This is the completely walled village of Guérande in southern Brittany.
It is completely enclosed, with this being one of the impressive medieval gates leading into the old town.
Inside, the streets are lined with alluring artisanal snack shops. This is bonbon heaven!
Maison Georges Larnicol is famous for their la Kouignette, which with he won the prestigious MOF designation. This is a mini Kouign Amann, the smaller version of the delectable buttery and flaky pastry from Brittany.
Georges Larnicol is also famous for his caramels. They taste better than your average caramel due to Brittany's cows which are famous around for their special butter.
More gooey goodness!! Another reason the caramel tastes so good is because it uses Guérande’s world renowned Fleur de Sel, which leads to the real reason we came to this part of Brittany. I have been using Guérande Fleur de Sel for quite some time and love its amazing enhancement to food without using additives. So much so, I had to visit the source and see how this salt was harvested.
These are just a few of the famous salt marshes of Guerande. They are located close to an Atlantic bay in order to easily draw water into the ponds with the help of the ever changing ocean tides.
This is a guillotine (a much nicer use for one😊). It is opened to allow seawater to move into the ponds. The opening and closing of the guillotine is dependent on wind, sun, tide, and temperature. The goal is to allow the right amount of seawater in to cause perfect evaporation until it is concentrated enough to crystallize.
The salt is harvested by people called Paludiers, they use a lousse to collect the salt. The lousse delicately skims the top of the water collecting the crystals into piles that are left beside the pond to dry. It is all done by hand and collected evening or morning June through September. This intricate scientific system was started by the monks over a 1,000 years ago.
There are over 1500 acres of salt marshes. You can buy or lease a pond, however most of it is owned by the big producers who export their products around the world. It was great to walk and explore the marshes and get an idea of how vast this area actually is. There are no shortages of places to buy salt. Of course the big producers offer tours and sell their products but there are also plenty of roadside stands with paludiers selling their own salts at a fraction of the cost.
Fleur de Sel is a finishing salt. It is so delicate that the heat will destroy its qualities. It has a greater content of moisture than your average table salt. The higher moisture content makes the salt dissolve less quickly therefore enhancing the flavor of the food longer.
The paludiers harvest another type of the salt in the same ponds. This Gros Sel Gris, course salt. It is so heavy it sinks to the bottom. It is more abundant and way less expensive to purchase. I use this salt for cooking, it has a lot of good trace minerals.
To give you an idea how much salt is harvested each year, in 60 square meters 50 kilos of Gros Sel is produced and only 4 kilos of that is Fleur de Sel.
Fleur de Sel is definitely not a cheap product and after visiting I understand why. It is an exact science to harvest and only done by hand which makes me have an even greater appreciation for this magical product!