Gabrielle R. Borromeo
The Daily Tribune | September 14, 2014
Both my mother and my grandmother make a pretty good team when it comes to salt. My grandmother, who lives in Seattle, always sends us an array of salt I never knew about, while my mom experiments in the kitchen with it. It came as a surprise to me to see pink Himalayan salt, black lava salt and other colors in our spice rack since I was only familiar with the plain old rock and iodized salts.
Aro-En Gourmet Salts promotes the art of salt-making as the Culinary Education Foundation, CCA and Salinas Corp., one of the country’s largest producers of commercial and specialty salts, came together to elevate salt further, supporting both culinary appreciation and corporate social responsibility.
CCA students, together with their chancellor Dr. Ma. Veritas Luna and their chef-instructors, toured Salinas’ Pacific Farms facility in Bolinao, Pangasinan. In the 500-hectare salt farm, they witnessed how salt is harvested and learned more about the health benefits of salt intake.
As expected, Aro-En Gourmet Salts come in different varieties like the Fleur de Sel, mineral sea salt, Sel Gris, shio, flakes salt, bitter salt, smoked salt and the confectioners’ salt. The salts are made through practices learned from artisan salt-makers, and each one has a specific purpose in flavoring dishes. One must know the characteristics of each salt to be able to prepare dishes accompanied with the right kind of salt.
Fleur de Sel, meaning “flower of salt,” uses a harvesting method that comes from France. Only the topmost layer is harvested from the sea salt bed. It is considered a mild salt with a warm, wooden barrel flavor and claims to be an excellent all-around seasoning, bringing out the full flavors of dishes like red pasta sauce.
The snowy white mineral sea salt is said to have a savory, delicate tang. This salt also claims to bring out the full flavors of dishes in spite of having nutritional benefits, as it is low in sodium and rich in ions. The mineral sea salt is said to be perfect for classic Filipino dishes, raw beef and salt crust baking.
The grey Sel Gris, just like the Fleur de Sel, also uses French harvesting techniques. It is considered to have a briny and earthy flavor, and does not remove all the moisture out of the food. It compliments hearty and savory dishes like steak, lamb and seafood, and is used in saucy fish dishes.
Though the shio salt comes in with a milky white texture, it is said to be bittersweet and is used mostly to bring out the natural flavors in fruits and soups. It is good for cooking and finishing. It is also claimed to be suitable for dipping as its flavor is not overpowering, with a clean taste that melts easily and robustly enhances the flavor of the food.
The coarse texture of the flakes salt is a delight to the chefs because it has a strong taste and adds crunch to salads and pies with even with just a little sprinkling here and there.
The bitter salt is said to have a unique flavor, more like a magic potion for me as it gives a distinct advantage when used in foods with sharp flavors like coffee and citrus. Just a pinch of this salt dampens the strong taste of coffee, transforming the bitterness into a subtle flavor without magically leaving a strong aftertaste.
The smoked salt is smoked using acacia leaves and has a bacon flavor that is best paired with fatty fish and vanilla ice cream. It can also be applied as a tropical fruit rub on creme brulee and barbecue. It sounds to me like a great accompaniment.
Last but not least is the powdery confectioners’ salt. It is a steady oceanic sea salt with a vanishing aftertaste. This gourmet salt enhances the taste and texture of baked goods, balancing the sweetness of sugar and shortens the baking process. It is best for creating quality desserts like brownies and chocolate fondue.
The eight variants of gourmet salt mentioned are produced in a world-class facility that promotes the protection of natural surroundings.
“You can only create grade-A salt in an ideal environment. You have to make sure that the ecology is balanced to get the right materials. You have to make sure that you control the quality of the salt. Aro-En is the type of salt that you will serve to the people that you really love. Every ingredient and process put into it make sure that you get only the best,” explained Glenn Khonghun, Salinas general manager.
At the event of Aro-En Gourmet Salts, guests were served a buffet of different dishes cooked with different kinds of salts. I examined the salts and tasted some of them in their original salt form.
The salt tasted exactly like what everyone is familiar with except it had a flavorful twist. I never imagined such a variety of salt it dazzled me to see the selection. At the buffet, I remembered telling myself to take it slow and to try everything. To end my meal, I had a salted caramel donut.
When it comes to cooking, salt is not just a condiment that one can do without. Aside from its pretty selection of colors, it is a necessary element in the kitchen. It has the power to transform a dish into a culinary masterpiece.
Each purchase of the specialized salt will support various salt-making and producing communities sponsored by the groups involved.
Gabe organizes what she sees around her and loves to put it into words. She has been contributing her articles for the Daily Tribune newspaper, Tinig ng Marino (maritime) newspaper, Cook magazine, Appetite magazine and F&B World magazine.
You can contact Gabrielle at: firstname.lastname@example.org