We’ve talked quite a bit here at Shameless Consumer about the origins of flavor combinations, and now it’s time you learned about sea salt and caramel. You see, unlike the Arnold Palmer, which was the loving result of marriage and childbirth, sea salt caramel has its basis in bitter, bitter rivalry with a bit of sea salt sprinkled on top.
In order to fully get the story, we have to go back to 1800 Bologna Italy, home town of the renowned yet unaccredited Saltini family. The Saltinis became rich during the occupation by Napoleon’s forces in 1796, striking a deal with Napoleon himself to retain ownership of local sea salt mining operations on the grounds that the family refuse any deal that would see their salt used to flavor the Roman church’s papal crackers. When Bologna traded hands in 1815, the Saltini family was forced to emigrate out of fear of retribution by Pope Pius VII, making an agreement that allowed the family to continue their control of said mine.
So the family hopped into their 1810 Lamborghini Alfredo and booked it with the intention of heading toward what they thought was Novigrad Croatia. However, since Croatia had suffered numerous changes of hands over the years, confusion, lack of road signs, and a general disinterest by head of house Giovanni Saltini to ask for directions led the family astray and the next thing they knew, their car had run out of gas outside of immigration services in downtown New York City. With their reserves of pasta and olive oil depleted, not to mention Grandma Saltini working her way through the thousandth rendition of E Il Sol Dell’anima, the family set up shop.
Over the next few years, Giovanni Saltini would purchase the land and expand his newly international sea salt empire, promising a fortune for any worker willing to put in a day’s effort and coining the term “worth your salt,” in the process. In 1815, however, the Saltini family goes head first into a property dispute with the owners of a nearby mining operation, a family of Portugese immigrants who had taken advantage of cheap land prices and abundant natural resources. The disputing family, also known as the Caramelos, owned land right next to the Saltinis and set up shop mining its natural caramel caves. According to a lawsuit filed by the Caramelos in 1816, runoff from the Saltini sea salt mine was contaminating their caramel, resulting in the family having to recall all product.
To their surprise, 98% of customers refuse to acknowledge the recall or return the product, they loved it. It seemed as though the families had inadvertently struck gold, creating the next big sensation. People fell in love with the unconventional matching of sweet and salty. The Caramelo family drops their lawsuit and, in December of 1816, family head Leche Caramelo agrees to meet Giovanni Saltini on the sidewalk outside of the Teamonte Cafe. Unknown to Caramelo, Saltini has no plans on forming a business relationship and upon their meeting, he shoots Caramelo point blank in the chest with a shotgun specially modified to fire pellets of sea salt.
Due to the pellets dissolving in Caramelo’s blood, the police are unable to produce sufficient evidence to prosecute Giovanni Saltini, however the NYPD is forced to acknowledge via a later lawsuit that the mixture of blood and salt had melted the icy sidewalk, thus creating a safe environment for responding officers and offering Giovanni a solid character witness, and in 1818 the city compensated the Saltini family by handing over the deed to the caramel mines plus thirty six cents for a day’s lost wages.
Giovanni, sadly, would not survive to see the fruits of his labor. In 1822, the head of the Saltini family perished in a carriage accident. In respect of their father’s pride, the horses involved in Saltini’s trampling were butchered and served at the wake. Daughter Elsa Saltini took this opportunity to field test the first run of the family’s new product: Salted caramels. The new dessert was a hit, transforming the wake from an event of silence and honor to something more closely resembling a birthday party.
The family business would expand over the next hundred years until great grandson Adolfo Saltini in 1917 witnessed a shooting star and decided to leave town to pursue it. He followed the extraterrestrial object across the country, all the way to its crash site in Chattanooga Tennessee where he found that farmers had mined it clean and used its innards to create what we now know as the Moon Pie. Adolfo approached the head miner and made a business offer and the rest, as they say, was history.
But that’s enough learning for today, we’re here to talk about food.
The salted caramel Moon Pie is an alternate take on a beautiful American classic, the lesser known flag sewn by Betsy Ross’ equally sexy sister, the pair of teeth that George Washington only used in formal occasions, the Vice President of flavor, the deciding vote when the Senate Foreign Culinary Committee comes to a 50/50 opposition and the guy who will probably grab your ass at a formal dinner party and leave a caramel hand print.
At the very least, it will leave a caramel hand print on your face as you open the packaging. The caramel aroma, much like the freedom that the Moon Pie is based off of, does not like being contained, and will burst out as soon as the plastic opens.
It’s important to remember that this is first and foremost a Moon Pie, secondarily a salted caramel treat. The caramel coating, as you would expect, is very thinly layered on top, so thin that you might not even notice it if you wolf down the pie in one mouthful. In this respect, the salted caramel outside is the soft bass carrying the melodic tone of the Moon Pie’s fifth overture, delicately enveloping you in its arms as the soft graham cracker and marshmallow bedding whisk you to a dreamland of serenity, beauty, and presumably an endless stack of Moon Pies.
There are only two times when it is appropriate for a grown man to cry, and one of those times is when you look upon your Moon Pie with the realization that there is only so much time before both the plastic wrap and your fingers have been sufficiently licked clean of leftover residue. Now that we’ve finished the Moon Pie, I think now it’s been long enough that we can reminisce about it.
The sea salt caramel Moon Pie is soft, gooey, and tastes of deliciously sweet (and salty) caramel. It has exactly the right amount of salt, caramel, graham cracker, and marshmallow. Truly this is culinary inventiveness at its finest.
Verdict – 6/5: The salted caramel Moon Pie isn’t the greatest achievement of man to date, but the first half of this sentence is wrong.