"Salt is essential for life and is an integral part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Millions of plants and animals, including human beings need salt to survive. In recent times, salt in the diet has been a contentious issue, but the fact remains, without it, our bodies become chemically imbalanced and our muscles and nervous system cease to function.
All our bodily fluids contain salt - blood, sweat, tears and saliva - and one of our four taste buds is programmed to sense it. Salt is a necessary nutrient the body can’t manufacture itself and the five grams a day we need to remain in good health mostly comes from the food we eat. Thanks to many conveniently packaged foods, under consumption is rarely a problem, but too little, or rapid loss due to excessive physical exertion, can lead to salt starvation resulting in muscle cramps and heat exhaustion.
So what is this natural mineral that we take so much for granted?
Under the microscope, the curious white cube shaped crystals we recognize as common salt are composed of two elements, sodium and chlorine. When chemically united they form Sodium Chloride - better identified by the chemical compound NaCl.
Salt was around long before man roamed the earth and has played an important part in the evolution of many life forms.
Early evidence shows that prehistoric man both flavoured and preserved his food with salt; the Egyptians used it to preserve their meat and campaigning Romans were paid salt money or ‘Salarium’ from which we derive the word salary.
For hundreds of years, salt has been a symbol of friendship, a highly valued commodity traded for precious jewels, spices and silks by Arab merchants. Phrases such as ‘worth his salt’ and ‘salt of the earth’ both appear in the bible emphasizing its important place in our history.
Most people probably think of salt as simply the white granular food seasoning found in a saltcellar on virtually every dining table. In fact, salt comes in many grades and types and has literally thousands of different uses.
Salt has a range of diverse yet contradictory properties. It’s used to freeze ice cream in the summer yet melt snow in the winter. It’s used to preserve many food stocks yet kills some plant life. It’s used indirectly in the bleaching and dying of textiles yet plays an important part in the tanning of leather.
The single biggest market for salt is in the production of industrial chemicals. Over 110 million tonnes a year is used to manufacture chlorine, caustic soda and other chemicals for use in man-made materials like PVC, rubber and paper.
Only 6% of all salt manufactured goes into the food we eat and even a smaller percentage ends up in the saltcellar!
Salt is one of the few useful and abundant minerals on earth.
Its origins go back to the beginning of time and it can be found all around us. Underground deposits are found in bedded sedimentary layers and salt found on the Earth’s surface are the dried up residues of ancient seas. Some salt has even arrived with us from outer space discovered in meteors, and scientists now know it to be present on the surface of Mars.
However, our biggest source of salt can be found in our seas and oceans. With an average of 26 million tonnes per cubic kilometer, seawater offers a seemingly inexhaustible supply, and it’s here our story begins."
"For over 2000 years the east coast of Essex has played host to the age-old craft of harvesting salt from the sea. The first documented evidence of salt production in Essex was recorded in the great Domesday survey of 1086 where it lists no fewer than 45 saltpans in the Maldon area.
The reddened earth and broken earthenware pots that form the Red Hills of Essex, are evidence of early salt production. During Saxon times, seawater was trapped in clay pans cut into the riverbank where it was left to partially evaporate. The resulting brine was then transferred into pots and heated over open fires. When evaporation was complete, the pots were broken open and the salt removed.
Many local place names like Salcott, Saltcote Hall and Gore Saltings reflect this once thriving, ancient industry and even many pubs were named after the salt makers trademark.
The attraction of Essex to the salt making industry remains the same today as it did centuries ago:-
Because of the comparatively low rainfall, the environmental conditions in Essex are ideal for salt making. With less fresh rainwater to dilute the seawater, the concentration of salt in the estuaries and rivers is much higher. As the twice daily tides recede exposing the extensive marshlands and mud flats, a combination of the sun and wind evaporates the water leaving salt deposits on the vegetation.
For hundreds of years salt was skillfully harvested from the sea, but during the 19th century, a combination of heavy taxes and more economical methods of mining salt saw the salt industry in Essex decline. To this day, only a single company carrying on this age-old tradition has survived - The Maldon Crystal Salt Company.
The Maldon Crystal Salt Company has been producing one of our greatest table salts for over 200 years. Attracting the attention of many of our most renowned and famous chefs, Maldon salt is exported all around the world. Its pure white, flaky texture has made it a favourite in many gourmet circles and free from the bitter after taste associated with many salts, Maldon Salt has a distinctive and unique flavour.
So how is it made?
Although the production of Maldon Salt is now more efficient and streamlined, the basic skills and processes remain the same.
Every two weeks, after a period of dry weather, the salt that has dried across the marshes is reabsorbed by the higher spring tides. This greatly increases the salinity of the seawater making the river Blackwater one of the saltiest in England.
At Maldon, the water is then carefully syphoned off from the middle of the river where the salt concentration is the highest and is stored and left to settle in large storage tanks. Sediment and mud particles are filtered out before eventually being transferred to large stainless steel salt pans.
The water is heated and brought to a ‘galloping boil’. As the water becomes saturated and evaporates, salt crystals form on the surface. Slowly, the inverted pyramid shaped crystals grow in size and weight until they eventually fill with water and sink.
With the reducing water and the build up of the crystals on the bottom of the pans, the process is complete when the two levels meet and the water has mostly evaporated. The crystals are then carefully gathered using special rakes in a process called ‘drawing the pan’. They are then shovelled into bins and left to drain before being transferred and loaded into the drying hopper. Once dried, the harvesting process is complete resulting in completely natural, pure white salt crystals, nothing added, nothing taken away and the salt is simply ready to be packed and distributed.
Run by four generations of the Osborne family, The Maldon Crystal Salt Company continues the craft of harvesting salt from the sea using the same traditional methods and skills as they did 2000 years ago. Today, Maldon Salt is a unique and prestigious product winning international acclaim for its clean fresh taste and flaky texture.
'Maldon Salt - a luxury everyone can afford."