We sprinkle it on our food every day, but never think about how brilliant it is. It’s time salt stole the limelight, so here are our four favourite UK-based producers of the white stuff.
Probably the most famous sea salt in the world. Every celeb chef seems to have a box in their kitchen and it’s been featured on many a food programme. Established in 1882 off the east coast of Essex, Maldon Sea Salt is run by the fourth generation of the Osborne family and is one of only a few manufacturers still producing salt on English soil.
Here’s how they make it: every fortnight the salt that has dried across the marshes is reabsorbed by the higher spring tides. At Maldon, the water is carefully syphoned off from the middle of the river where the salt concentration is highest, before being stored and left to settle in large tanks. It’s filtered and then transferred to large stainless steel salt pans, where the water is heated and brought to a ‘galloping boil’. Salt crystals begin to form as the water evaporates, and as they grow in size and weight each one sinks to the bottom of the pan. All the water eventually evaporates, leaving beautiful salt crystals behind.
Nothing is added, nothing is taken away, and what you are left with is a flaky, clean-tasting salt crystal. As well as their characteristic green sea salt flake boxes, Maldon also produce smoked sea salt flakes which are apparently great on shellfish and meats.
Price: around £1.65 for a 250g box
Also based in Essex, but this time in Colchester, Verstegen produces a wide variety of different salts and was established just four years after Maldon (1886) in the Netherlands, but didn’t settle in the UK until 2002. They make over 300 products in total, including an extensive range of weird and wonderful sea salts.
Options include Himalayan pink coarse salt (a natural salt harvested by hand in the south-western region of the Himalayas); Persian blue salt (harvested from an Iranian mine, and the only one of its kind in the world); Danish smoked pyramid salt (which has apparently been around since the Vikings and is soft textured with a delicious smoky flavour); or their original Atlantic sea salt, which is far more potent than regular salt and therefore requires just a tiny pinch to make a difference.
Price: £6.95 for 560g of Atlantic sea salt (more expensive for flavoured salts)
Maldon has a strong celeb chef following, but Halen Môn at Anglesey, the first new sea salt producer in the UK for 125 years, has a couple of high profile followers too.
The company started producing sea salt from the waters of the Menai Straits in north Wales in 1996. Fifteen years later and they supply Heston Blumenthal at the Fat Duck, Wales’ own Bryn Williams at Odette’s in Primrose Hill and also Ferran Adria when he ran the legendary El Bulli.
As with Maldon salt, the flavour of Halen Môn is much softer and sweeter than industrially produced table salts. But theirs is saltier than Maldon.
It’s crunchy too, adding another texture to your dish. But what makes Halen Môn salt different from Maldon is the reflective surface of the crystals, which is achieved by rinsing the crystals in brine until they shine.
Their spiced sea salt is mixed with cumin, coriander and turmeric to add extra punch to dishes like spicy prawn pots, salmon rosti or just a Bloody Mary, and their smoked sea salt is infused with Welsh oak chippings which enhances the flavour of seafood. They even do a dessert salt – vanilla sea salt is infused with Tahitian vanilla pods and works with both savoury and sweet foods.
Price: £4 for 100g
The Cornish Sea Salt Company is the first in the UK to take salt directly from the sea. Salt was actually produced for centuries at the Lizard Peninsula in Porthleven, but the industry was only revived there in 2008 when Cornish Sea Salt was founded.
The reason their salt is so good is because the area is the only in Cornwall (apart from around the Scilly Isles) to boast Grade A quality water. It’s so pure that you can eat shellfish caught in the area straight away without any heat treatment.
Cornish salt has been described in tests as slightly saltier than Maldon, but not as strong as Halen Môn. Culinary celebrities who use it, including Rick Stein, Raymond Blanc and Mark Hix, say it has a clean and fresh flavour.
They’ve also branched out with different flavours, taking Halen Môn’s idea of smoked flakes and infusing them with chilli, onion and garlic.
Price: £2.25 for a 250g tub of fine sea salt (more expensive for flavoured salts)
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