TEXT: LOUISE OLDER STEFFENSEN | PHOTO © LÆSØ SALT
Back in 1991, the remnants of several medieval saltworks were discovered during archaeological digs on the idyllic Danish island of Læsø. With local help, the experimental archaeologist Jens Vellev and a local Læsø advocate reconstructed one of them as a historical workshop, aiming to investigate the past while educating people. The site took in local, unemployed youngsters and taught them industry skills. What started off as an experiment has become a highly profitable business, and today, Læsø Salt is in great demand.
“The saltworks proved hugely popular from the get-go, although we hadn’t a clue what we were doing at first. Turns out extracting salt from the sea is pretty difficult,” Poul Christensen recalls. Known as Seething-Poul, the jovial Christensen is anything but angry: instead, his nickname refers to the salt-boiling process in which he has built up expertise. “Our first few batches came out very bitter. The key, we eventually learnt, to making high-quality, palatable salt is to only heat up the water to a certain degree, then skim off the flakes on top. Repeat the process a few times, but not too many – you only want the purest salt to garnish the dinner table. And, of course, you must taste each batch!”
Læsø Salt remains a staunchly local business. “The leftover water is as salty and mineral-rich as the Dead Sea. We use it for medicinal and wellness treatments down the road at the Læsø Kur spa – it’s great for psoriasis therapy, for example,” says Christensen. Today, the saltworks welcome 75,000 visitors a year, who come to experience the ancient methods still in use today. Some of those ‘90s youngsters from the early days have become today’s experts that show them off. Though Læsø Salt has gone from producing two to 85 tonnes of salt a year and supplied places like Restaurant NOMA, Christensen remains humble. “I couldn’t say we have the best salt in the world – but we do make some pretty damn good salt.”