For a long time, I was interested in how natural salt was made.
Salt brings the original taste of ingredients in cooking. Salt is such a basic basic seasoning, but quite important seasoning !!
Rock salt is most popular salt in the world (Apparently, 60% of salt is rock salt), but not in Japan. There are no rock salt or salt lakes in Japan, but Japan is surrounded by seas, so sea salt was made and used in Japan for a long time. That is the reason I believe sea salt is the best much for Japanese cooking and Japanese preserved/fermentation foods!
However, Japanese salt making process was not easy like other countries. Japanese weather is not great for salt making. Rain. Humid. These element doesn’t help for salt making. Fortunately (in this case, I probably should say unfortunately) it rains a lot in Japan, therefore Japan is called Water country.
Its geographic doesn’t help either. More mountain area, compare to flat area. (About 75% of Japanese land is mountain area) Well, that’s why many Tanada (photo above) can be seen in Japan to use mountain surfaces for farming, especially for rice production, to get land as much as possible (Stunning and beautiful though!!) But beautiful Tanada can’t be used for salt making. Therefore, making sun dried salt in a big saltpan/salt field wasn’t a reasonable way to make salt in Japan. we needed to came up with various ideas and probably some inventions to make natural sea salt in Japan. Come up with the ideas and tried new methods were the Japanese salt making history.
Here in Itoshima/Fukuoka, there are salt making studio which makes premium sea salt – Mataichi Salt またいちの塩. For sea salt, ingredient is only sea water. How clear it is, how rich it is, environment around this area, speed of sea water circulation and so on…lots of condition are considered.
Mataichi salt believes that Itoshima peninsula covers all of these conditions, and provide strong umami sea water which contains richness from seaweeds.
The view on the way to Mataichi was just amazing.
People put a lot of effort to make sea salt in Japan and still is! Here in Mataichi, they built this bamboo tower to reduce moisture from seawater, right next to the sea side. This is one of their invention!
After reduced moisture (depends on the weather condition, but 10 days to a month until the saltiness of the water become 9-10%), then bring these water to inside, and start heating with recycle woods.
This is how sea water is changed to sea salt. Slowly slowly.
Mr. Nagatomo, who is the salt maker at Mataichi told me that salt making here is really interesting, because it is all manual, not automatic. Human power and intuition are quite involved.
Using recycled woods makes fire control more difficult, but it makes more interesting. The recycle woods came from housing materials, so sometimes they are pine, sometimes they are cedar, all different woods, which have different character. For example pine contains more oils than other woods so when you put pine into the stove, fire become very strong all of sudden, but it doesn’t last that long as fuel…. It was so good to see happy enjoying salt maker. Just love to see all manual process! Their love and passion in there!
For the first 2 days after start firing, they want to keep 60 degrees. They don’t just boil sea water. This is the technique to make salt with Umami. The salt makes food yummy. What their pursue is to make salt which helps the ingredients to be used to the fullest to make the dish delicious. There is philosophy there.
It is amazing location. People who visited this salt making studio can take advantage of this location while eating some of their cafe menu. Just come here with your favourite book and enjoy reading and view at the same time, then when you become hungry, get some food and drink! What a precious weekend would be!!
There are several options apart from coffee and healthy drinks, but apparently this salt pudding is the most famous one!
Also, you can taste their 2 different type of salt, Takishio (left) and Yakishio (right). Right Yakishio is roasted salt. which was one more steps from Takishio. Depend on the dishes, you can use separately.
Also, you can try salt making in this studio ( or just tour is available) if you like.
After visiting Mataichi, Now I want to make Tofu with their Nigari. Enjoy cooking x (Oh! Tofu making workshop is coming soon when I back to Melbourne x)