Fleur de Sel de Guerande, which translates as Flower of the Salt from Guerande, is the unique finishing salt, hand gathered in the Guerande peninsula in south Brittany, France. It is very delicate, nearly ethereal, moist and it dissolves quickly on the food.
The Guerande in South Brittany, France, is a Celtic country. It’s name in Celtic language means ‘white country’ – the salt heritage is obviously established for a very long time. The nearby port Le Croisic was a gate through which the salt from Guerande was sent afar for centuries.
The salt has been harvested in that region for centuries – it was highly revered by the Vikings and it furnished banquet tables of royalties, aristocracy and rich, affluent people starting from the middle ages. Although, there are other locations across the world that use similar methods and call their salts flower of the salt, Guerande claims to be the first to produce that gem of the salt.
Only Guerande area has the appropriate climate and natural conditions to allow producing sea salt in a completely natural way this far north in Europe: harnessing power of sun and wind. The salt is collected only between June and September when the weather permits. Fleur de Sel is collected only on sunny afternoons while coarse sea salt is collected later in the evenings.
Fleur de Sel crystals are scraped carefully from the salt pans surface by paludiers – in the past that job was rendered to be suitable for women only, as it required a delicate touch. After collection, salt is left to dry naturally for about 2 years, so when it reaches your table it still contains some moisture and it is another reason making this salt is so special.
The delicate flakes are not only the finest salt created by sunny and windy conditions, moisture allows it to perfectly encapsulate the flavours and minerals of the sea. It all together creates the Fleur de Sel experience: the flakes melt away on the food enhancing it and bringing you a fine dining moment.
There is one more thing I love about this salt, sometimes a forgotten detail . This salt is produced in the sustainable and ecological way for centuries. There is no brine cooking to evaporate seawater, therefore no natural resources are burned away to produce it. During the harvest season, every 2 weeks, fresh seawater is allowed into the system of salt pans in the salt marshes of Guerande. With a blessing of good weather, sun and wind enable seawater to evaporate, so every afternoon the paludiers can scrape its surface to collect flakes of Fleur de Sel.
In the meantime, heavy salt crystals are forming at the bottom of a salt pan – they are pulled up later in the day. Both salts are left to dry freely. Notably, there is no baking or industrial drying process used. Guerande salts stay naturally moist after 2 years of drying. The salt is stored in warehouses – called ‘salorges’ or cathedrals, like the one in Batz sur Mer, which could keep up to 12,000 tonnes of salt. The Fleur de Sel de Guerande is then ready to be sent to connoisseurs like yourself.
There are only a few families who now retain the rights and knowledge of harvesting the salt Guerande way. Visitors are always welcomed to wander along the salt marshes, of course, you must take care not to step into the salt pans!