Having sold it in the shop for a couple of years, our bakery have recently decided to use only Sel de Guerande – traditional salt from France – in all their savoury baked products. They made this decision as it meant they could deal directly with the supplier – Xavier Delamare, who buys it straight from the Guerande salt marshes, and it’s just a better quality, and more delicious, salt!
Here’s a quick introduction to this beautiful product.
Collected off the coast of Brittany in the town of Guerande, Sel de Guerande is the most highly prized French sea salt. Two types are havested by Paludiers, salt harvesters, by hand. About 100 tonnes of coarse salt is collected each year, and just 2 tonnes of Fleur de Sel, the flaky, crispy salt, named after the flower like patterns that form in the salt crust.
The method of gathering sea salt is to draw seawater in marsh basins and allow the water to evaporate, leaving behind the salt that was dissolved in it. The coarse salt settles on the bottom of the marsh, but some salt crystals form on the surface, forming a delicate crust of pyramid crystals, which must be collected by hand.
This fleur de sel can only be collected when it is very sunny, dry and with slow, steady winds. Because of the nature of its formation it can only be collected in small batches. In Guerande, each salt marsh produces only 1 kilo approx per day, making it the most expensive of salts.
This natural and traditional method of salt production and harvesting means the salt has uneven crystal formation, and takes longer to dissolve, with greater flavour. It is grey in colour due to the clay and minerals in the marsh. As it is completely unrefined it contains far more minerals than just sodium chloride, being very high in magnesium chloride and calcium. This it what gives it the true ‘flavour of the sea’ rather than just being salty.
For the last thousand years fleur de sel was only harvested in France, as elsewhere in the world it was just discarded. Now the demand has grown it is possible to find this type of flaky salt from other regions where it is geographically possible, but salt from Guerande is collected as it has been for millenia.