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In My (salty) Kitchen … October 2015

Do you ever visit the kitchens of other bloggers who participate in In My Kitchen, hosted by Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial? If you do, it would not have escaped your attention that many of the IMKers are also partial to a bit of travel. And with travel comes great responsibility. The responsibility of cramming as many goodies, exotic ingredients and foodstuffs into your (and your family’s) luggage as you possibly can without being caught by the luggage limit police. Often these goodies arrive home, are looked at longingly, paraded on the blog and then end up languishing in the pantry. By the time you find them again, they are well past their use by date or can now be bought locally and are no longer considered exotic. When we were travelling for 18 months, I wanted to buy some souvenirs that could stand up to some wear and tear, were fairly lightweight and also relatively cheap. Some people collect salt shakers, I collect salt.

In My Salty Kitchen

Even the most expensive salt can be bought in small amounts so it won’t break the budget and can add some flair to your cooking and a story for the dinner table. Let’s have a taste shall we?

In my salty October kitchen is…

Slovenia Pair

…the salt that started it all. Salt from Slovenia. Slovenia has 46.6 km of coastline on the Adriatic and they have made the most of it. Salt making is one of the oldest economic activities in Slovenia and though many of the saltworks have closed, there is still a decent industry. They even have a salt making museum. This salt was purchased at a service station, of all places. I liked the almost Communist Era styling of the logo so that seemed a good enough reason to buy it. This bowl of salt is all that is left from the original bag.

The crystals are moist and are a medium rounded grain. Useful for seasoning soups and stews as well as tomato salads.

For more about the Slovenian salt industry, visit here: So Good We Have A Museum

To take a look at what they’re eating in the holiday town of Bled, visit here: I’m Just A Gigolo


In my salty kitchen is…

Black Lava Salt Pair

…the weirdest looking salt I have ever seen. This Hiwa Kai Black Lava Salt from Hawaii (via Utah). I bought this salt in a supermarket in Salt Lake City of course! We were there to buy pillows, an esky and other accoutrement for our five weeks of touring in the west. At this point you are probably thinking ‘Wow! Black Lava Salt! It looks so exotic. They must harvest it from volcanoes. It must be black from all of the minerals in the lava.’ Well that’s what you’d think but as it turns out, black lava salt is simply salt that has been harvested and then coloured with activated charcoal. The charcoal is from coconut shells. This salt leaves a faint black dust on your fingers when you touch it. Still, it looks pretty impressive. You can sprinkle it on scrambled eggs and pretend it’s caviar.

The crystals are dry, large and angular. They actually look like small pieces of mineral. Useful as a garnish and to impress the pants off your foodie friends.

For more information about Black lava salt, visit here: Tricky Black Salt


In my salty kitchen is…

Sel de Geurande pair

…the salt you buy on a public holiday. Grey salt or sel gris from marshy Guérande in Brittany. This salt comes from the same salt pans as fleur de sel but is allowed to come in contact with the bottom of the clay pan before it is raked and is why it’s a greyish colour. This large bag was purchased from one of my favourite supermarkets, Carrefour. But not just any Carrefour. The Carrefour in Epernay in the Champagne region. On the Monday of a May Day long weekend, not much is open in Epernay but rest assured you can still buy Champagne by the case and all the salt (and cheese) you could want from the Carrefour. We bought this on the day we drove from Epernay to Bremgarten bei Bern in Switzerland, where we had a house swap for two months.

The crystals are moist, large and coarse. Use in general cooking but also good sprinkled on top of home made focaccia before it’s baked. There is a slight mineral taste.

To learn more about Sel de Guerande and the Guerandaise, visit here: We’ve Been Around Since 1500 So We Know a Thing Or Two About Salt

To read about our stay in Epernay, visit here: Champagne Darling!


In my kitchen is…

Bad Ischler Salt

…the salt that deserves its reputation. This salt is from the Salzburg salt mines. Salzburg of course means Salt Town in German. We were visiting just before Christmas. It was lovely with the Christmas Market and people dressed in their best alpine wear. As we were staying for a week, there was time to explore the surrounding towns and villages. What a day that was. We dressed at the Hallein salt mine like Oompah Loompahs, in white miner’s overalls and helmets and rode the wooden slippery slide down into the mine. Yes, a slippery slide. As we walked through the mine and admired the crystalline sculptures, the chill started to creep through the layers. By the time we rode the boat across the underground salt lake (this tour had it all), the mercury continued to fall. For some reason I thought being in the mine might have been warmer. It wasn’t. Now I know why ‘going to the salt mines’ is a punishment. After we collected our adorable miniature salt shaker, it started to snow… and snow… and snow. It snowed for days until the drifts were up to the windowsill. It snowed so much that they shut the airport and we had to be bussed to another airport 2 hours drive away. Those were the days my friends.

