Here in New Zealand, we’re surrounded by the sea. Apparently, we’re never further than 119 kilometres from the ocean. That’s the distance of New Zealand’s furthest point from the sea - in Central Otago. So, with all that beautiful coastal water around us, you’re bound to wonder about the most fundamental of food ingredients…salt, of course.
Salt’s the classic and oldest food seasoner, and food preservative. And we’re very pleased to say there’s a lot of it, from right here in New Zealand too….
Rock and sea
But first, the types. And a little bit about salt itself… Salt’s white cubed crystals are sodium chloride, one of the most abundant minerals around.
It shows up in one of two ways. There’s rock salt - you guessed it, found in rocks. And there’s sea salt - of course, from the sea. (We’ve also read that some salt arrived here onboard meteors from outer space. And perhaps that’s true too…)
So what’s the difference?
Rock and sea salt differs in two ways, texture and flavour. Texture - how coarse or flaky the crystals are, and so how they dissolve (on the food, or in your mouth), and enhance the food. Flavour - origins determine the “impurities” (additional minerals and other microorganisms) that end up in your salt, and enhance flavour. Try it, take a taste test, see what you think.
Mining and drying
Of course, salt isn’t just sitting there waiting to be added to the salt bowl. It needs to be mined. So that’s done in much the same way as you’d mine for any other mineral, or through “solution mining” - water is put down where the salt is, to dissolve it, then the salt solution is taken out and evaporated.
Another obvious way to source salt is solar evaporation. Wind and sun evaporate sea water in salt lakes, leaving salt behind. But, no surprises, you need very little rain - and plenty of sunshine - for this to work.
There’s often rock or sea salt, from some far-away part of the world, on New Zealand dinner tables. But how about the options on our back door step?
And New Zealand’s sea salt
It’s tremendous to have some unrefined organic salts produced in New Zealand.
There’s a large salt works at Lake Grassmere, near Blenheim at the top of the South Island, many decades old now. That site produces sea salt, from seawater pumped into the lake through summer, then evaporated naturally. They put Marlborough’s sunny climate to good use.
And we’ve noticed what’s called New Zealand’s first commercial, artisan salt-maker, Hauraki Salt Company. It’s hand harvested, from the waters of the Hauraki Gulf, and manufactured by a filter-boil-evaporate process, to retain healthy minerals and trace elements.
It sure tastes like the sea, all that sea surrounding us here in Aotearoa. Made here in New Zealand. Delicious. And we’ve got ideas of what to do with it.
What to do
It’s almost crazy to suggest what to do to use salt. We’re prepared to bet that most of us use it nearly every day.
But we can’t help ourselves. Think of spring, it’s terrific on asparagus. In summer, we love the radish butter salt idea. And there’s not much better, in late summer, than a slice of ripe tomato, sprinkled with sea salt. But, all year around, it’s a special match with potato and rosemary…..click here for more.
And for more…
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