With a Grain of Salt…

PEI Sea Salt Company launches

From the waters of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence on the north shore of P.E.I. comes a sea-salty new business that two Island entrepreneurs dove right into. “The PEI Sea Salt Company – it automatically identifies us as local, and we’re all about local,” said co-founder, Darren Blanchard.

Blanchard originally got into the sea salt business in June 2015, when he launched Black Whale Salt Co. The company only made a ripple in the sea salt business, so to speak, before Blanchard’s former co-founder moved away. Blanchard, not being a master salt maker, shelved the project.

At the same time, Nathan Gamauf had independently created his own Island sea salt company, named the PEI Sea Salt Co. Gamauf, however, was in a similar pickle to Blanchard, having recently lost his marketing guy. Gamauf needed a marketing partner and Blanchard needed a sea salt connoisseur. As are the odds on a small island, the two eventually met earlier this year through mutual friends.

“It was a match made in heaven whenever we met,” said Gamauf. The pair decided to join forces and created The Prince Edward Island Sea Salt Company.

Darren Blanchard (L) and Nathan Gamauf, co-founders of the Prince Edward Island Sea Salt Co.//Photo Credit: Evan Ceretti

The company only recently launched, but has already produced and packaged its first batch of salt. Gamauf is extremely enthusiastic about the quality of the salt they’ve created. He looks back at the first batch he created as an amateur salt maker a couple of years ago and said there’s a world of difference in taste and quality.

If you went to the beach, filled up a pot with sea water and then boiled the water, you would end up with a usable salt, but it would be a dry, bitter cake, said Gamauf. “It’s really easy to make salt, but it’s very, very difficult to make good salt.”

“We hand harvest on an incoming tide, which is really important for the salinity,” said Gamauf. Most of their salt-making process consists of actively boiling the water at a high temperature until a specific salinity level is achieved. Heat is then lowered to almost nothing as salt crystals start to form, and is kept on a slow boil until it’s a wet salt. The salt is then placed on trays to dry, which is when dry salt crystals take formation.

One week of boiling water for 12 hours per day will yield about 200 pounds of salt. Blanchard and Gamauf hit the shores, fill five-gallon buckets, add them to 55-gallon food grade drums until they have enough water and take it back to their processing facility in Harrington. It’s a lot of work, but they say it’s worth it.

“It is some of the purest and nicest hand-harvested sea salt in the world,” said Blanchard.

The duo use water from the north shore at a special, undisclosed location. “What we’re looking for is tested, clean water, high salinity content, and away from any harbour or river mouths to reduce the chance of any contamination,” said Gamauf. PEI has a very low salinity, at about 2.6 per cent, which is an added challenge. They test for salinity and do a water-quality test, which checks for any type of contamination.

As for the flavour, Gamauf said, “I hesitate to call any salt sweet, but it’s as close to sweet as any salt can get.”

The company currently offers four products: pure sea salt, Receiver coffee infused sea salt, Rossignol red wine infused sea salt, and Eureka black garlic infused sea salt. The pure salt has larger crystals as the infusion process breaks up the salt. All infused salts are double infused. “The smell sells the infusions as much as the flavour,” said Gamauf.

Sea salt infused with PEI flavours//Photo Credit: Evan Ceretti

PEI See Salt infused with Island flavours//Photo Credit: Evan Ceretti

Blanchard and Gamauf sold out of all their infused salts halfway through a recent craft fair. The response was overwhelming, they said. Gamauf is now testing new batches of infused salts, including maple and smoked. They plan on having 12 locally-infused products by this time next year.

“We don’t want people to have to oversalt their food to be able to enjoy the flavour of the infusion,” said Gamauf, explaining part of the reason for the double infusion.

“I don’t think you’ll ever see us on the shelf of a major chain store,” said Gamauf, as that’s not a market the company is targeting.

“This is a get rich really, really slowly scheme. It’s more or less the passion for the product, the passion for food. An opportunity for a couple of entrepreneurs to build a life,” said Blanchard.

About Evan Ceretti

Evan is a vegetarian foodie and freelancer based in Charlottetown. His two greatest loves are food and travel, which just so happen to be the perfect pairing. A graduate of Holland College’s journalism program, and of UPEI’s print journalism program, Evan enjoys writing about the local food scene as well as writing about gastronomic journeys from the other side of the world. He’s had to luxury of visiting 30 countries and traveling for more than 1,000 days. In Charlottetown, you’ll either see him riding his bicycle, eating curry, taking photos, or playing ultimate frisbee. Follow him on IG @Evanontheroad, and on Facebook at Evan on the Road.

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