Make everything tasty for the holidays: Oryx, desert salt from South Africa

Looking for a holiday gift that’s exotic, sustainable, non-perishable, that everyone can use and enjoy? Oryx desert salt from South Africa will dazzle everyone with a kitchen this holiday season, available at Whole Foods in the US! I was happy to be hosted to experience it.

You’ve heard of sea salt, but have you heard of desert salt? You’ve read about the extraordinary formation of salt in an underground lake in South Africa’s Kalahari Desert HERE. The salt is ethically harvested and sundried: so natural! Their products have refills available, so that you aren’t constantly purchasing (and tossing out) grinders.

I compared the desert salt, as well as some its flavor varieties, to a sea salt from Great Britain. Trying the control salt all by itself, I was surprised by its complete lack of complexity and nuance. It came off as just saline, like eating tears. Then, I tried the original Oryx desert salt. There was a remarkable difference! The desert salt was both saltier and tangier. The grinder style — with a ceramic head, refillable — grinds out crisp little crystals.

Oryx smoked salt is cold-smoked with French Oak, the same stuff that many fine liqueurs is aged with. This flavor still has the salty qualities, but with a subtle hint of smoke flavor — this is no fake hickory salt type product. It really ups the umami factor of food, so I used it as part of an Italian wedding soup I made from a duck stock I froze at the beginning of the holidays, baby kale, Italian meatballs, Carolina Gold rice, Italian meatballs and some Oryx black pepper. With the black pepper, the first lay of flavor is floral and the heat kicks in later. Its built-in grinder creates mixed-sized grains. I found that the Oryx seasonings imparted a real grandma, homemade flavor. A perfect application!

Over the past several years, mixing sweets with salt has taken the world by storm as a trend, but some places have been doing it all along: Scandinavian licorice has always had a heavy hit of salt, while sweet flavors mixed with savory was commonplace during the Middle Ages. When I tried Oryx wine salt infused with Shiraz, I knew it would be a great match for that kind of application. The salt has deep floral and wine notes. I’m a huge fan of salted caramel and can whip up different ones on the stovetop in just a couple of minutes. It’s easy, but you have to stay attentive. So, with some special Florida oranges — this is the season for them — I made a salted caramel glaze for them with the wine salt. Wine naturally has a hint of tang and citrus has it in spades, so this was good concept.

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