Viewpoints from Aussie Cuisine
With our very long coastline, clean seawater and ideal sun and wind conditions, Olsson’s has been producing top quality salt since 1948, yet another fine Australian produce of which we should be proud.
We have many, maybe too many, celebrity chefs who have promoted and influenced our culinary journey. Let’s not forget our producers, passionate and unique personalities who have worked as hard and are as important to our cuisine, such as Alexandra Olsson. Why are they not so recognised and celebrated as much as our chefs?
Salt is the most versatile produce and the most important ingredient for cooking but unfortunately most cooks and chefs are not aware of the potential applications and usage of the large variety of salts available to them.
Alexandra Olsson from Olsson’s Salt is interviewed by Carolina Holzmeister of AussieCuisine.
“In France, one of the world’s most respected and established food cultures, salt makers are venerated (think Ile de Re, Sel de Guerande). I would like to think that with the evolution of a mature, unique and robust food culture in Australia, the standard of Australian salt will continue to improve proportionately.”
CH: How did the Olsson’s Salt company get started?
AO: In 1949, my grandfather, Norman, my father Charles and Uncle Malcolm formed Olsson Industries making pressed mineral and salt blocks for livestock as a direct result of requests from graziers for someone to produce supplements to meet the nutritional needs of their sheep and cattle during the severe drought that started in 1947 and continued until 1952.
The idea of buying a salt-press was formed when my grandfather heard rumours about a demand for pressed salt supplements in the sheep industry which was booming at that time. Olsson’s 1st salt block was produced the next year, in 1948, in a shed just west of Parramatta. It was the first pressed salt block produced in Australia to contain a range of minerals and was the forerunner of all the multi-nutrient blocks produced in Australia
To service their growing business with salt, Uncle Malcolm and my father purchased the leases to Pacific Saltworks in 1957 in Warooka, Yorke Peninsular, South Australia.
A few years after this, the BHP salt leases became available just north of Whyalla. My father took over these leases and that’s where we take most of our salt from today.
My father also built another salt works himself up in Queensland in the 80’s in between Bajool and Port Alma (east of Rockhampton). It took him 5 years of digging out the mangrove swamps to make the pans and that is where we make our Macrobiotic Salt: naturally high in marine minerals and trace elements and similar to French Grey salts or Celtic Salt.
The ocean has been very important for our family for a long time and we’re particularly lucky in Australia to have oceans that are still very clean. This translates to beautiful salt because all we do to make our sea salt is evaporate seawater by the action of the sun and the wind, so having beautiful seawater is the key to our beautiful sea salt.
CH: Who are your main customers and what is your relationship with them?
AO: Since its launch in 2012, Olsson’s Sea Salt Flakes have been warmly and enthusiastically embraced by Australia’s chefs. Olsson’s Salt is used in many hatted restaurants all over Australia. We are simultaneously humbled and proud to supply these excellent chefs and restaurants. I think the care and attention to detail that has been put into the development of our sea salt flakes have been evident to the food industry professionals in Australia. We received a delicious. award in 2016 for our sea salt flakes.
My father Charles was mentored in the ancient tradition of salt making at Les Salins du Midi, Languedoc, and was determined to make a sea salt flake in the French tradition which sees a delicate flat flake rather than a pyramid-shaped flake.
It took him over ten years to perfect this process and he has called this grade “Fleur de Sel” in homage to his French mentors. This “Fleur de Sel” grade of sea salt flakes is hand-harvested from the very top of the flaker pan as it is very fragile.
Underneath this layer of large flat flakes is a layer of fluffy balls of salt that we have called “Blossoms” because they remind us of wattle blossoms. The Blossoms are more robust than the “Fleur de Sel” and are recommended for curing, brining, mixing and also for the table.
CH: Where do you find inspiration for the Olsson’s Salt product range? And how did it become so diverse?
AO: We’re always in various stages of collaboration with chefs and other Australian producers to bring new and delicious products to Australian kitchens, whether commercial or domestic and this is a constant source of inspiration and joy to me personally.
We recently launched our Red Gum Smoked Salt that was the result of a three-year-long collaboration between ourselves, Ross Lusted (The Bridge Room) and Charlie Costelloe (Pialligo Estate Smokehouse). The salt is smoked on Red Gum wood chips for three days in the traditional Northern European style. This produces a depth and complexity of flavour that cannot be replicated.
We’re well represented in the food service industry in Australia but we also supply many other manufacturing industries with salt as well. There are over 25,000 known uses for salt around the world and very few industries DON’T use salt in their manufacturing process. So we have to have a wide selection of grades (crystal size) of salt to service all these industries.
CH: How can Olsson’s Salt contribute to the evolution of Australian cuisine?
AO: We’ve seen Australian cuisine come a long way in the last 20 years, and food service professional’s attitude towards salt is a symptom of this evolution. During this time Australia has developed some of the best salt in the world.
In France, one of the world’s most respected and established food cultures, salt makers are venerated (think Ile de Re, Sel de Guerande). I would like to think that with the evolution of a mature, unique and robust food culture in Australia, the standard of Australian salt will continue to improve proportionately.