Let’s Talk About Salt, Baby

June 17, 2009

Himalayan Salt

Himalayan Salt

Alaea Salt

Alaea Salt

Black Lava Salt

Black Lava Salt

Maldon Salt

Maldon Salt

Truffle Salt

Truffle Salt

Five-Pepper Salt

Five-Pepper Salt

I love salt, I have a collection. Delicate pale pink Himalayan mineral salt. Kosher salt. Fine sea salt. Salmon-hued Alaea salt. Coarse sea salt. Black lava salt, it gets its midnight colour from charcoal. Crisp and flaky Maldon salt – might be my favourite. Truffle salt, another favourite – the pungent smell of this one makes my mouth water and my brain buzz. Fleur de sel. Smoked sea salt. I make a fine, spicy, complex-tasting five-pepper salt that my mom swears she cannot cook without. I must make about a pound a year for her, and it’s not enough.

We humans need salt, it helps us to regulate our fluid balance. Why not have pretty, sparkly salts, then? This recipe for Five-Pepper salt was inspired by a recipe for Two-Pepper salt from Hot Sour Salty Sweet, an excellent cook book by Jeffry Alford and Naomi Duguid. This version is a little spicier, and not at all traditional.

Makes about 1/2 of a cup

1/4 cup coarse sea salt

8 Thai chilies – these are hot, tiny peppers, also called bird chilies, available in both red and green varieties

2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns – also called prickly ash

pinch dried red chili flakes

1 teaspoon white peppercorns

2 teaspoons pink peppercorns

Heat a heavy, medium-sized skillet over medium heat, cast iron is a good choice. While your pan is heating measure and add the course sea salt, Thai chilies, Sichuan peppercorns, dried chili flakes, and white peppercorns. Don’t add the pink peppercorns yet, wait until the end, when you’re ready to grind. Now, thoroughly heat your pan full of salt and peppers, toss and shake to keep the heat even. After a few minutes you will see wisps of smoke rising. This is dry-roasting. Enjoy the aromatics that float up on the curls of smoke. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool completely. This takes longer than you think it will. If you’re impatient maybe you should do something else. Go find an interesting jar to store your salt in. When your salt has cooled process it with the reserved pink peppercorns in a spice grinder, aka old but clean Braun coffee grinder. I process briefly because I like to retain some of the texture but you could process it longer for a finer, more powdery salt. Use it to season fresh fish. If you’re like my mom you will use it on almost everything.


7 Responses to “Let’s Talk About Salt, Baby”

  1. Julie said

    Mmmmm… salt.

  2. Julie said

    PS… You’re amazing. Those are such beautiful pictures, Dawne! And I’m not just saying that because it’s salt. Mmmm… salt.

  3. alisa said

    The photos are fabulous……salt…I feel like trying them all!

  4. Jason said


    Obviously you would be knowledgeable about the salts of the earth as you are one yourself.


  5. Fi said

    Hey Dawne, how do you use the black lava salt? Do you taste the charcoal in it?

    • dawnegourley said

      Hi Fionna – I don’t use the black lava salt that often, but when I do it’s as a garnishing salt on a dish such as fresh tomatoes to show off the colour. I don’t taste the charcoal in it.

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