What is Fleur de Sel
Fleur de sel or “Flower of Salt” in French has an ancient history dating back hundreds of years. It is traditionally harvested by hand off the coast of Brittany in Guerande, Camargue and also on the Island of Noirmoutier. The Island received its name from the uniforms of the monks at the Monastry. In fact, the monks started harvesting salt some 1500 years ago. The Island is located off the west coast of France, and home to the worlds most expensive potato, Le Bonnette, which sells for about 70 euros per kilo, and of course Fleur de Sel. Fleur de Sel from Noirmoutier Island is comparable to the prized Guerande salt, although a it is a little wetter and paler in color.
The process of harvesting the salt is completely natural and only involves the sun, sea and man. Local Fleur de Sel specialities include salt butter and Vendean brioche. It is featured in many dishes and is often used to bring out the flavors of fresh seasonal produce.
It is referred to as white Gold and as in history, has helped the Island gain wealth and prosperity. Throughout the ages, salt has been used as a method of food preservation and herring fisherman would often plan a stop at this Island to obtain supplies.
The Island has many salt marshes or Oeillets separated by mud walls. The sea water is directed in the marshes via canals and then through reservoirs, which gradually become more shallow nearer the salt pans. As the water evaporates during dry periods, the salt crystals are formed. These are then carefully harvested by hand. In the first stage they are large coarse crystals, light grey in color and known as “sel gris”. The islands location in the Atlantic ocean with a mild climate and dry winds make it the perfect region for maximum evaporation. The sea salt is never processed and packaged completely naturally, the same way it has been done for centuries. It is lower in sodium and high in calcium giving it a smooth savory taste.
Tips for cooking:
- Croque au sel – A simple mixing of fresh vegetables with sea salt and butter either raw or steamed.
- Croute en sel – A method of cooking a meat or fish in salt, which is then later removed. Suited perfectly with baked fish, the salt forms a crusted layer that can then be removed after baking.
- Fleur de Sel also makes a great addition to steak, roasted nuts and salad.
Use sparingly and enjoy the rich flavor Fleur de Sel imparts