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Salt in Britain: The History, Uses and Types of Salt in Britain

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The History of Salt in Britain
British Salt
Photo © RFB Photography
At the time of the Roman Conquest, British salt making was set up at many coastal sites and at the inland brine springs of Cheshire and Worcestershire. Salt was a vital commodity to the Roman army and demand was met by the setting up of military salt works. Part of a Roman soldiers pay was salt. We get the word soldier - 'sal dare', meaning to give salt and from the same source we get the word salary, 'salarium'.

Ancient man got his salt from eating animal meat. As he turned to agriculture and his diet changed, he found that salt, probably as sea water, gave his vegetables the same salty flavour. By the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there were scores of small salt producing companies operating around Middlewich and North Cheshire. Until today's more sophisticated salt production methods Cheshire salt works produced two grades of salt - fine and common.

In the 19th century, chemists discovered ways of using salt to make a whole range of new chemicals. Manufacturers today claim there are more than 14,000 uses for salt. Most people probably think of salt as simply a white granular food seasoning found in a salt shaker on the dining table. It is, and far more. Salt is an essential element in the diet of humans, animals, and even many plants. Over the millennia, man learned how salt helped to preserve food, cure hides and heal wounds.

In Britain today there are 3 main culinary salt producers; Maldon Sea Salt known and loved by chefs throughout the world for the crystalline, delicately flavoured flakes. Halen Mon comes from Wales and is made from seawater taken only from Anglesey and is unadulterate with imported sea salt or rock salt like some others. The newest kid on the 'salt' block is Cornish Sea Salt, made directly from the Atlantic ocean around the Cornish coast.

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