Achill Island Sea Salt
The Rebirth of an Ancient Island Tradition
Achill Island Sea Salt was originally inspired by a documentary on the ancient tradition of making salt on this wild and diverse island in Co. Mayo. ‘Producing salt on Achill has a longstanding history. In the old days, islanders needed lots of salt to preserve their fish and vegetables over the winter. There was a salt factory here up to the 1820’s.’ says Kieran O’Malley, owner and founder of Achill Island Sea Salt.
In 2013, inspired by the island’s salt heritage, Kieran decided to give it a go. The first attempt to make salt in the kitchen at home was ‘awful’ as he says himself. But he didn’t give up, trying different techniques, till he found a taste and texture he was happy with. Kieran took it off to the local country market, where, to his delight, it sold out straightaway. ‘Everyone loved it. We were thrilled.’ Then Aran McMahon of Café Rua and Rua Deli brought it to restaurants in Galway. Someone tipped Kieran off that he should check out Twitter, because it was ‘hopping’. He had no idea what that meant, but soon realised it meant that chefs and food professionals really liked his salt, and were telling the world about it on social media! The O’Malley family’s salt production began in earnest, with the help and support of Udarás na Gaeltachta.
Achill Island Sea Salt really captures the essence of this captivating island on the Wild Atlantic Way. It’s made in the traditional manner, from pure water from the Atlantic Ocean, as Kieran explains, ‘We collect water from the ocean and bring it back to our production factory in large tanks pulled on a trailer. We don’t have a direct pipeline from the ocean to the factory. It’s the same as when they used to collect the water in buckets, except our collection tanks hold two thousand litres. We use hands on traditional methods to evaporate the water to a brine, then slowly crystallize it to make the salt. It’s then carefully oven dried to give the flaky crystals, which are a very important part of our salt, that chefs have said they love. Our salt contains no chemicals or additives. It’s a natural product straight from the sea, made as it was always made here.’
An intense salty flavour of the sea is what you taste when you use Achill Island Sea Salt. The complex mineral character comes from minerals naturally occurring in the Atlantic Ocean around Achill, and the spring water flowing from the mountains on the island into the sea. The flaky consistency of Achill Island Sea Salt makes it a perfect table salt for sprinkling on food and great for cooking. This is a natural full flavoured salt, so you don’t need a lot to enhance a dish. It melts superbly into food, and makes a lovely crunchy coating for oven roasted baby potatoes or baked jacket potatoes. A whole fish baked in salt in the Mediterranean style takes on a whole new flavour with Achill Island Sea Salt. And of course, it works superbly in pickles, brines and chutneys, which is why it was made in the first place.
Kieran and his family have created a business making a heritage product which he hopes will ensure the future livelihoods of his children on the island where they were born and grew up. ‘We want our kids to be able to stay here.’, he says. Luckily, the O’Malley siblings are interested in working in the business, with daughter Maebh currently doing the marketing to help promote her dad’s wonderful product. The future for Achill Island Sea Salt seems well and truly secured.