not sure if we have a finer flakier salt on one part of the salt beds. Frankly, I went into a salt bed here and was shocked about hygeine conditions that I didn’t want to stick around looking too closely at the salt/water. My understanding is that the shape of the salt and the related “burst” effect of saltiness is the key, because all salt is chemically nearly identical.

    Jul 7, 2005 | 4:40 pm

     
 

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