An island worth its Salt
Garnered from some of the cleanest waters in Europe and dried by the sun, Jersey Sea Salt is hard to beat, says Sophie Barling.
Throughout history, salt has been prized by any civilisation worth its… well, exactly. To be ‘worth one’s salt’ is to be worth one’s pay and the word ‘salary’ derives from the Latin salarium, the money that was given to Roman soldiers, supposedly to buy salt.
With its foodpreserving qualities, the stuff was indispensable before the age of modern refrigeration and bottomless supermarket supplies. It’s not surprising, therefore, that Iron Age clay salt pots used for boiling seawater have been unearthed on Jersey.
What is surprising is that, apart from a period during the Second World War, when the island was occupied by German forces and food was scarce, Jersey’s modern sea-salt production has been a non-event. Until recently, that is.
The idea for producing organic, solar-evaporated sea salt came to David Miles and Matthew Taylor when they were eating the spoils of a successful fishing trip.
Both Jersey natives, David had worked in finance for 18 years and Matthew had his own interior-design and building company. Jersey Sea Salt was born of their love of the island and its coast, but also of their frustration that no one else was making it.
As David says: ‘Jersey has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world, making the waters some of the cleanest in Europe. We’re only 14 miles from France, which has been famous for its salt since Roman times.’
A year of experimentation followed before the pair had the process down to a fine (yet crunchy) art. Their salt houses—modified polytunnels containing salt ponds—allow them to evaporate large quantities of seawater through solar energy alone.
The houses are located near the island’s most easterly bay, where the tidal surge is at its strongest and the water cleanest. It’s there that they collect the seawater, once a month, on the highest tides.
The water is filtered twice - once at the point of collection and again before being poured into the sunheated salt houses, where it’s left to evaporate over three to four weeks. The remaining crystals - unrefined and, therefore, rich in beneficial trace minerals—are then graded, sieved and packed by hand. ‘We love what we do,’ explains David, ‘whether it’s watching the sun rise as we collect seawater at 4am or seeing people taste our salt for the first time.’
Happily, their produce seems to go well with other Jersey specialities, as an essential part of La Crémière’s salted-caramel sauce, for instance, or sprinkled over buttery Jersey Royals, which have just celebrated their 140th season.