I cook almost every day.  I’ll make just about anything but my staples are simple proteins cooked and seasoned well.

One of the most joyous seasonings in my arsenal is flaky sea salt.  It’s light, airy, and has the most satisfying crunch.  There are many flaky salt companies out there, but, if you know anything about me, you know I love products with a story.  And I visited my favorite salt company last summer in Iceland to find out their story.

A Brief History of the Importance of Salt

It’s easy to overlook how recently refrigeration became a thing.  Access to refrigerators and/or freezers was not widespread until the 1950s and 1960s and it changed everything.  Before refrigeration, meat had to be preserved in, you guessed it, salt.  As a result, salt was revered in history, celebrated by kings and commoners alike.

Salt has played a prominent role in history, and the pursuit of salt literally affected the geography of places we know and love today.  Where, you might ask?

Salzburg, in Austria, loosely translates to “Salt town”.  The area around Salzburg is know as the Salzkammergut, which loosely translates to “Salt Kammergut” “Salt chamber”.  Salt mining took place in and around the Salzkammergut region as early as the Iron Age.  The Austrian village of Hallstatt, one of the prettiest places in the world, is home to a salt mine that you can tour.  Mines like that in Austria are the reason that settlements in the area date back to the Roman empire.

Put simply, if you had salt you could ship food and keep it fresh.

The Nordic region, along with many other places in the world, had its own reverence for salt.  Danish kings went as far as decreeing that saltmakers could not marry nor have children because it could distract them from their obligation to the kingdom.

Today, with modern technology like flash-freezing and refrigerated transport, salt is not used as the preservative it once was.  Instead, it makes food taste great!  There are many varieties of salt, from super-refined table salt to pink Himalayan sea salt to social media celebrities who have opened entire restaurant chains because of their flamboyant and theatrical salting methods.


Introducing Saltverk

The Westfjords of Iceland are remote, raw, and real.  Tucked away amidst the fjords is the Reykjanes peninsula, an unassuming plot of land easily overlooked by the sparse beauty of the Westfjords.  Nestled against the shores is a humble group of buildings belonging to a company called Saltverk.  Saltverk makes salt by hand, the old-fashioned way.

My buddy Petur and I visited Saltverk last summer, while they were in the midst of expanding their manufacturing facilities after their popularity has grown significantly after visits from the likes of Gordon Ramsay (just wait until they see what happens after a visit from Andy Luten!).

We walked into the small front foyer where they had a small assortment of salt flavors available for tasting.

The owner came and greeted us and took us around for a quick tour of the facilities.  It was absolutely fascinating!

How Saltverk makes salt

When they say they make salt by hand, they’re not lying!

Our tour began by walking up some stairs to look over vats of water.  Saltverk take the pure seawater from the Westfjords and pump it into large vats of water, where the seawater is gradually heated until it reaches a certain temperature, concentrating the salinity level of the water.  The vats are heated by geothermal energy, making Saltverk almost completely carbon-neutral.

There were salt crystals everywhere!

After the water makes it through a series of tanks, it is transferred into another building to harvest the salt from the water.  The temperature of these vats is controlled very carefully, as the salinity of the water has to be just perfect to make the flaky sea salt that Saltverk is known for.

You could tell by looking at the side of the vats how much water needed to evaporate before salt crystals would form.

Finally, one of the vats looked ready.  A burly-armed Saltverk team member appeared and grabbed a long-handled salt rake, for the lack of a better word.  He carefully yet swiftly drug the rake through the water, pulling out a rake full of flaky salt!

He proudly displayed his wares for my camera 🙂

From there he dumped the salt into a small tub.

The tub was quickly filled with newly-minted salt, which was immediately carted next door to a large drying room, where the salt was spread onto large trays and dried out until it was ready for consumption.

From the drying room, depending on the variety, flavors are added to the salt (smoked birch is my favorite) and then it’s packaged, mostly by hand, right there on the back wall!

There’s no better place to purchase Saltverk than at the factory itself, but it’s now sold all across Iceland, including in the duty-free stores at Keflavik Airport!

The Serbian-born production manager, Petar Štakić, posed for a picture for me (despite being at work all day until that point) as we said our goodbyes, made our purchases, and bid Saltverk a fond farewell.

Why I Love Saltverk

I appreciate the makers of the world, those who start with nothing and turn it into something.  I appreciate Saltverk’s story, connecting the old ways to a modern world desperate for authenticity in the face of so much copycat nonsense.

Saltverk has carved out its own way of doing things and turns some of the purest, untouched seawater in the world into artisan salt with perfect taste and texture.  They did it with authenticity and are now being rewarded for it.  From Gordon Ramsay to Andy’s Travel Blog, they’ve earned every bit of good press for doing it their own way!

[a note: I do not have any financial relationship with Saltverk and none of the above are affiliate links, I’m just a happy customer who loves Saltverk’s story]


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