Guérande sea salt

Posted by on Sep 20, 2013 in Cooking with Karen | 0 comments

Guérande sea salt

Fruit of the ocean, sun, and wind, the salt from the Brittany Atlantic coast of Guérande is hand-harvested by “paludiers,” or salt workers, according to a traditional method dating back 1,000 years.  The Guérande salt marshes are located
on the Atlantic Coast in the northwest Loire-Atlantique Department, between the Loire and the Vilaine rivers.

Two types of salt are produced and harvested during the short season of June – September:  coarse grey (sel gris or gros sel) and salt blossom flower (fleur de sel).

What’s the difference?

Coarse grey salt
The coarse grey salt crystallizes 
on the bottom of the salt paddy 
from where the salt worker harvests it with a las, a wooden paddle with a very long flexible shaft.  The salt is naturally grey due to its contact with the grey colored clay soil.  Average yield of coarse grey salt is 130 lbs./day/paddy.  Coarse grey salt is best used during cooking, since it needs the heat in order to dissolve properly.  It’s excellent for sautés, soups, pasta, roasting, braising, and grilling.

grossel_harvestLate season harvest of coarse grey salt in the salt marshes of Guérande

Salt blossom flower
Formed by the dry wind from the East, fleur de sel is a layer of light, thin crystals found floating in patches on the water’s surface.  Naturally white from the sun (and having no contact with the soil), it is considered a delicacy for its subtle flavor, and rarity owed to its creation being dependent upon certain weather conditions (dry wind, no rain).  The salt worker harvests this “salt caviar” with a lousse, a large skimmer that allows the water to drain as the salt is skimmed from the surface. Average yield of fleur de sel is 4 lbs./day/paddy.  Fleur de sel is a “finishing” salt, as it tends to lose its delicate flavor with cooking.  Sprinkle sparingly on food at the table to enhance flavor and add texture.

fleurdesel_harvest1The crust of fleur de sel being harvested from the water’s surface

A highlight of my Normandy & Brittany tour is a privately guided visit of the Guérande sea salt marshes with a saltworker.  Whenever possible, I return to the US with a 25-lb. bag of the course grey salt, and a 10-lb. bag of fleur de sel, available for sale at my cooking classes (12 oz. coarse grey and 4 oz. fleur de sel, $10 each, until supplies run out).

seldeguerande12 oz bags of Sel Gris de Guérande (coarse grey) available at Cuisine Karen Cooking Classes

fleurdesel4 oz bags of Fleur de Sel from Guérande available at Cuisine Karen Cooking School

Nutritional value for 100grams:          RDA

Magnesium       360.0 mg                     120%
Calcium              136.0 mg                        17%
Iron                      18.2 mg                       130%

Store up to 2 years in a dry place.

Sources:  SCA Les Salines de Guerande, Pradel, BP 65315, 44353 Guerande and Terre de Sel, Marais salants de Guérande