*This article has been updated for accuracy and additions in October 2019. Some of the shops have added products that look great. Please visit their online sites and find more treasures than what we’ve included here.
Sea salt is the result when the water is evaporated out of seawater. It is produced with very little processing. Its popularity is booming and it comes in many flavors. It is used in cooking and cosmetics. When used in cooking, it is often called a ‘finishing’ salt which means it is the salt used on the table. It is added to food after it has been prepared, has been served and is about to be eaten. Sea salts can come as flakes, hard crystals, soft crystals, different colors, dry or damp, all depending on the body of water they came from and how they were evaporated. When they appear in cosmetics it is often in skin exfoliating scrubs.
Table salt is mined from the ground and heavily processed to eliminate minerals. It is treated with anti-caking agents, bleached and milled. Most table salt has added iodine. Table salt and sea salt have the same basic nutritional value and sodium content in spite of the fact that sea salt is often promoted as being healthier. Chefs tend to prefer cooking with sea salt because of its crunchiness, coarseness and stronger flavor. While sea salt may be touted as an exotic food from far away lands, there are many American producers.
Some of our favorite American sea salts:
Sea Love Sea Salt is hand-harvested, filtered, solar evaporated and bottled in Wrightsville Beach, NC. The company was started by a couple who moved to live on the beach in 2013. They make Pure Sea Salt, $9.00 for 1.5 oz. and $15.00 for 3 oz. They also make Rosemary Sea Salt, Cracked Peppercorn Sea Salt, Truffle Sea Salt and Sunset Cocktail Sea Salt. They also offer salt scrubs in Coconut, Lavender and Cinnamon Coffee.
The Bulls Bay Saltworks is based in McClellanville, SC and began in 2012. They make a variety of culinary sea salt products from solar evaporated water which they collect from a pristine wilderness area in non-reactive containers.
They sell a 4 oz. jar of Carolina Flake for $15.00. Their flavored sea salts are Bourbon Barrel Smoked, Smoked Sea Salt in a grinder, Charleston Sea Salt in a grinder and Carolina Margarita Salt. The 3 oz. grinders are $10.00.
Amagansett Sea Salt Co. sources its sea salt from the Atlantic coast of Long Island, NY. It is crafted entirely by hand in small batches. All the steps take place on site and outdoors. 1 oz. of Pure Amagansett Sea salt is $9.95. Their flavored sea salts are Merlot, Lemon Zest, Truffle, Vanilla, Herbs de Provence, Dill & Fennel, Rosé wine, Wasabi, Sesami & Nori, Sichuan Pepper, Ginger & Garlic, Aleppo & Annatto and Lavender Buds.
North Fork Sea Salt Co. is another Long Island, NY sea salt company. It sells three types of hand-harvested, handcrafted salt flakes. The company was founded in 2012. They offer the plain Sea Salt for $9.95 a jar, the Heirloom Tomato and the Organic Herb (rosemary & thyme) for $12.95 a jar.
J.Q.Dickinson Salt-Works harvest salt crystals from an ancient 400 – 600 million year old dry ocean underneath the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia called the Iapetus Ocean. This ocean predates the Atlantic Ocean. This is the only salt in the Northern Hemisphere made from this pure a source. This company is now being run by members of the founding family’s seventh generation. They have transformed the product by using natural and environmentally friendly processes to produce small-batch finishing salt. They only make and sell pure, unflavored salt. A 1 oz. jar is $5.00, 3.5 oz. jar is $9.00 and a 1 lb. bag is $25.00.
Editor’s note – Since the time of the original article, J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works has added quite a variety of salts, peppercorns and spices to their store. They all look delicious, and still come from the same quality processes.
I’ve been using Maine Sea Salt for years and love it. The seawater comes from Buck’s Harbor, Maine. The company was founded in 1998 by an unemployed Maine couple who loved to cook. It is processed naturally and sun-dried. They sell Natural Maine Sea Salt, Garlic Maine Sea Salt, Pepper and Maine Sea Salt, Apple Smoked Salt, Dulse Seaweed and Maine Sea Salt, Herbes Sal’ees (a mixture of five herbs) and Hickory Smoked Salt. These flavors are sold in plastic grinders, which I find very handy to have next to the stove. 3.6 oz. grinder is $6.49 – $9.99 (some are on sale).
The 6 oz. pots are $10.00 each and come is Natural, Garlic, Lemon, Apple Smoked and Hickory Smoked salt.
Some of the salts come in ½ lb. or 1 pound bags. The 1 lb. bag is $14.00 and the ½ lb. bags are $12.00. There are also gift sets available.
Free tours of Maine Sea Salt Company are available April through October.
Jacobsen Salt finishing salt comes from the cold waters of Netarts Bay off the Oregon coast. The company was founded in 2011 by a former software-marketing executive. The salt-making process takes 45 hours and the results have received rave reviews. He sells Smoked Cherry wood, Stumptown Coffee, Italian White Truffle, Smoked Ghost Chile, Vanilla Bean, Lemon Zest, Oregon Pinot Noir, Oregon Pinot Blanc, Pure Flake and Chuck Williams Herb Blend sea salts. Prices range from $10.95 to $13.95 for a 1.5 oz. jar. The Italian White Truffle is $24.95.
Like the other artisanal sea salt companies in this article, San Juan Island Sea Salt is solar evaporated and hand harvested. The process occurs in unheated hoop houses, dependent totally on the sun for the evaporation process. They grind their sea salt, to create their favorite crystal size – coarse fleur de sel. Their finishing salt has an irregular crystal size, lots of minerality and is slightly moist.
They sell a small glass vial called Pocket Salt to carry with you to restaurants. It will provide 5 – 10 servings of finishing salt. ¼ oz. vial is $2.00.
A 1 oz. glass jar of the finishing salt is $5.00; a 6 oz. glass jar is $12.00. They also sell Madrona Smoked Salt, an organic pepper salt in a grinder, and the finishing salt in bulk.
Hint: If the salt in your shaker or grinder becomes damp, add a few grains of rice to absorb the moisture, or place it in a sunny window. If it is very damp, empty it out onto a pan and heat in the oven at 170° until dry.
Want to experiment with other spices? Check out our article on Flavor Dusts.