Manufacturers and merchants of salt for over 130 years – Maldon Salt
PUBLISHED: 13:15 26 November 2014 | UPDATED: 10:59 25 March 2015
For thousands of years on the marshland surrounding the Red Hills of Essex, along the shores of the Blackwater Estuary, sea water has been collected and dried to produce distinctive white crunchy sea salt crystals.
Maldon Salt kindly provided products for the Hampshire Life Food and Drink Awards goody bags.
Around 2,000 years later these hand-drawn production methods still continue to produce what we know today as Maldon Salt. Prized for its distinctive pyramid-shaped, white crunchy flakes, the salt has a unique soft texture that gives it a slightly sweet taste, free from the bitter after taste often associated with other salt.
The Maldon Salt Company began trading in 1882 and as a family run brand it is now in the capable hands of Steve Osborne, the fourth generation of the Osborne family. Following the traditional methods of production that have been passed down through the centuries before him, Steve ensures that the brand continues to deliver the same special taste it has always done.
The salt works was bought by Steve’s great-grandfather, James Rivers, who then passed it onto his stepson, Cyril Osborne in 1933 who in turn handed it on to his son Clive in 1973 before Steve took the reins in 2003. With such a long and distinguished heritage as master salt makers and custodians of such an ancient tradition it is no surprise the Osborne family is still Britain’s biggest sea salt exporter.
With an unrequited passion for producing the finest produce Steve Osborne, like his father before him, has grown up immersed in the Maldon Salt brand and has fond memories of using it as his playground by sliding around on boxes. Over the years, he learnt from his father the secrets of Maldon Salt and this, coupled with an innate family knowledge for the process, has ensured the business is in excellent hands.
Like the generations before him Steve has not wanted or needed to alter any part of the traditional hand production methods used in the making of Maldon Salt. In fact the only thing to have changed at the salt works over the years is the introduction of gas burners to replace the coal fires in 1979. Unlike his father before him, who started his career shovelling coal into furnaces to keep pans on the boil and learning the art of ‘clinkering out’, the gas burners now control the temperature. The rest of production however remains identical to the methods used by his grand-father and the finer points of salt making skills and judgments still remain just as important.
The production process itself requires sea water taken straight from the estuary, pumped into shallow stainless steel pans where it is gently boiled and left to slowly evaporate until the crystals fall to the bottom, the salt is then hand-harvested in a process called ‘drawing the pan’ and then dried.
Today, Steve works tirelessly to meet the increasing demand by finding new sites along the historic River Blackwater on the Essex coast, ensuring the expansion is in keeping with the traditionally built salt works. The most recent site he has secured has its own deep rooted history in salt making as it was the original site for salt production as long ago as Saxon times.
Salt making has always been big business in Essex. The 1086 Doomsday survey mentions no fewer than 45 salt pans in Maldon of which Edward the Confessor owned four. Yet it was not just Maldon that produced salt back then, as witnessed by the names of two local villages: Saltcote and Gore Saltings - but like so many good things, in 1825 the abolition of salt tax knocked almost all of the Essex Salt makers out of existence. There was only one remaining survivor of the Essex salt makers and that was the Maldon Salt Company, the proud bearers of traditional high quality salt making.
Proud still to use traditional, handcrafted methods of British salt making used by generations of Essex craftsman before them, the business continues to go from strength to strength, constantly securing new listings and expanding the Maldon name internationally. Originally stocked only in Harrods and Fortnum and Mason in the 1900’s it is now found all over the UK and in the quality restaurants and retailers in major international cities. On its 130th birthday in 2012, Maldon Salt was granted the Royal Warrant – the ultimate seal of approval from HRH, Queen Elizabeth II.
The family behind the brand has long been devoted to the preparation and taste of the finest food and the artisanal attributes of Maldon Salt bring out the very best in every dish. Both the quality of the salt it yields and the long heritage and unique family knowledge passed through the generations has ensured Maldon Salt is an incomparable British institution that celebrates the natural bounty of Essex and the very best of honest British culinary traditions.