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Murray River Mineralized Salt Flakes

Reviewed by Elliot Essman

Salt is as basic to cooking as it is to life itself. Most food fanciers agree that the shape of the salt—say the difference between plain table salt and coarse kosher salt—can make a difference in the cooking result. We find greater controversy when we discuss the concept of paying more for a salt based on its flavor or particular mouth-feel. While I may use plain commercial salt, essentially a chemical, to add to my spaghetti water, when I use salt as a condiment or major seasoning element I want something more. I look for the added texture and flavor only a gourmet specialty salt can provide.

For me, specialty salt has long meant sea salt, particularly the unique offerings from Brittany in France and Maldon in England. That point of view changed when I chanced across a package of Murray River Mineralized Salt Flakes, a product of inland Australia, in a specialty foods store. The gossamer pink flakes in their polyethylene pouches are hard not to notice. The SunSalt company harvests the salt from naturally occurring brine at several areas in Australia—Mourquong, Hattah, and Wakool—nestled around the border between the Australian states of New South Wales and Victoria. The source waters that produce the salt have been lying dormant in the Murray/Darling River basins for tens of thousand of years. The crimson brine contains minerals, and hence taste elements, unique to the region. The pink color of the salt is due to minerals in the brine used to make the flake crystal. The brine contains sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron, resulting in a color that varies from deep pink to light apricot.

It would be a mistake to compare the Murray River gourmet salt with any variety of sea salt. It has—obviously—no taste of the sea. What it does offer is a mineral richness of its own. You can (and I do) eat the flaked salt out of hand. The company suggests it as an excellent garnish for baked potatoes, grilled meats and fish, salads and the like, or to decorate the rim of a cocktail glass for margaritas. I haven’t tried this final permutation yet; I am afraid any mineralized salt might compete with the joy of tequila, though the pink flakes would certainly add a nice visual element. The flakes have a lightness about them that makes you want to waft them onto nearly any dish that craves an extra “something,” whatever the origin of the cuisine. On a pragmatic level, the flake form of the salt makes it easy to use; it sticks and stays wherever you tell it to.

SunSalt’s ever-expanding reach into the Australian interior is based on certain environmental and topographical issues unique to the region. Australian inland salt isn’t one of those minerals that exist in limited supply; there is simply too much of it. Valuable agricultural land is lost to salinity every year. SunSalt feels that the considerable amount of salt it takes out of underground aquifers and sends into commerce takes some of the bite out of Australia’s serious inland salinity problem. The company processes a full range of commercial and industrial salts—even swimming pool salt—and it is fortunate they were able to isolate and identify such an appealing gourmet salt in the process. The versatile pink salt was discovered by top Australian chefs a few years ago and since has become widely available in specialty shops and over the Internet. Top -- Culinary Reviews Home

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