Salt is as polarizing an ingredient as any. All good cooks or chefs will emphasize the importance of adding enough of it to ensure a dish is well-seasoned, but the average person seems to be dissuaded from using too much in fear that elevated sodium levels cause health concerns.
“You can never have too much salt as long as you are the one doing the salting,” says Virginia Marion, owner of The Salt Cellar, a local company dedicated to sourcing and selling a variety of flavoured salts and salt blends. She started the company in 2010, after having worked in restaurants, and taught culinary education for several decades.
“I was in Edmonton and I picked up a jar of salt. It was a different blend than I had ever seen before so I started researching it,” she recalls. From there Marion began thinking about creating her own product, building a website, and brainstorming where she would sell it. She was just about to take the next step and open up a bank account for her new business when she was hit by a truck, leaving her with a myriad of internal injuries and broken bones. “At that point, the business was the only thing that kept me going,” Marion admits. “I knew that I could either lie there and feel sorry for myself or forge ahead. I’ve always been a fighter and since then, the business has taken on a life of its own.”
Marion learned early on that educating consumers about salt would be vital to her business’s growth and success, just as salt is vital to human survival. “It was difficult to sell salt to people at first,” she says, “From a health standpoint, many people believe it is bad for you.”
photos by Ingrid Kuenzel
Leveraging her background in education (she has a Master’s degree and taught cooking in high school for 15 years) has been a huge benefit for her in promoting her products. By researching and being comfortable to inform on her salty subject, she is slowly getting the word out that people don’t need to fear salt as much as they think they should.
“All of the salts I sell are hand-harvested and have a high mineral content,” Marion adds, “Plus you don’t need to use them in large quantities to get the flavour you’re looking for.” Initially, she brought in infused salts and smoked salts to sell to her customers. From there she started packaging them into kits with recipe booklets. Now she offers everything from the ever-popular black truffle salt, to 12 different homemade salt blends, like her best-selling lime pepper flavour. Whether you use it to season chicken or fish, or to liberally sprinkle on popcorn, citrus and pepper is always a winning combination.
If you are looking for something more “meaty”, try Marion’s Canadian bacon blend that just happens to be made without bacon! “I didn’t want to use real bacon because I knew it would go rancid,” she says. Instead she experimented with a blend of maple sugar, smoked salt, and smoked pepper, until she came up with the right proportions to simulate the flavour of bacon. It’s the pumpkin spice mentality, i.e. the spices associated with pumpkin without any actual pumpkin.
The Salt Cellar’s newest salt blend, lemon dill, is already in high demand and there are always more flavours and “I started getting into stores bit by bit,” Virginia says, “Now I’ve had stores calling me out of the blue requesting my products.” She has even shipped samples off to the Yukon, Nevada, and Georgia for people wanting to taste what she has to offer.
As for what’s next in store for Virginia and The Salt Cellar, keep your eyes out for her “Salt Rocks!” cookbook, which she’s aiming to have ready for the Christmas markets. Each page is dedicated to a specific salt and will be paired with two recipes, as well as substitution ideas if you want to get creative. “But you don’t have to be a chef or even a great cook to use products from The Salt Cellar,” Marion stresses. Her salts are intended for everyone, and it’s clear from her passion for teaching that she means it.
Whether you use them to finish pizza or to season your eggs, once you’re hooked, The Salt Cellar will be a staple in your spice cabinet.