Fleur de Sel de Guérande costs a minimum of $1.15 an ounce, far more for a premium brand, whereas Morton’s Table Salt costs a mere 6₵ an ounce. What makes one type of salt worth 20 times as much as another?
Guérande is a peninsula on the Atlantic coast on the southern tip of Brittany. For over 1000 years, harvesters known as paludiers (from the old world for marsh) have used the same tools and methods to gather the white gold. Twice a day, clay basins flood with tidal water where wind and sun evaporate the water. The water is guided through the basins until it reaches the crystallization area. The fleur de sel then floats to the top where it is harvested with wooden rakes – but only late in the afternoon on dry days. It has a delicate flavor with a hint of violets. There’s a lesser grade of gray salt that is scraped from the bottom of the basins, but the fleur de sel is the way to go for a fine, finishing salt.
Today’s expression, y mettre son grain de sel (ee metruh sohn grahn duh sell) means “to put one’s grain of salt there.” It’s equivalent to our expression “to put one’s oar in” or “to put one’s two cents worth in.” It’s just my two cents worth, but fleur de sel does make a huge difference to the taste of a meal – even at 20 times the price.