Where to Buy Fleur De Sel and Other French Salt Products
Have you ever wanted to buy fleur de sel, or l’eau de gauche as it’s referred to in the cosmetic industry? It’s a rare thing to see these days, as they are a very exclusive and sought after product. Fleur De Lis is actually French for Lily of the Valley. They are made from a tiny flower that grows in the mountains, and has for centuries been associated with the French monarchy and the clergy. Because it forms naturally only under very limited circumstances, and because only hand-picking it can preserve it so well, fleur de sel itself is, by any account, a very expensive product, cost prohibitive for most buyers.
The main benefit of fleur de sel, beyond its expensive price tag, is that it tends to be rather delicate. The blossom is actually very hardy, retaining much of its flavor, color and fragrance even after harvest. In fact, the whole thing is actually considered a delicatessen in some parts of France. But although the petals are quite delicate, they are also extremely powerful, retaining much of their potency after fermentation.
When it comes to fleur de sel, most people picture a white flower. But in truth, it comes in a variety of colors. In the winter the seawater freezes, turning the water to a frozen white, and adding a taste that’s distinctively salty. As a result, only a very small amount of the oil is actually edible. But as summer approaches, the flower opens up to reveal a variety of delightful flavors, including lemon, apple cider vinegar, lemongrass, vanilla and even mint.
When shopping for fleur de sel, you’ll notice that most bottles are not labeled with a “best by” date. This is because the harvesting of the flowers is rarely finished, since they’re harvested as soon as they come out of the wood. Instead, each plant is individually handpicked and weighed. When buying bottled products, make sure to find the date on the label clearly. Usually, this date will be stamped on the bottle about a month before the flowering season. It will then be shipped to you in a wood container.
Because fleur de sel flowers are so fragile, their fragile nature means that they must be carefully stored. Many manufacturers ship their products in plastic bags, or bubble wraps. Although this may seem like a good idea, these plastic bags actually contribute to the growth of mold and bacteria, as the delicate crystals are unable to withstand high temperatures. Also, plastic does not allow the air to circulate around the crystals, which allows the natural flavor to quickly evaporate. Bubble wrap is another bad choice, as it provides no air flow, which also minimizes the amount of flavor and color that can be retained in the bottle.
Ideally, you should buy fleur de sel from a retailer that uses high moisture content clay instead of plastic. Clay is far more durable and better able to withstand high temperatures, and its natural flavor is much less susceptible to rapid evaporation. However, not all fleur de sel products are made from high moisture content clays, and some are actually pressed from extremely heavy clay. For this reason, it’s important to read the product label.
The Fleur de celery herb is used in most recipes today, but the most flavorful form of this salt is fleur de sel salt. This crystal-salt derivative is harvested in the high moisture regions of France and neighboring areas. It has very few calories and very little salt, making it highly versatile. Many chefs buy this salt in bulk to use in recipes for a variety of dishes they create. For example, they will often blend it with olive oil and then add it to soups and stews, or they will use it as a vinaigrette ingredient in a recipe for grilled fish.
You can buy fleur de sel at your nearest health food store, specialty market, or online retailer. They may also be available at specialty gourmet food stores and in select grocery stores. If you shop in the spring when these types of salts are in high demand, you may be lucky enough to find them in your local grocery store. In addition to the traditional type of salt, you can also buy fleur de sel salt in a premixed premix, or as an all-natural brine for fish or meats. Look for quality products that have been harvested from high mountain salt beds in the northeastern part of France.