It was just a little snowy...

It was just a little snowy…

The crystals are tiny and pour freely. Most table salt is mined rock salt, just like this. Use as you would any other table or cooking salt. I find this very salty indeed.

For more about the salt mines of Salzburg, visit here: The Hills Are Alive With The Sound of Salt Mining


In my salty kitchen is…

Carmargue Fleur de Sel Trio…the salt that made us all into wannabes. Fleur de Sel or ‘flower of salt’ from Camargue in the south of France is the upmarket salt that made a generation of Rick, Nigella and Jamie watchers realise that their own kitchens were lacking. We simply had to have this salt so we too could season our dishes with salt that is so posh pink flamingoes migrate to the salt pans where it’s harvested. The water or algae in the pans is indeed pink as are the flamingoes however the salt is white. There is a lovely vignette on the box and a cork lid with a label telling me ‘Cueillie par Alain Barthelot Saunier a Aigues-Mortes’ or ‘Hand picked by Alain Barthelot at Saunier Aigues-Mortes salt marshes’. I bought this salt on the ferry from Roscoff to Plymouth when the Icelandic volcano scuppered out travel plans.

The crystals are dry, medium sized with a slight flakiness. Use in cooking or to finish that delightful salted butter caramel truffle you’ve just created.

For more about the salt marshes of the Camargue, visit here: Those Mossies Are Ferocious


In my salty kitchen is…

Sel de Pyrennes trio

…a salt fit for mountaineers. This Sel des Pyrenees from Spain was a gift from my travel bug Mum. From the town of Salinas de Oro in the Navarra region, I’m very fond of this gift. Anthony and I spent a week in Navarra in 2010 in the tiny town of Lerin, a 45 minute drive from Salinas de Oro. Whilst everyone’s getting all shouty at the running of the bulls in Pamplona, this third generation family business is tending their salt pans. The salt is from the first crystallisation that forms at the beginning or end of the day. It is gently scooped our before it falls to the bottom and as you can see, the flakes are huge, made of many crystals.

Dry, crisp, dense flakes nearly as big as a cornflake. The surface is textured, the embedded crystals reminding me of marcasite. Gentry crush a flake in your hand or mortar (if you can bear) and use to finish dishes. Or, you can just open the box and look at it.

For more on the day we were kidnapped by Spanish octogenarians, visit here: No Habla Español 


In my salty kitchen is…

Smoked Salt Pair

…a crystaline campfire. I love smoked foods so when I saw this Salish Smoked Alderwood Sea Salt in the same supermarket as the black lava salt, it went straight into the shopping trolley. This is delicious but powerful stuff. A few days into our US trip, the lid came off the tub and the smoky smell permeated the boot of the car. It reminded me of the general wood smoke smell that penetrated everything on our trip through Kenya. Several years on, I can still smell the smoke on some of the jewellery I bought from the Masai. Even though this is in a sealed tub, I keep the tub inside a ziplock bag. When I unzipped the bag to take these photos, it smelled like a bushfire.

The salt is moist and a mixture of small dark brown with white crystals. Use sparingly. Great in homemade baked beans or  to perk up shop bought ones. Even better on the rim of a margarita.

Salt Quote

As you can see, there is no Australian salt in my kitchen. This is simply because when I go on holiday in Australia, I have more luggage allowance. I really have more salt that I can get through anytime soon but as I said, it’s relatively cheap, keeps forever and brings back happy memories. There are worse habits.

Is there a ‘must buy’ that finds its way into your suitcase when you’re travelling home?

49 comments… add one
  • Jan Rhoades October 2, 2015, 8:51 pm

    Your ‘use by date’ made me smile. Was Mr Tiffin looking over your shoulder? I can’t ever imagine salt having a use by date…especially not in our kitchens. Great post. I had forgotten about the Spanish salt.

    • Fiona Ryan October 3, 2015, 11:41 am

      I know you mentioned at the time that it hadn’t made it into an IMK. That’s because I had other plans for it!

  • sherry from sherrys pickings October 3, 2015, 3:28 pm

    what wonderful tales to tell! i love salt and i have heaps of different ones (as you may have guessed!). my sis in law lives in france and she often brings over some french salt and olive oil for us. we went to salzburg but not to the mines. such a beauteous place.

    • Fiona Ryan October 3, 2015, 6:55 pm

      How lucky having a Sis In Law in France! Salzburg was lovely even if it was smothered in snow. The Christmas Markets!

  • sherry from sherrys pickings October 3, 2015, 3:29 pm

    love the photo in your winter woollens!

