Homegrown: Sea Salt
All culinary salts–edible minerals buried in rock deposits or dissolved in the ocean–are fundamentally the same compound of sodium and chloride ions. What wakes up your tastebuds, however, is that tiny fraction of “other”: the impurities.
Sea salts’ flaky crystals, infused with the trace minerals and unique essence of the ocean, bring texture to food and oomph to its flavor–in the way that taking a deep breath of morning shore air adds life to your lungs. And for the health-conscious among you, the intensity of the seasoning lets you use less sodium in your recipes, to boot.
Eleven years ago, while shopping at a local health-food store one day, Steve Cook, a third-generation lobsterman from Bailey Island, Maine, had an epiphany when he saw sea salt on the counter and realized, “We have an ocean, and everyone knows lobsters cooked in seawater taste better.” So he got into the salt business.
He began by boiling a few gallons of ocean water from Casco Bay on his kitchen stove. He sold it in one-ounce packages: Add to a quart of tap water for “instant” seawater.
Today, his Maine Sea Salt Company, now based Down East in Marshfield, Maine, pumps about 7,000 gallons of Bucks Harbor seawater at a time into shallow pools inside 200-foot-long solar-tent greenhouses, where evaporation will eventually leave about 1,500 pounds of salt to be collected. The firm sells 15,000 to 20,000 pounds of salt a year, including natural, seasoned, and even smoked varieties, each building on what Cook touts as the layering of crisp, sweet, and saline tastes.
Cook’s neighbor, Quoddy Mist, harvests salt from the Bay of Fundy. Instead of solar tents, however, Quoddy evaporates seawater in a converted sardine processing plant at the head of the Lubec Narrows. Among the company’s products are herb and garden blends, smoked salts, and fusion seasonings of sea salt with sea vegetables such as alaria, dulse, and kombu.
We all need salt to survive, but the flavor you take in with it provides the real life.
Where to Find It
Maine Sea Salt Company