For cooking, Guérande salt is the most appreciated by cooks and great chefs in France and abroad. It can be used with a wide variety of dishes and preparations.
A cooking salt can be dissolved for cooking food, vegetables, fish, pasta or rice; for this we use coarse salt or grey sea salt. To obtain a heterogeneous salting in small drops of water or grains which melt on your tongue, this salt must readily melt, which is the case with TRAD Y SEL coarse salt.
Coarse grey salt is also extremely suitable for an unusual cooking method: cooking in a salt crust. This consists of enclosing fish, poultry or vegetables in a mixture made of damp coarse salt, egg whites and sometimes herbs. Cooking is on a medium heat in the oven, for at least one hour, to give an unparalleled moistness and concentration of flavours. TRAD Y SEL grey sea salt (link to product) is recommended for this type of cooking.
Table salt must include these two characteristics to excite the flavours of food on the tongue. Taste comes via the taste buds, but if you eat a salt which does not melt, or is hard, it won't have a taste effect. TRAD Y SEL fine salt is suitable for this use.
Finally, when you want to taste the texture and softness of sea salt melting delicately in your mouth, it is true TRAD Y SEL flower of salt, which will sublime your cooking. You will find recipe ideas on our COOKING WITH GUERANDE SALT pages to discover the multiple uses for TRAD Y SEL Guérande salt.
Eating Guérande salt rather than refined salt meets our need for seasoning food whilst preserving us from the harm of certain refined products, recognised as being potentially dangerous for health in the long term.
In the salt marshes, the salt's composition varies with the brine's composition. The mother waters, in the dead end where the salt crystallises, change over the season, as the concentration of different cations increases up to saturation. At the end of good seasons, magnesium can be crystallised for example.
When a salt crystallises over a long period of time, it becomes hard and pure. When the crystallisation is recent, the grain is crumbly, porous and moist. The other elements contained in the moisture are trapped when it dries.
Guérande salt also contains extreme halophile (salt-loving) micro-organisms (link to glossary), which contribute to its colour and aroma. The dunaliela salina is a micro algae which gives the characteristic pink colour to the mother waters, feeds artemias, which themselves give the rose colour to salmon and flamingos.
Health authorities in many countries recommend a reduction in salt consumption, however, it must be noted that they are talking about refined salt. This is not the same as sea salt. Guérande salt is a concentration of sea water, and contains less sodium chloride.
TRAD Y SEL salt producers recommend a reasonable consumption of their salt. Connaisseurs of Guérande salt can be assured that they are eating a natural, unrefined salt, rich in minerals and oligo-elements beneficial for everyday health.
What we know as salt is sodium chloride. A salt is an ionic compound composed of cations and anions forming a neutral product without charge. When they are dissolved, ions are freed in the solution (for example aqueous) - we say that they melt. This phenomenen occurs up to saturation. Conversely, when the water evaporates and saturation is reached, the salt crystallises. Several salts do not crystallise at the same time, but one after another; this procedure is often used to purify or isolate an element. Saturation also changes with temperature - a solution can be concentrated through heating, and a salt can be crystallised by cooling a saturated solution. Like when a gas becomes a liquid, this change occurs in the coldest places. The crystals are bigger when the temperature difference is more important.
Cooking salts produced in the world are from several sources:
Sea salts: obtained from evaporation, sea salt is produced particularly in hot, dry regions. It can be harvested by hand every day in summer (technique in Guérande) or once a year by machine (Camargue) with numerous local variations in between.
It can also be obtained from brine, from washed sand, which is evaporated in ovens, using the ignigène (fire) technique; this was used on the Atlantic coast before the solar technique.
Rock salts: these are crystallised over thousands of years after ancient seas dried up. Rock salt is taken from mines (such as in Eastern France) or re-crystallised from brine obtained by injecting water into the ground (particularly for cooking salt).
It can also come from salty springs (Bayonne, Salis de Béarn) or lakes (Hassal).
Salt obtained from the chemical transformation of certain elements or substances.
Salts from living systems: for example milk salt, obtained from the desalination of milk, or cane salt. Some African peoples cultivate salt cane, which is burned; from the rinsed ashes, we obtain brine, which is evaporated in traditional ovens.
A ridiculous law, voted under pressure from major lobbies, prohibited natural salts for human consumption for several years, under the pretext that they contain less than 97% of Na Cl. It was never really applied, and repealed in 2007.
Depending on the final use, there are two major families: refined salt and natural salt.
Refined salt is the most widely used today in food, as its grain size, moisture levels and perfectly managed chemical composition (through complex procedures) make it a custom product, practical for the food industry and complying with industrial specifications. It is obtained from any raw material.
Following extraction, the salt is purified using chemicals to remove undesirable substances depending on the use (for example magnesium and calcium salts). Refined salt can then be enriched with desired substances, such as anti-caking agents (phosphate, calcium carbonate, tri-calcium alumino-calcium silicate...), or iodine and fluorine.
The most commonly used is nitrite salt. Sodium nitrites (E250) and potassium nitrites (E249) are used in most industrial foods, as they have anti bacterial and preservation properties, increase water absorption and improve meat colour. They have become essential for mass consumption.
They are, however, insipid and very dangerous even at low doses (100 mg is often fatal for rats), so to avoid dosage errors, they are added to salt.
Whilst nitrates seem less dangerous, nitrites are very controversial, as under the action of digestion enzymes, they transform into dangerous substances such as nitrosamines. For the moment, public authorities have maintained their authorisation, based on studies which seem to show no carcinogenic effect at low doses.
Despite doubts on the toxicity of some additives, the European Union allows the use of numerous substances more or less useful for consumers. (Cf appendix 2 of regulation CE 133/2008)
The alternative to refined salt for consumption is natural unrefined salt. Whilst refining rock salt enables a perfect white salt to be obtained, it remains composed of 99.99% sodium chloride and thus with no other natural elements.
On the other hand, sea salt, and particularly Guérande salt keeps its oligo elements and minerals after harvest. It contains around 85% of sodium chloride, with the difference being minerals such as magnesium, calcium and potassium.
Salt's taste (as water) is influenced by the minerals it contains, and their quantity. A sea salt is therefore more suitable for food, and its quality is better if it is harvested often. This is the case with Guérande salt, the only French sea salt harvested every day in summer. TRAD Y SEL Guérande salt is unspoilt and 100% natural. It meets the requirements of a quality cooking salt.