Anyone who knows me well knows that I am much more of a salty gal than a sweet one when it comes to flavor. I’d rather have French fries than dessert any day. So when I discovered that two local ladies were actually making their own salt using water from Nauset Beach, I could not wait to talk to them – and to buy their salt.
Janice Burling and Penny Lewis are longtime friends who wanted to start a business together. Their interest in both the history of the Cape and the local food movement led them to research the old salt works that were such a big part of the Cape’s history. They decided to try to make their own salt in April.
The idea seemed pretty simple in the beginning. They went down to Nauset Beach and gathered some water, filtered it and let it evaporate. Presto! Salt! And not just any salt. They discovered that the salt they had made was especially briny and delicious. With that discovery Cape Cod Saltworks was born.
The partners had to go through a lot of steps to get licensed by the Town of Orleans. The sea water had to be tested in a manner similar to that of a new well to make sure there were no contaminants in it. Janice’s kitchen had to be certified and both partners had to undergo ServSafe training before they could bring their product to market. With the help of their husbands, both named Richard, they did and they began selling their sea salt at Farmers’ Markets in Orleans, Harwich and Hyannis in July of 2012.
“We’re doing very well,” Janice says. “We sell out every week at the Farmers’ Markets.”
Janice and Penny went to Nauset Beach every day with five gallon buckets to collect water. It takes from one to two weeks, depending on the weather, to make the salt which is hand harvested in small batches.
“It’s an old process but if you’re patient and you let nature take its course, the water will evaporate and you will end up with beautiful white crystals of salt,” Penny says. “We don’t process it in any way. We crush it, but what you see is what comes out of the ocean. This what it tastes like when you take a sip at the beach. It’s 100 percent pure salt. It doesn’t have any anti-caking agents in it so when it’s humid it’s going to get a little bit sticky. But if you just shake it, it returns to its flaky self.”
The salt does not taste like regular table salt because it has no additives. It has a much brighter and saltier flavor and you don’t need to use much of it to get a big flavor explosion. Janice and Penny have had a great time experimenting with recipes for their new salt.
“We decided to package it in wide mouth jars so that you could just pinch it,” Janice says. “The intent is that you would keep this by the stove. It’s awesome on eggs or grilled vegetables.”
“You can use it in your pasta water and your pasta will be automatically salted,” Penny adds. “If you put it in the water when you make steamers and lobsters, it will be as if you cooked them in the sea. They’re delicious. It really has been a lot of fun to see the different things you can do with it. We made fudge and sprinkled the fudge with the salt. It was to die for. Janice makes chocolates and they’re fabulous.”
Pumped up by their enthusiasm, I brought home a 4.5 ounce jar (costing $12) of Cape Cod Saltworks Sea Salt. It does indeed make lobster taste better and it’s sublime on corn on the cob. I’m still experimenting with a sweet and salty baked good with mixed results, but I adore the salad that was inspired by Penny when she showed me a photo on her cell phone of the layered beefsteak tomato and avocado salad topped with roasted corn.
I took that idea and created a variation of a summer salad my family loves. Hopefully you will love it too.
Penny and Janice have since sold Cape Cod Saltworks to Cape Abilities Farm in Dennis, where the salt is currently being made.