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East Neuk Salt Co brings salt back to St Monans for first time in over 250 years

Darren Peattie is the owner of East Neuk Salt Co

It has been a labour of love but finally salt is once again being harvested in St Monans after 250 years.

Darren Peattie from the coastal village set out on his salt making journey in October 2020 when he launched a Crowdfunding campaign.

Just over a year later, he has now released his salt to the masses, bringing the “white gold” back to St Monans.

Spending four months with an engineer who taught him all he needs to know about the equipment he is using at the base in Bass Rock Business Park, Darren has now been producing salt for five weeks.

Inside part of the salt factory.

Aiming to generate four tonnes per month, he is now well versed in production as he is now working on batch three.

“I can understand why they called it white gold in the past,” he said. “It is incredible. To bring salt back to St Monans after 250 years is just amazing.

“We’ll be producing four tonnes a month. We currently operate out of one pan, but we’re looking to grow that to six.

Darren Peattie makes adjustments to the control panel for the whole system.

“The first batch suitable for sale went out five weeks ago. We’re now on batch three.

“We do several brines per week. A brine will give us 400 to 450 kilos of salt from 6,000 litres of sea water. We’ve made a couple of tonnes already.”

Eask Neuk Salt: Scotland’s largest salt company

According to Darren the yard is Scotland’s largest salt company and he has already picked up a Scottish distributor and is now sending salt to America, Germany and Singapore, with China a key target market for the firm in 2022.

He said: “We started with a building with four brick walls and no roof, and now we’re a fully functioning salt factory.

Watch how it is made

“We’re about to hold 17,000 litres of sea water so we will have a constant brine in the pan, one being made and one in the holding tank which will result in us being a 24/7 operation.

“It takes several days. When the brine gets into the pan it will evaporate and be harvested over a 24-hour period. It then goes into the drying process and is then packed and distributed.

Darren and Mhairi Peattie with the vacuum tank in which the sea water is heated to concentrate the salt from about 3% to about 40% in the solution.

“You have to concentrate the brine to a certain level and when it is in the pan crystallising you have to adjust temperatures, have pulling and evaporation stages and more.

“Salt crystallises at the top and when it gets heavy that is when it sinks to the bottom and when you can harvest it. Ours is mostly pyramids rather than flakes. Some of them are really big and the colour and clarity is incredible.

Darren moving the salt in the salt pan.

“The taste is also fantastic and we’ve had great feedback from some of the best chefs and chocolatiers in the country.”

Tourism is the future

Spending more than £200K on the new firm, £52K came from a successful crowdfunder while a £25K grant from the Maritime Fishery Fund has also proved helpful.

The rest has been funded by Darren and his wife Mhairi, the head chef of The Dory Bistro in Pittenweem.

Some of the salt.

A one-man band, Darren hopes to employ a team of five or six by the end of the first year in business and has big plans for the firm. He is on-site majority of the time monitoring gauges, pressures and timings.

“We’re in product development with chocolates and we’re working with Verdant Spirits to make a gin.

Posted by East Neuk Salt Co. on Sunday, 27 December 2020

“Employment is at the core of what we do – I want to try keep young people in the village.

“The long term aspect is to have a purpose-built premises or expand the factory and have the salt company, cook school education hub and cafe/restaurant.

“I’d like to give myself two years to get the company to where it needs to be and then introduce these elements.”

The salt is currently available in numerous local outlets including Ardross Farm Shop and Elie Deli in Elie and The Urban Grocery in Newport-on-Tay.

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