Thursday, 6 October 2011

What a corker


Making beautiful things is important to Jorge Raido, entrepreneurial owner of Salmarim, a company that produces and markets Flor de Sal. So it is no surprise that the packaging of his products has always been a priority. As Jorge says, quite simply, "I'm always looking for new ideas."


His latest inspiration is to box and present Flor de Sal in another historic Portuguese product - cork. This new packaging has now been added to his existing range of Flor de Sal, which continues to jump off the shelves of gourmet outlets throughout Portugal.

The idea came to him while he was visiting a cork factory in the serra at Caldeirao.
Initially the project looked simple, but to actually arrive at a practical solution was another matter. Jorge eventually got there. His new range of Flor de Sal in cork packaging is now selling well in traditional and gourmet delicatessens.

Why cork? The choice is related to the moisture content of the product. Jorge argues that the Flor de sal should be used with less moisture than tradition favours. "The French like their Flor de sal with a higher degree of humidity, but I think the flavour is more intense with less." Jorge´s target is to reach 400 cork-packaged unit sales by Christmas .

He is also probably the only producer of Flor de Sal in Portugal who is keen to "get his hands dirty," donning his wellies  and slipping into the mud slide spirit of saline that is the Sapal of Castro Marim, here in the East Algarve.

Integrated in the Marshland Nature Reserve of Castro Marim can be found a paradise for nature lovers. Salmarim is one of the sites linked with Natura 2000, the Europe-wide network concerned with the preservation and promotion of  natural heritage. It is here that Jorge likes to enjoy the little things in life, the small pleasures, which reap him great rewards.

Even outside harvest time, which does not exceed three or four months a year in summer, as water, wind and sun combine to create the perfect conditions to remove the salt crystals from the surface of the water in the pan, Jorge likes to harvest more than just salt from the reserve. 

He loves the beauty and silence of his natural surroundings. But when it comes to work time (from dawn till dusk), he is again ready to accompany the team of artisan harvesters and help them, "hands on", to bring  the tiny crystals of Flor de sal to the surface. The entire process  is all done by hand. "Only then does the Flor de Sal retain all the minerals that the Atlantic Ocean offers," explains Jorge.

The adventure began three years ago and currently Salmarim has a product range, all of it based on  natural Flor de Sal,  flavoured with parsley and oregano, olives, chili, chili with garlic and bay leaves and lemon. His customers are encouraged to appreciate the flavours that accompany particular dishes to their best advantage.

This advice is spelt out on the packaging by  the celebrated Portuguese chef Henrique Mouro, chef proprietor of the acclaimed restaurant Assinatura in the Rato neighbourhood of Lisbon.

Chef Mouro joined the project from the beginning, "because it is a way to be assured of getting a good product for my daily work and to have faith in its quality", he explained. "Flor de Sal is the purest form of salt, more tasty, healthy and crisp," he adds.

Adapted from a recent feature in the  Portuguese magazine "Good Living"

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