Skye Sea Salt


21.08.2017

The remarkable thing about the many guests who visit The Three Chimneys, is the effort they have invested in this adventure. It takes planning and commitment. What pulls them towards us?  Partly it is the ever growing appeal of Skye, its wildness and beauty.

However there is also a growing trend for environment friendly luxury…a world in which the finest food is not just expensively transported to guests…but the guests travel to one the finest natural larders on earth. Many new Eco-Foodies want to invest in an experience that allows them to taste our best as close to source as possible.

Chris Watts, Scott Davies, Nanette Muir

So it is a delight for The Three Chimneys Front-of-House Team to point out the Restaurant window and explain to our guests that the crab and langoustine they are about to enjoy was caught in Loch Dunvegan, which they are actually looking at. We can tell them how each scallop they are tasting was hand dived in the protected waters of Loch Sligachan, which they drove past on their journey to us.   When they order a delicious plate of oysters, we can share the story of the oyster beds on Loch Harport which are only a stone’s throw away from them on a visit to the Talisker Distillery.

It is sometimes hard to fathom but it really is that simple. The fishermen head out early morning to catch the crabs, we drive round early afternoon to collect them and delicious crab meats are served that day for dinner. The purest of nature straight to plate.

This reality of culinary life on Skye was brought home to all of Team Three Chimneys when we were invited to spend a morning with the producers of Skye Sea Salt.  It took Chris Watts and Nanette Muir years of careful planning and research to revive the historic tradition of producing Sea Salt on Skye and to find the perfect location to place to create it.  With all this in place their process is fundamentally just as simple. The water around the island has been awarded the highest quality classification achievable in the United Kingdom. They pump 2,000 litres of it out of the sea, through a basic filter and then into the huge black pools covered with polytunnels. Then depending on the time of year it takes between nine days and three weeks for the sun’s energy to evaporate the sea water and leave 70 - 80kg of pure white natural salt behind.

Sylwia Radzio, Tristan Jackson, Henrietta Polgar, Luke Lupton

Their polytunnels lie tucked into a protective banking directly beside Loch Snizort, exposed to as much sunlight as possible. There is no power on site and the salt crystals are created simply from the interaction of the sun’s rays on the seawater.  Whilst the producers can harness this energy they cannot directly control it.  This leads to a variation in the size of the crystals, dependent on varying evaporation times. To complete the process they sort, sieve and pack the salt back at base graded according to crystal size. The whole process is carried out by hand, from harvesting to packing.

By being so patient and allowing nature to take its course, the resulting yield is relatively low but the quality and taste has reached far beyond all expectation. Commercial salt production focuses on the high volume production of sodium chloride, but in Skye Sea Salt there are at least 60 other trace and mineral elements that contribute to its very special taste.

Within the first two years of production, Skye Sea Salt won three prestigious Awards: Great Taste Awards 2014, the Environment Award at the Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards 2014 and in 2015 a Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Award. These endorse the years of research and hard work undertaken to produce a top quality product in a sustainable way.

So this small and absolutely local industry encapsulates the true food experience of this island. All manner of hard work, creativity, planning and ingenuity has been applied to making the most of nature by the Chefs and Suppliers who live and work here. However it is the unique and pure environment of Skye that is the star of the show.  That’s why we must all find common purpose in doing everything we can to cherish and protect it.