West of Dingle Sea Salt, made by the Sea on the Dingle Peninsula
Salt is an ingredient that is in everyone’s kitchen. It enhances the flavour of every dish and makes everything taste better. A new sea salt is now produced in West Kerry by chef Brian Farrel and his wife Marie Holden.
We have amazing meat producers, the freshest of fish caught and brought in at Dingle’s harbour, we have fantastic vegetables grown in the sandy soils of the Maharees, artisan breads and chocolates, local cheese and craft beer and the list simply goes on… but we didn’t have a sea salt. Now we do! A brand new product ‘’made by the sea’’, from the waters of the Wild Atlantic Ocean and hand harvested by Brian and Marie right at their doorstep in West Kerry…
The Dingle Peninsula, a place of inspiration
The Dingle Peninsula is a special place for many people. For many it is home, for others it has become a home and for the visitors it is simply a magic place. For many of us it is the place where we work, we find inspiration, we draw up new business ideas and new projects, for many of us it is the place where we make a living. For Brian Farrel, Dingle is all of this. Born and raised on the Dingle Peninsula, a chef for more than 25 years, his beautiful family and now, a new food business inspired by his surroundings.
I took off for a drive back west to have a chat with them and learn more about these beautiful sea crystals from the Wild Atlantic Way. Brian and Marie collect the sea water once a day, about 160 litres of seawater – all by hand, walking down to a small rocky beach and collecting the crystal clear water in 20 litre buckets. ‘’We have found the holy grail’’, says Brian. He had the idea of setting up sea salt business for a while and started the business out of necessity during the pandemic. The hospitality industry has been hit very hard during the covid-19 pandemic, a lot of restaurants have been closed for more than a year now – some opened for a while last summer but a lot didn’t. A lot of talented chefs in the many restaurants of Dingle and everywhere in Ireland found themselves with no job. A wave of creativity took over many business owners on the peninsula and out of the down time, many found a new creative way to make a living.
I think that the pandemic taught us two positive things: to look after ourselves, slow down, take a break, pause and appreciate the small little things; and to look back at all the work done and adjust or come up with new ideas. A lot of free time during lockdown made many people rethink, reevaluate and sometimes, it simply helped give a push towards a new goal or a new project. Brian threw himself into a whole new job. He said ‘’we had to choose to either fix the electric shower or start a new business’’. He decided to start a food business with a budget of 300 euro.
The water is crystal clear and he tells me that even though he filters it before boiling it down, nothing comes through. It surely is pure, clean and clear water, perfect to make sea salt. No microplastics, nor any sort of stone or particle that you could think of. The salty brine is then left to evaporate and that’s when slowly, with time, little various shaped crystals appear. ‘’You know they talk about mindfulness, well I simply watch the sea crystals beginning to form – it’s pure magic happening’’ says Brian and West Of Dingle Sea Salt is born.
The first historical reference of sea salt in Ireland dates back to the 8th century. During the Middle Ages, Ireland would use salt as a means of preserving food, especially fish. In Dingle, salted ling was traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve, and some families of fishermen still do. The fish had to be boiled several times to get the salt out, then the fish was cooked with a sauce, onions and nice floury potatoes.
In the past, almost every port in Ireland had facilities for producing sea salt to be exported. Production eventually died out in the 19th century due to the amount of imported salt. Salt was imported from Portugal and Spain in the 17th century, then in the following century, rock salt was imported from England. Sea salt was a highly prized commodity.
West of Dingle Sea Salt is an artisan sea salt ‘’made by the sea’’ and produced in its simplest form. Compared with table salt, which is usually rock salt that is extracted from underground mines, highly processed, imported and cheaper; sea salt is less processed, contains more trace nutrients (magnesium, calcium, potassium) and has a larger particle size – which many chefs like because of its coarse and crunchy texture and a stronger taste of sea salt.
After some trial and error, and learning by doing, West of Dingle Sea Salt was born at the end of February. John & Sally McKenna have described its flavour as ‘’defined yet broad, the salinity direct and clean, and the infusion of rosemary and lemon zest in the flavoured salt works a treat.’’ Brian says that the support on the Peninsula has been overwhelming. He now stocks his two tubs of salty goodness in plain and in rosemary and lemon zest in various shops in Kerry and now also in Dublin at Honest 2 Goodness – Glasnevin Farmers Market.
Temptation Patisserie in Co. Laois now also use West of Dingle Sea Salt in their hand painted Sea Salt caramel bonbons and salted caramel macarons.
With only a few months in business, West of Dingle Sea Salt is growing for success and I wish them the best of luck with it.
West of Dingle Sea Salt is stocked in these shops in Kerry:
And in Dublin:
Dublin at Honest 2 Goodness – Glasnevin Farmers Market.