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A business that prospered in the state hundreds of years ago, salt-making, has found new life in Massachusetts with artisans dedicated to producing locally made food.
In the 1800s, the state’s salt-making industry was booming, born of a need during colonial times when making was easier than importing. The mineral was vital for food, especially cod preservation.
After the Civil War, hundreds of small salt purveyors were bought up by the larger competition— but now, two hundred years later, locally crafted sea salt is back in demand.
“Locally made is always best,” said Chris Weidman of Monomoit Wild Salts and Sugars. “You gain a sense that the food you eat comes from your own local environment, the land, and sea around you.”
Handmade sea salt also contains minerals that more processed salts lack, like magnesium, potassium, and calcium, according to experts.
Below are a handful of local saltworks currently producing salt by hand. And they aren’t just for preserving cod—they lend unmatched flavor to savory dishes, sweets, and beverages, and they make charming gifts.
In the early 1800s, over 800 saltworks existed on Cape Cod. Today, 1830 Sea Salt is one of the few that remain, turning ocean water and sunshine into sea salt with no additives, processing, or anti-caking agents. Paul Shibles, the owner of 1830 Sea Salt (formerly Cape Cod Saltworks), harvests only high tide seawater, using solar evaporation in a greenhouse to extract the salt. Evaporation produces salt crystals, rather than the flakier salt produced via boiling. The result is a briny, high-grade salt that blends right into food during cooking. “Everything’s a slow process, very labor intensive,” said Shibles. “It’s the highest-grade salt that you’re gonna get.”
Lily Leedom and her team at SalterieOne in Duxbury harvest their seawater from the same waters that Island Creek oysters call home. Their carefully refined salt-making process involves triple-filtering the water, heating it until it’s a rich brine, then skimming off the salt flakes that form on the surface. Their fleur de sel sea salt is flaky, fluffy, and flavorful, with trace minerals like potassium and magnesium, and no additives. While Salterie One sells their salts, herb blends, and gift sets on their website, they also welcome customers to stop into their showroom on the water in downtown Duxbury.
When Chris Weidman of Monomoit Wild Salts and Sugars was on leave taking care of his aging mother in Chatham years ago, he set to work making salt “from waters just down the street where we all had learned how to swim. We sold some on a small stand on the street,” he said. “Not much has changed really.”
Today, Monomoit Wild still produces locally made maple syrup and sea salt, though they’ve moved salt operations to Falmouth. Each batch of salt is labeled with the water source, the collection date, and the salt harvest date, as factors like temperature and humidity during the solar evaporation process slightly change the taste of the salt. While batches aren’t consistently the same, they all contain a host of minerals not found in processed salt. Monomoit Wild sells its products at its Chatham Village farmstand, and various Cape Cod farmer’s markets and shops like Chatham Light Liquors and Vital Nutrition in Falmouth.
Husband and wife team Heidi Feldman and Chris Freidman have produced sea salt from Atlantic waters on their farmstead in Vineyard Haven since 2013. Each month in the summer, they collect hundreds of gallons of water that they then purify and dry out in their solar evaporator (which Freidman, a master carpenter, built). Feldman, the brand’s Chief Salty Strategist, found her salt-making inspiration from an auspicious bag of Cape Cod Salt & Vinegar chips—and since 2013, has shared her passion for local living with the masses. Martha’s Vineyard Sea Salt produces not just fleur de sel, skimmed from the top of drying brine, but also sel gris, moist, briny salt rich in minerals. They sell their salts on their website and at countless shops in Massachusetts and beyond.
Andrew Bushell of Marblehead Salt discovered “salt the way salt was meant to be” during his time at the Mount Athos monastic community in Greece, a center of Eastern Orthodox monasticism. Today, he makes salt using the monks’ 1,600-year-old process, including harvesting water from several North Shore locations to get the perfect mineral blend, boiling off the water, and finishing the salt in the oven, leaving a moist salt that’s not too flaky, not too crystalline. His salt is also certified kosher, and varies in taste depending on the season. All of Marblehead Salt Co.’s profits go to charity—some of their major partners are St. Paul’s Foundation and the Syria Project.
The salt company is currently taking a break from new orders while they fulfill backlogged orders and work through supply chain shortages.
When the owners of this North Shore provisions shop first moved to Salters Point in Beverly and learned about their home’s history as a salt makers’ cottage, they decided to bring the craft back to the neighborhood. At Salters Point Provisions, they sell a range of salts harvested from different spots on the North Shore—fleur de sel from the waters of Cross Island, sea salt from Singing Beach, and Misery Island spicy seasoned salt. They even make tins of Essex salt flavored with Madagascar vanilla bean. Alongside salt, the shop carries goodies like handmade cosmetics, home décor, kitchen goods, and handcrafted art.
This no-frills sea salt purveyor in Gloucester creates natural, hand-harvested sea salt. Completely solar-evaporated, their salt is made of pure ocean water, sunlight, and time. They sell their salt online and at Cape Ann Giclée in Gloucester. Customers can choose from one-ounce, two-ounce, and three-ounce jars. Offerings include distinctive flavor blends like black pepper and rosemary, rosé wine and hibiscus, and lavender (great on lamb or shortbread cookies!).
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