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Local salt producers kick cuisine up a notch

In 2016, Colin Duggan was enjoying a quiet afternoon sitting on Lawrencetown Beach on Nova Scotia’s south shore. His wife Audrey had been away for a few days and Colin was trying to think of a nice welcome home gift for her. As he sat looking at the ocean it occurred to him, “there’s salt in that water.” Audrey, a chef and professional caterer, would surely appreciate a little jar of handmade sea salt. Colin used a bucket to scoop up some of that fresh Atlantic Ocean. He took that ocean back home and converted it into sea salt.

The gift was a hit and the pair kept tinkering with salt-making techniques. It wasn’t long until they had their method refined and realizing there was an opening for them to launch a little business. Tidal Salt was born.

There are numerous ways to make sea salt. Colin says it’s a three-step process of: scoop ocean, boil ocean, succeed. You want a clean source of seawater and a concentration method, typically a source of heat.

The trick comes in how they handle the salt brine after the water has been largely removed. Salt crystals form in a delicate and intricate process and it’s the trained eye of a paludier (a salt master) that is needed to harvest and process those crystals into products like Tidal Salt’s fleur de sel as well as flavoured sea salts such as black garlic, maple, lime, and Tidal Salt Fire.

Every sea salt has a distinct chemical signature defined by the geology, flora and fauna of the location where the water is sourced. Whether it is deposits of volcanic rock, nearby scallops or the presence of kelp, all of those elements help give each sea salt it is unique flavour.

There has been an increase in the number of salt makers in Atlantic Canada in recent years. Colin says that they weren’t the first ones to market, however it is an exciting time to make salt here in the province. Much like the local wine industry, salt makers are starting from scratch with the hopes that someday there will be a number of full-fledged salt makers in operation.

If you reside in Nova Scotia, chances are that you are already purchasing a local salt, as much of the table salt used here is mined locally. However, table salt is a different product than sea salt—it’s processed into a 99 per cent purified sodium chloride and has additives that help it stay dry. Without those additives, saltshakers simply would not work, as salt naturally pulls in moisture, even from the air.

Sea salt is a different product than table salt: it is a combination of sodium chloride (NaCl) and other types of salt present in the ocean. Tidal Salt does not use any additives whatsoever.

Colin and Audrey are firm believers in building the local economy while also working to keep their environmental footprint minimized. The business operates out of their home in downtown Dartmouth, keeping them busy with occasional help from friends.

An ever-increasing number of retailers carry Tidal Salt, including Arthur’s Market in Halifax, Noggins Corner Farm Market and Jamison’s General Store in Tatamagouche. Their products are also available for purchase on their website, with a local delivery option. It’s best to check them out on social media or visit their website for the most up to date info.

Colin’s favourite feedback was a few years back when a customer in Alberta wrote to say that the flavour of their salt reminded her of childhood summers dancing in the waves in Nova Scotia. That’s something we could all use a little more of!


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