Pat Shingleton: "The Best Sea Salt..."
Yesterday's column noted that salt farming depends on the weather and for French artisan farmers it’s a time tested labor of love. A combination of abundant sunshine, heating the land and persistent wind creates a surface high tide in Guerande, France. Clockwise circulation from the high enhances an area of marshy meadows, also known as the “Cote Sauvage.” Europeans have harvested salt from the earth and in this location since the ninth century. Salt farmers, also known as paludiers use the same technique and the same tools to collect this caviar of salt. The collection process begins with a wooden gate that traps the sea water into the marsh. When the correct amount of water flows at the correct rate, a maze of clay walls promotes slow evaporation. After a month, the water seeps into shallow pools and salt appears. Paludiers then collect the gourmet of all salts for use in renowned restaurants worldwide. Seepage leads to shallow pools and the appearance of the salt. Salt farmers use a tool that resembles a swimming pool skimmer to gently drag what looks like a lattice of thin ice into a wicker basket. After skimming the top, the evaporation process continues, leaving the clay-bottomed basin loaded with coarse grey salt. Natural salt is less acidic and less sharp than industrial salts and with good weather, the paludier’s can harvest of 60 tons of salt.