Husband and wife team bring salt-making back to Scotland

Blackthorn Salt uses a traditional graduation method to turn sea water off the Ayrshire coast into salt.

Gregorie Marshall decided to create a graduation tower to create the salt
Gregorie Marshall decided to create a graduation tower to create the salt

A husband and wife team have worked together to bring salt-making back to Scotland by using the country’s only graduation tower.

Gregorie and Whirly Marshall, owners of Blackthorn Salt, came across the graduation tower method of extracting salt, which dates back hundreds of years.

Mr Marshall, whose family has worked in the salt industry on the Ayrshire coast for generations, said it was always a dream of his to continue on the family business.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Mr Marshall said he had been playing with the idea of starting his own salt company for more than 15 years.

The water is trickled down through the blackthorn bushes (Jane Barlow/PA)

“We finished building around two years ago”, he said.

“We got a builder in, Archie McConnell, who’d done some green woodworking and he managed to find a few like-minded people to help out.

“We had a year of running it, to work out what worked best – it was quite nerve-wracking, the first production.

“But I’m relieved to say, and of course I’m a bit biased, that it tasted great.”

The sea salt is created by piping salt water from the sea into the tower.

It is then trickled down though 54 taps down a bed of blackthorn bushes.

This process is repeated, sometimes thousands of times, before enough water is evaporated to move to the next stage.

The remaining brine is then gently heated to evaporate the remaining water, and then the sea salt is harvested.

The salt is finished by gently evaporating the remaining water (Jane Barlow/PA)

Mr Marshall said this process allows for a sweeter, milder salt, which greatly enhances food.

He said it was “similar to making a cup of tea” in that “if you add milk and sugar to a tea, it greatly changes the flavour, even though it only makes up 4 or 5%.

“Our salt is around 94% sodium chloride versus the 99% you’d see in regular table salt, meaning that the remaining 6% is made up of magnesium, potassium and calcium, and they all have an effect on the flavour – it becomes a much more mellow and slower release. It’s less harsh than the sharp table salt.”

With the product ready to launch, Blackthorn Salt planned to invite a number of chefs on a tour of the tower to spread the word about its product.

However, Covid-19 and lockdown hit and everything came to a standstill.

“We had to change things quite a bit”, Mr Marshall remembered. “We had all this product sitting around, and weren’t quite sure what to do.

“We ended up coming up with a plan called Pass the Salt. We had been speaking to local chefs and had planned this big launch of the product.

“Instead, we decided to give it away to those 19, with vouchers so they could pass on to others, who would get vouchers to pass on to others – it was a way to bring a bit of happiness during a really tough time.

“I didn’t feel comfortable being pushy and trying to sell it – the hospitality industry was really struggling and it didn’t feel right. So this was a way to bring a smile to someone’s face.”

Mr Marshall said that while the tower is completed, the work is never over, adding: “We’re always looking at the process and how to harness the energy we have – whether that be the wind or sun.

“If we can increase the temp of the brine, we can increase the rate of evaporation.

“In terms of the business, we hope to get the product out there so people can appreciate what good salt is, and how it can affect the flavour of food in such a positive way.”

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