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Digital Subscriptions > Delicious Magazine > June 2016 > BRITISH SEA SALT

BRITISH SEA SALT

It’s a traditional product and its fortunes are on the rise, thanks to chefs and cooks worldwide cheering about its quality and purity. Debbie Major traces the history of hand-made sea salt and puts its flaky, crunchy, briny character to excellent use in some pretty special recipes
PHOTOGRAPHS ANDREW MONTGOMERY STYLING POLLY WEBB-WILSON

THE HERITAGE INGREDIENT

As a cook and food writer, I can’t work without salt. A little bit added to a cake mixture, pancake batter or a pan of porridge adds another flavour dimension.

A pinch makes a plate of sliced, ripe tomatoes, harvested straight from the vine, positively sing.

It’s become fashionable to cook with pink salt from the Himalayas or black lava salt from Hawaii. Trendy or not, salt is essential to life, and its preservative qualities have enabled man to store food during the lean winter months.

Production methods vary… Most regular table salt is extracted from rocks mined from the ground, or by solution mining, where water is injected into the ground to dissolve the salt, then evaporated once it’s above ground. Most sea salt is harvested from sea water that goes through a careful evaporation process.

Making sea salt used to be an important commercial activity in Britain. Lymington in Hampshire, where I live, was once famous for its salt production. But in the 19th century, vast salt deposits were discovered underground in and around Cheshire. Industrialisation followed, and that, coupled with the discovery that adding certain chemicals could make salt free-flowing (salt naturally absorbs water from the air, which causes it to clump together), caused artisan sea salt to fall out of fashion in favour of the cheaper, mass-produced stuff.

So it’s good to know that hand-harvested salt is taking off again, especially in the UK – in fact, sales of gourmet salt have gone up 50 per cent in the past five years and one-fifth of all UK salt sales are of traditional-style flaked and granular sea salts.

The UK’s main artisan salt producers (see box, opposite) all produce crisp, pure, flaky and granular salt that’s fantastic for cooking with – and it looks good sprinkled on dishes just before serving, too.

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About Delicious Magazine

This month in delicious. we’re celebrating summer with £12,000+ prize giveaway, the ultimate kebabs, a brilliant Byron burger as well as a street party fit for a queen. Elsewhere Eric Lanlard serves up a new scone for Wimbledon, Sophie Michell shares healthy recipes, and Theo Randall gives a risotto masterclass. And don’t miss how to upgrade your cooking with fresh herbs. Plus there’s recipes to save time and money, 16 pages of stunning cake recipes and more.
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