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A boulder of Himalayan rock salt emerges from darkness of a 16th century mine shaft in Pakistan and explodes into light, catching and refracting the sun in hues ranging spring water clear to hibiscus pink to venison red. Stone masons in a neighbouring town then hand cut the great rock into a variety of shapes,providing the foundation for extraordinary advance ways to prepare and serve food.
There are as many culinary uses for these heavy slabs of Himalayan pink salt as there are foods, cooking styles, whims, acts of folly, and shows of bravado. They can be heated, chilled, or left at room temperature — and with care, they can used over and over again.
Serve moist food on it, such as mozzarella and sliced apples, and the food will pick up a delicate saltiness that sets it off perfectly. Heat a salt plate on the stove, then set the hot block on a trivet at the table to sear scallops or thinly sliced hanger steak while seated with your guests.
QUICK START GUIDE TO COOKING ON SALT BLOCKS
Himalayan Pink Salt Blocks can be heated, cooled, or left at room temperature. Cold room and temperature uses require no special instruction;simply place food on the salt block and serve.
Himalayan salt blocks take on a life of their own once you start using them (and sometimes even before then). While it might be nice for salt to offer all the stability of stainless steel, this is simply not the case. When heated, it will change colour dramatically, and may develop fissures or even large cracks. It may also patina with use, taking on colour from the proteins cooked on it. Don’t get upset by the behavior of your salt block. Salt is a complicated, unpredictable substance. That is what gives it much of its charm.
Heating Himalayan Salt Blocks requires following some basic steps. Allow between 30 to 45 minutes to achieve the desired cooking temperature. Also, note that heating will change the appearance of your Himalayan Salt Block. Your salt plate will crackle slightly on heating as micro-fissures appear, clouding the clear finish of the salt block. This is normal, but you may wish to keep one piece for heating and reserve another for room temperature uses.
· Be sure the salt block is completelydry. If wet, allow to dry at least 24 hours in a warm, dry place beforeheating.
· For gas ranges, place your HimalayanSalt Block on the burner over low flame. After 15 minutes (allow more time for plates larger than 8″ x 8″ x 2″), increase heat to low-medium. After another 15minutes, your salt plate will be hot enough to cook on. If extremely hot temperatures are desired, as for searing duck foie gras, or scallops increase flame to medium for another 15 minutes.
· For electric ranges, place a metal spacer — such as wok ring or pas- try tin with a removable bottom — on the stove so that the Himalayan Salt Block is at least 1/2 inch above the heating element. It is important that the salt not touch the heating element, as direct contact could damage your range or your salt, or both. With the salt block in place, follow instructions 3a above, allowing as much a 5 minutes more for each step.
· Do not heat your saltblock in the oven. This can damage your salt block and/or your oven.
CARING FOR YOUR HIMALAYAN SALT PLATE
After each use, rinse your salt plate with warm water, scrub with a soft brush or green scouring pad to remove any stuck matter, and rinse again. Tap dry with a paper towel or clean cloth. Set on a drying rack. This process removes a very thin layer of the salt. Treated with care, a large salt block can provide dozens of uses. The potent antimicrobial proper- ties of the salt insure that it is always proper and ready for future use, with no need for detergents.
The crystal lattice of Himalayan pink salt blocks hold any temperature you bring it to for a good while. This also makes for excellent heat distribution, making grandma’s heavy old cast iron skillet seem like tinfoil by comparison.
Himalayan Salt Blocks have very little porosity, and virtually no residual moisture (.026%), the salt plates can be safely heated or chilled to great extremes. We have tested them from 0°F up to 700°F (-18°C to 370°C). Salt melts at 1473.4°F (800.8°C). (If you want to boil yourself some salt, you willneed to bring it to 2669°F (1465°C)).
Two other considerations come into play when working with our Himalayan salt plates. Their lack of porosity means that the surface area touching your food is minimal, so these large blocks of salt will impart only a very moderate saltiness. Second, the high quantity of trace miner- als (1.2% sulfur, .4%calcium, .35% potassium, .16% magnesium, and 80 other trace minerals) impart amore mild and full taste to the salt, and by extension, more flavour complexity to your food.
OGLING YOUR HIMALAYAN SALT PLATE
Let your mind drift overland, off the path, and into the wilds of theHindu Kush, where wildflowers scatter under the tessellated fingerprint of a mild spring breeze. We take up with the torrents of the Amu Darya river, and just keep climbing, along the ancient path where recorded history began, back in the 6th century BC, under the Achaemenid Empire. Weeks later, in the rarified air of northern Punjab’s Himalaya mountain range, we find a quarry where men pull massive boulders of luminescent pink ore from the earth, glowing like freshly harvested meteorites. Gaze into the deep ferrite light of a massive block of Himalayan salt, and glimpse the unfathomed history of our planet.
Pakistani pink Himalayan salt was formed in the Precambrian era, about 600 million years ago, as a great inland sea evaporated. The salt is rich in iron, calcium, and 82 other trace minerals—in a remarkably similar balance as that of the human body. Volcanic and other geological activity then sealed the salt in a hermetic vault where, over eons, it was subjected to the intense pressure and heat of the deep earth. Over countless ages the land rose to become the Himalayas.
Meanwhile, the scattering of Eukaryotic cells that comprised all life on earth evolved into shellfish and trilobites. Fish began to swim in the sea,great fern forests emerged, and then came the reptiles. Still the salt glowed darkly in the depths of the earth. Dinosaurs grew to towering heights, mammals peeked from beneath the leaves, and birds took flight. Grazing and carnivorous mammals, and then primates took hold, and still the salt remained in darkness.
Man appeared, gawking at the heavens and whittling spears, then scatter-ing across Asia and beyond. 1.8 million years later, one lovely evening in 326BC, Alexander the Great gave his troops a rest in the Khewra area of what is now Pakistan. An observant fellow noted in his diary that the horses were taken with licking the rocks — and lo, salt was discovered. Some eighteen centuries later, Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar was born. At the age of thirteen, the boy’s father fell to his death from the library stairs, and Akbar ascended to rule,eventually becoming the Mughal empires greatest ruler. Akbar’s two lasting contributions were the vast accession- ing of art from around the world into the Mughal collections, and the introduction of standardised salt mining at Khewra.