    • Fiona Ryan October 3, 2015, 6:54 pm

      There are even some snow flakes falling. Or maybe they are salt flakes…

  • Liz (Good Things) October 3, 2015, 5:32 pm

    Fascinating! And I love that photo of you two! xx

  • Kim | a little lunch October 3, 2015, 9:19 pm

    Fiona, I started link hopping to follow your fascinating and fun side stories and giggled and “LOL” through two cups of coffee (it’s 6 a.m. here) before finally reaching your comment section here. Thank you for the salt tutorial and the smiles — great way to start the day. Wonderful post!

    • Fiona Ryan October 4, 2015, 8:28 am

      Thanks Kim – who would have thought that something I had hoarded in my cupboard could have such a rich history?

  • Tania | My Kitchen Stories October 3, 2015, 9:45 pm

    There are some really great stories here and a very useful thing to collect. salt does weigh a fair bit though!

    • Fiona Ryan October 4, 2015, 8:29 am

      But you only need to buy a small amount or you can leave some behind. The equivalent to emptying the water out of a snow dome I suppose.

  • Johanna @ Green Gourmet Giraffe October 3, 2015, 10:07 pm

    I love this post from your tongue in cheek description of how bloggers buy and neglect culinary travel souvenirs though your travelogue told through the stories of each salt. I have been known to buy salt souvenirs quite often, being a lover of fancy salts. However I have so much salt now that I am trying to limit salty purchases. BTW I bought some smoked salt and rather than neglecting it I kept it for good and when I finally went to use it I found the smoky flavour had gone somewhat and wondered if you found this with salts you buy..

    • Fiona Ryan October 4, 2015, 8:31 am

      A fellow Salarian! I didn’t think about the smoke flavour disappearing. That is probably true of mine also so I’ll have to start sprinkling with greater abandon.

  • Glenda October 4, 2015, 2:51 am

    Hi Fiona. All your salt looks lovely but to me it all tastes like salt. I do like the look of the black one on food though. People don’t expect salt to be black and it is not that salty :).

    • Fiona Ryan October 4, 2015, 8:32 am

      Yes, it all just tastes like salt. The black one is so curious and angular. It certainly doesn’t look like salt so is a great party trick.

  • Kirsty October 4, 2015, 7:40 pm

    Wow Fiona, so much salt! I especially love the black angular lava salt. Who would have thought you could get charcoal from coconut shells? not me! I would love to get my hands on some Tasman Sea Salt, it sounds so pure. I probably have 1043 grinds left in my Pink Himalayan Salt grinder, so am not in any hurry. Have a great month, cheers Kirsty

    • Fiona Ryan October 13, 2015, 5:27 pm

      I’ve got my eye on some salt that hand make in Bali but honestly, do I really need it?

      (the answer is ‘yes’, btw)

  • Maree October 4, 2015, 8:11 pm

    I love this post! I’m going to bookmark it and go back a few more times to read it again and again. I was giggling the other day about how when I was a kit we had cooking salt and table salt, that’s it, end of story! I love some of the newer varieties and I really enjoy reading your informative detail. Salt ain’t just salt! But then again it is 🙂

    • Fiona Ryan October 13, 2015, 5:28 pm

      Thanks Maree. It’s a bit silly isn’t it? In the end, it’s just salt but it’s cheap and makes me happy.

  • SeattleDee October 5, 2015, 7:19 am

    Such a tasty, salt loving post! I just reached for the salt grinder to add a few smoky bits to my buttered slice of sourdough bread with walnuts. Salt, sensational salt! I loved reading of your travels, and can’t believe I missed the Salzburg salt mines when visiting the Christmas market there ages ago.

    • Fiona Ryan October 13, 2015, 5:31 pm

      The salt mines are a bit of a drive but as we were there for a week, we had some time on our hands. The idea of smoked salt on buttered sourdough with walnuts sounds divine. I have all of those ingredients so I’m making some for a snack right now. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Mel @ The cook's notebook October 5, 2015, 9:53 am

    Love it! I too have many types of salt in my pantry, much also purchased on overseas holidays. Hope the kitchen renos are going well.

    • Fiona Ryan October 13, 2015, 5:32 pm

      Renos have slowed as we wait for the slab to cure but should ramp up next week. More room for salt!

  • Emily (Cooking for Kishore) October 5, 2015, 2:06 pm

    Hi Fiona. Great salty travel stories! 🙂 I think each salt has it’s own all tastes, and I’m definitely a fan of the Black Lava Salt and Oryx Desert Salt. 🙂

    • Fiona Ryan October 13, 2015, 5:33 pm

      Well now I’m going to have to get some Oryx aren’t I?!

  • Lisa October 5, 2015, 7:27 pm

    I love the themed post this month. I too am guilty of keeping special foods ‘for good’. I shall try to eat with greater abandon (my tastebuds will rejoice if my waistline doesn’t). I love the sound of the smokey salt… I admit the bushfire descriptor grabbed me, I grew up in the bush where annual bushfires were the norm so the smell brings back memories.
    I also love the little blue bowl displaying your Sel des Pyrenees souvenir!

