In a nutshell: Extremely rare hand-harvested sea salt, air-dried by warm southerly winds in the historic marshes of Brittany’s western coast.
Salt has been harvested in the windswept tidal marshes of Guérande for more than a millennium. Grand Cru de Batz are the upholders of this proud Breton tradition – producing a unique range of small-batch, hand-harvested salts in much the same way as would have been done 1,000 years ago.
The salt is naturally created from the sea water that becomes trapped in the patchwork of interconnected salt pans that dot the marshes. The warm summer winds cause the water to evaporate, leaving its salt crystals behind.
The fine top layer of salt, known as fleur de sel, is carefully removed by a paludier (or salt-marsh worker) using his lousse, a specially designed rake with a 3-metre blade. Grand Cru de Batz only harvests 3kg of fleur de sel a day, on just 30 days each summer, making it a rare and prized product.
Fleur de Sel Neige ('Snow') is rarer still. It's only harvested on those occasional days when the marshes are buffeted by warm southerly winds, which usually presage thunder and mark the end of summer. Only about 200 kilos are harvested every year.
This precious harvest is naturally dried to preserve its high mineral content, before being hand-sorted to remove impurities. Finally, it’s sealed in an airtight tin (each with its own number to reflect its rarity) before finding its way to the best restaurant kitchens in France – and, now, to you.
How to use
Details Available in three sizes: 100g; 200g; and 850g.
Don’t forget to check out our other Grand Cru de Batz salts: Fleur de Sel Vent d’Est; Fleur de Sel Fumée; and Great Taste 2018 Award Winners Fleur de Sel and Gros Sel Gris.
About Grand Cru de Batz
Salt has been harvested in Guérande since 945 AD, when the monks of nearby Landévennec Abbey dug out the first salt pans in the rich clay soils of the tidal marshland.
By the 1960s, however, industrialisation had cut a swathe through the age-old trade, making authentic, artisan-made Guérande salt increasingly hard to find. Thankfully, Grand Cru de Batz are keeping alive the tradition for the 21st century.
As it would have been 1,000 years ago, the salt is harvested by a paludier. Théophile learnt how to use the lousse and the las to harvest the salt from the marshes from his father, who learnt from his father before him.
“It was while making salt with Théo that I realised that each wind allowed us to produce a different kind of salt,” recalls the owner of Grand Cru de Batz, salt visionary Cédric Pennarun.
The result is a range that includes a Fleur de Sel Vent d’Est, a fine-grained salt harvested in east winds, also known as Louis XIV – Cédric’s business partner Edouard’s ancestor was the Sun King’s wig-maker and introduced this salt to the court at Versailles.
Then there’s the Fleur de Sel Neige, an extremely rare product harvested during the occasional southerly winds that presage thunder and mark the end of summer.
The range is completed by a Fleur de Sel Fumée, cold-smoked over beechwood for several hours, and Gros Sel Gris, manually harvested from the floor of the salt pans.
The salt isn't crushed or mixed, which allows each batch to be assigned a vintage. It's dried in the traditional manner, too. Industrial drying can destroy a salt’s nutrients, so Cédric’s are naturally drained and aged over nine months.
This ensures their mineral content is as high as possible and they’re rich in iodine and high in trace elements such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium as a consequence.
The salt is then hand-sorted to remove impurities. This is done at the local ESAT – an organisation dedicated to providing employment for people with disabilities.
“I am proud to work with each of them and am always impressed by the daily concentration and rigour they demonstrate,” says Cédric.
Grand Cru de Batz is the salt of choice for some of France’s finest chefs, such as Georges Blanc, whose eponymous restaurant near Maçon holds three Michelin stars, as well as Heston Blumenthal, who uses it in his UK restaurants The Fat Duck and Dinner by Heston.
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