Two College Students Make Quality Sea Salt

Elspeth Hay

Elspeth Hay › Elspeth Hay works with local food in a variety of mediums. She's the creator of the ...

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Elspeth Hay recently profiled two college-age salt makers in Cape Cod. The goal of their enterprise, Wellfleet Sea Salt Company, is to make the highest quality salt they can with minimal interference or modern trappings (like gas or electricity). These young entrepreneurs have successfully combined “their concern for the environment, their love of local and organic food, and their interest in the history of Cape Cod’s salt works.” Sounds good to us!

Hope Schwartz-Leeper and Zak Fagiano make sea salt for a living. They’re also seniors at Skidmore College, where they won a business plan competition last year. That’s how they started Wellfleet Sea Salt Company.

The idea was simple: make salt without gas, motors, or electricity. Just sunshine, water, manpower, and a little bit of wood and plastic. They knew they couldn’t afford to buy land, so they built two floating greenhouses using repurposed oyster barges. They bought a row boat and picked up a few food grade five gallon buckets. They stocked up on parchment paper and grabbed an empty wine bottle, and they were ready to get started.

Here’s how it works. Hope and Zak row out to the barges, which are anchored in Cape Cod Bay. The go in their rowboat, five gallon buckets in tow. The barge greenhouses are lined with food grade plastic that goes about two inches up on all four sides, where the water is held. They use the buckets to fill up the barge, which is 160 square feet. They row home.

In the summer they have to wait about a week, in the winter a month. The water evaporates, leaving quarter-inch square crystals. They row back out. They scrape the salt off the plastic and bring it back to land, where they spread it out on food grade plastic trays. If it doesn’t seem quite dry enough, they put it in a small greenhouse to dry a bit longer. As Hope explains, they like their salt to retain about three percent moisture. Any more than that and the bottom could turn to mush after a customer buys it, which nobody wants.

When the salt is dried to their standards, they lay parchment paper over the trays and roll a wine bottle over it. This is their grinding method. Zak says they tried all sorts of other grinding methods, but the simplest one worked best. The process yields a fine crystal—not a flake, but a crystal with crunch—that works both as a finishing salt and as a salt to use in cooking.

Before they started selling the salt, they got it tested. They found out it was full of magnesium and calcium, not surprising, since seawater has plenty of both. Interestingly, though, magnesium and calcium are two things most Americans (an estimated 75 percent) don’t get enough of in our diets. Some studies have linked deficiencies to diseases like obesity and heart disease.

Click here to read the rest of the article and get a delicious sea salt recipe over at DiaryofaLocavore.com!

This article originally appeared on DiaryofaLocavore.com. It is partially posted here with permission from the author.

Are you using mineral-rich sea salt in your kitchen?

Photo Credit: Elspeth Hay