Stay Salty with Slack Tide Sea Salt
The ocean is a salty place. In one cubic mile of seawater, there are 120 million tons of salt. But getting that salt from the ocean to our plates is not so simple. Lauren Mendoza, owner of Slack Tide Sea Salt, can tell you this firsthand. She runs the York, ME company with her aunt Cathy and her dearest childhood friend, Sarah.
The three women started the company in 2019 behind Lauren’s house, which backs up to the York River just below the site of the first tidal mill in America. From the vantage point of Sarah’s backyard, you can still see the old wooden track for horses that pulled carriages full of cut lumber up the field from the water.
While the Slack Tide crew isn’t dependent on the power of the tides for their business, they do depend on it to provide fresh seawater that they use to produce their salts. They go out to the end of the channel at the tail end of high tide (slack tide) when the water has just been refreshed from the open ocean.
Even though the Slack Tide crew collects the “freshest” source of seawater they can, they still filter the water three times during the salt making process. The first two times are to filter out any impurities in the water. The third filtration is done only for their finishing salts. Sea water contains natural minerals like magnesium and calcium that can take away from the delicate flavor preferred for the salt used on food. However, for the bath salts, these additional minerals are left in due to documented therapeutic benefits, such as helping to relax tired muscles.
Getting the salt out of saltwater might seem straightforward – evaporate the water to leave the salt behind. But, in addition to filtration, the process is a bit more complicated. Slack Tide’s evaporation technique is a continuous science experiment. Lauren has been able to combine her love of gardening with the production of sea salt by constructing four greenhouses in her backyard.
Inside are a series of evaporating trays in assorted sizes and configurations. The evaporation procedure is regularly tweaked based on previous yield for the small operations. It takes a surprising amount of saltwater to make a little salt - one gallon for every 3.5oz jar produced, in fact. And it takes a lot of time – about one month for about 400 gallons of seawater to reduce 80% down to what is then called “brine”. Then, it gets filtered again and evaporated once more before it is ready. But it’s worth it after all that time and energy. “It is so beautiful and crunchy and flaky. I just love it,” says Lauren, showing me the white crystals of the finished product sparkling under a bright light.
As a resident of coastal Maine, Lauren has always respected the working waterfront and how important it is to our state’s economy. Another passion of Lauren’s is helping Maine’s food insecure; she routinely spends her time volunteering at the York County Food Pantry. “So, when a friend told me about the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association’s program, Fishermen Feeding Mainers, I thought, ‘That’s amazing. That’s something I want to support.’” For this program, born out of Covid-related restaurant closures, MCFA purchases fish directly from fishermen at a fair price and donates it to local schools, food banks, and community groups. So far over 250,000 meals have been donated across the state.
From her desire to support Maine’s working waterfront as well as those in Maine facing food insecurity, Lauren and the Slack Tide crew developed a proprietary blend for MCFA - Fishermen’s Blend Lemon Dill Sea Salt – a flavor combination perfect atop local seafood dishes. For every jar of salt sold, they donate $1 f to the Fishermen Feeding Mainers program. You can find Slack Tide Salt at www.slacktidemaine.com.