Finishing salts are the latest trend from gourmet Iceland
If you caught our recent story on Iceland, you will know that the country is becoming an increasingly popular tourist stop for myriad reasons. You’ll also know that the country has also become a destination for those seeking high-end food and drink, some of which are gradually making their way to our shores. Perhaps the latest gourmet item to reach North America comes in the form of some pretty interesting finishing salts.
Established in 2011, the Saltverk company produces hand-harvested, sustainable sea salt from the remote Westfjords of Iceland. It uses geothermal energy and only one raw material — the pristine seawater of the region — to create it’s line four flavoured salts and two variations: Flaky Sea Salt, Licorice Salt, Arctic Thyme Salt, Birch Smoked Salt, Seaweed Salt and Lava Salt.
To create these, Saltverk employs a technique based on the process that was put into action by the Danish king in the 18th century (salt being a revered commodity used for the preservation of fish for trade). A few decades after its establishment, the practice of salt making in Iceland came to an end. However, the art was not lost forever thanks to Björn Steinar Jónsson – an engineer with a passion for food, sustainable resources and Iceland’s unique geography and resources.
To craft the Saltverk line, 206°F geyser water from the springs of Reykjanes is pumped into open pans, where it is preheated and becomes a strong brine with a salinity level of 17 to 20 percent. The brine is boiled until white crystals appear on the surface. The salt is then harvested from the bottom of the salt pans; any remaining liquid is drained, and the salt dried and packaged. The end result is the making of one of the few entirely sustainable flake sea-salts in the world.
I was fortunate enough to sample the entire range and can see why they have ended up in the hands of some of the world’s most respected chefs. The Flaky Sea Salt and the Lava salt are both pure and balanced (the coal coloured Lava Salt adding a dramatic visual note). The “favoured” salts are quite aromatic, but relatively subtle on the palate. From the camp fire notes of the Birch Smoked Salt, the herbal/mineral Arctic Thyme and Seaweed Salts, to the earthy Licorice Salt (think licorice root rather than anise), these salts show their best in dishes that won’t mask their uniqueness. (My “test foods” were a simple egg dish and popcorn – I suspect you can come up with something more creative.)
Saltverk salts can be purchased via Saltverk’s website, Amazon, and select retailers. The salts are sold both as single jars and as gift sets.