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Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Visit to the Salt "Mines"

     Today was an interesting visit to an operation just NW of Machias, ME that produces about five tons of sea salt a year. It was about a two hour + drive each way, and I managed to get a few pictures out the window while we were traveling. Barely east of Belfast is the Penobscot Narrows Bridge.

     At the far end, on a platform on top of a telephone pole, is an osprey nest.

          Machias is waaay down east and nearly to Canada. Eighteen years ago, an enterprising couple decided to make a living by carefully turning sea water into sea salt for commercial and private use. They built a series of 200 foot, plastic covered greenhouses in which to evaporate the sea water. Since they are not actually on the ocean, a water tank truck delivers the water to the evaporators 8,000 gallons at a time. The water moves via pumps from one evaporating/settling tank to the next. As the salinity becomes more concentrated, solid impurities settle out. The evaporating/settling tanks are only a few inches deep. Unlike the processing of maple syrup, there are no burners. Only the sun is used to evaporate the sea water. The temperature inside the greenhouses can reach 140 degrees. When a door is opened, out wafts a hot, salty sea breeze. It's enough to fog your glasses.

     It takes several weeks for the final crystalline salt to be produced. Here's a shot of a container of a thousand pounds of salt.

      The final drying occurs between towels. 

     The next step is to sift and season and/or smoke the crystals. 

     After sifting the salt may be flavored with a number of flavors such as: garlic, lemon, herbs, or pepper. They also smoke the salt with apple or hickory smoke.

     This is a labor-intensive process whose results I am anxious to try. We all bought an assortment of their products.
     After we were done, we adjourned to Helen's restaurant in Machias. They have recovered from their fire and have resumed their status as one of Down East Maine's iconic restaurants.

     Ann could not wait to order a platter of steamers.

     On the way back we came across a couple of the institutions unique to Maine...the roadside flea market and the fields of low bush, wild blueberries.

     And here are the blueberries.

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