Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sea Salt for Sale by the Sea Shore

One of the things we love about car travel with no set agenda is that we can take last-minute detours to obscure destinations. We do it often.

Last month as we were making our way up the coast of Maine, I discovered on my i-pad via tripadvisor that a sea salt company in a nearby town offered tours. We had actually already passed the necessary left-hand turn before I figured out that it might make a good stop. So Ed very patiently turned around on the far edge of Machias, Maine and headed back a mile or two, made a right-hand turn, and two miles later, we pulled into the drive of The Maine Sea Salt Company.

Steve Cook, the owner, met us just inside the front door and sent us out back with one of the workers to take a look at the salt solar "green" houses. Here's what I learned about how the salt harvesting process works:

Sea water is pumped from a nearby bay into large tanker trucks and then unloaded into solar "green" houses. In the first house, any impurities in the water settle out and the sea water is reduced through evaporation by 50 percent. In the next green house, this method is repeated, the water filtered, and reduced by 70 percent. In the third house, the pool of remaining water evaporates, leaving behind pure sea salt. The work is seasonal; it is only hot enough in the summer to cause the water to evaporate.

In the final green house, salt is raked into piles and then scooped into bins to further drain. Next it is ground, which releases more moisture from the crystals. Linen towels are placed between layers of salt to remove any remaining moisture. It is then sifted to separate various crystal sizes.

Natural flavors (lemon, garlic, pepper, or herbs) are added to the seasoned salts and the smoked ones are placed in smokers with apple wood or hickory until they take on a dark color and a smokey flavor.

The salt is unrefined, unprocessed, solar evaporated, and hand-harvested. No drying agents are added.

In the tiny front office, I bought packaged salt for friends and family back home.
And I couldn't resist buying a ceramic "salt pig" to keep by our stove.
The Maine Sea Salt Company has been around since 1998, when Steve and his wife first began selling 1.1 oz. portions for cooking lobsters. Steve went around to the local fish markets and grocery stores hawking packages of sea salt. It quickly caught on.

An original packet of salt still hangs in the front office. 
The salt is now sold throughout the United States to health food stores, specialty food shops and high-end restaurants.

We left the the Maine Sea Salt Company loaded down with salt products and headed to Raye's Mustard Mill Museum. But that's a story for another day...

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