    • Fiona Ryan October 13, 2015, 5:35 pm

      The bowl was a gift. I can’t recall where from though…

  • Sandra October 5, 2015, 9:59 pm

    Fiona, your salt collection makes mine look very meagre in comparison, I’m impressed! Look forward to meeting up in Canberra in a couple of weeks

    • Fiona Ryan October 13, 2015, 5:35 pm

      Start collecting – it’s in everyone’s budget! See you soon ; )

  • Ania @ milktoastandhoney.co.uk October 6, 2015, 6:20 am

    Fiona, I loved the idea of collecting salt! And seeing the array of different types in your kitchen, wow 🙂 I don’t know if you ever made it to Poland but I recommend visiting Wieliczka Salt Mines with its beautiful chambers all carved out of salt including chandeliers. You can listen to classical concerts or even get married in one of the chapels. Certainly gives a different spin on salt mining!

    • Fiona Ryan October 13, 2015, 5:36 pm

      Hi Ania – we didn’t make it to Poland but of course, it is on the list for our next European holiday (a way off yet).

  • Kari @ bite-sized thoughts October 6, 2015, 5:28 pm

    Wow – that is a lot of salt! But beautiful, exotic, inspiring salt. I like your style of holiday purchasing and am imagining a gorgeous salt display in your kitchen 🙂

    • Fiona Ryan October 13, 2015, 5:38 pm

      ha ha ha – more like a bunch of packets all shoved in the back of the pantry. Who knew the salt post would be so popular? I’m going to dedicate a small shelf in my new pantry to my salt I think!

  • Jennifer @Milk and Honey October 6, 2015, 8:51 pm

    Your kitchen is salty heaven. Love, love, love salt… and this post.

  • Shari from GoodFoodWeek October 7, 2015, 4:44 pm

    What a beautiful quote to end with. I am a big fan of salt, so this was an awesome post!

    • Fiona Ryan October 13, 2015, 5:39 pm

      There were a few salt quotes to choose from so it was a little hard to decide. I aim to please ; )

  • Veganopoulous October 7, 2015, 7:36 pm

    so much glorious salt here– love it! When I’ve traveled I have made it a priority to go in to supermarkets. That’s my thrill!

    • Fiona Ryan October 13, 2015, 5:46 pm

      Supermarkets are just so pleasing aren’t they? You can buy some happy memories there for just a few dollars. cheers!

  • Miss Food Fairy October 8, 2015, 5:20 pm

    I love salts to Fiona and this is such a great insight into many of the salts from around the world. I love them all but my favourites are the Hawaiian Black Lava & the Smoked salt – I have them in my spice racks, not used too often but I can’t wait to experiment with them over the warmer months. I’ve seen the black lava salt used on deep fried quail with coleslaw, which was very complimentary and delicious! Great #IMK x

    • Fiona Ryan October 13, 2015, 5:41 pm

      The lava salt is so crunchy. It makes people pull back and wonder what it is. I’m looking forward to using it on some canapes at Christmas.

  • Gretchen October 9, 2015, 6:28 am

    I love the theme this month! You have brought up some great memories as well. I went to university for a year in Austria not far from the Slovenian border. I remember getting salt on a trip to Slovenia too. And don’t get me started on Bad Ischler salt. I LOVED the 7 herb salt so much, I need to find a way to get some again.

    • Fiona Ryan October 13, 2015, 5:42 pm

      I aim to please Gretchen. As I said, I find the Bad Ischler very salty. I didn’t even know there was a 7 herb salt variety. Do I need it? Yes I do. You, my friend, are an enabler!

  • EllaDee October 13, 2015, 12:53 pm

    Salts are one of my favourite condiments for my own consumption, and for foodie people gifts. Fortunately I don’t need to travel far (although it would be nice) as I life within walking distances of Salts Meats Cheese at Alexandria. Salts and more! At one early novelty stage there was half a cupboard of different salts and I know the G.O. thought we’d never get through them but we have 🙂

    • Fiona Ryan October 13, 2015, 5:44 pm

      Salts Meats Cheese…. why have I not heard about this place before????? I was only in Sydney last month and was actually visiting a friend in Alexandria (though he is a vegan so maybe not a place to visit with him). Next time!

  • celia October 22, 2015, 10:50 am

    Loved this post, Fiona! So many interesting salts! I think I have some of the black lava salt, but the others were new to me, although I’d heard of Fleur de Sel before. I have a salt which would interest you – from Mexico. It has ground up grasshoppers in it, and it’s for rimming a margarita glass! 😀

    • Fiona Ryan October 23, 2015, 11:26 am

      Oh yes Celia, I’d like that. Chapulin – the grasshopper. I had some prawns in NYC that were in a chapulin batter. I’m up for anything!

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