Salt of the Islands – Flor de Sal

flor de sal mallorca with Mallorca HikingReturning to products Made in Mallorca, today we’re going to look at the incredible success story of Flor de Sal – naturally harvested sea salt from the beaches of Mallorca.

Flor de Sal is one of the highest quality sea salts in the world, and due to its scarcity it is also one of the most expensive. It is harvested by hand along the coast of Mallorca, and has become a popular ingredient in the kitchens of many of Spain’s top chefs. It is now produced in many flavours & combinations and exported from our little island around the world. The salt obtained is 100% natural without any modification (apart from the new flavoured salts that have, e.g. herbs & spices added to them).

The salt producing area of Mallorca is Ses Salines (named after its salt flats) in the south east of the island, and about 7 kilometers from the coast. Winter storms bring seawater onto the salt flats, which are then left to dry in the sun… The whole area has been designated an area of special scenic and rural interest, and it is a fascinating place to walk, as we observe its intriguing and unusual ecology. Watch this space – Mallorca Hiking has a few fabulous new guided walking itineraries in this area that we’ll be adding soon (and in the meantime of course you can take a look at some of our other fantastic walks)

Flor de Sal (or “Flower of Salt”) is extremely beneficial as it retains its natural moisture, many minerals and other essential elements from the sea – enhancing both its flavour and its health benefits. Because its crystals are so small, flor de sal dissolves faster than regular salt when used in cooking, so it’s best used by sprinkling it over food just before serving.

La Sal de la Vida with Mallorca Hiking

In the past salt was as valuable a commodity as oil is today. Many wars and treaties were declared over the trade of salt. Some even say the fall of the British Empire started when India objected to a tax on salt that escalated into a backlash against British rule.

Historically, the Egyptian’s were the first to discover the process of evapourating sea water to extract the salt and the Phoenicians brought the technology to Portugal where mass production and export was first started. The French introduced Fleur de Sel in around 1975 in Guerande, on the French Atlantic Coast. In Mallorca farming of Flor de Sal is relatively new with the first commercial production beginning around 2001.

The ancient process for harvesting salt is  still used today.  Seawater is left to evaporate in progressively smaller, shallower, and lower pools—or salt pans—until the salt is so densely concentrated that it can just be scooped out of the water. The salt is harvested every five to seven weeks, depending on the heat of the sun and the force of the drying winds.

Once harvested the salt can be enriched with other ingredients – this process has resulted in a star product of the Balearic Islands. Numerous awards have been bestowed on the companies now producing Flor de Sal from Mallorca. Flor de Sal d’Estrenc and Llum de Sal are the main producers here and have already earned an impressive list of awards.

Flor de Sal Awards with Mallorca Hiking

If you haven’t yet discovered this wonderful product, look out for it in the quality delicatessen outlets. If it’s made in Mallorca – you can be sure it’s a quality product! It’s great for a present when you’re travelling back home – but you’ll probably get hooked for your own use once you try it…

Don’t forget it’s always important to maintain your salt levels particularly when Walking and Hiking, so why not do it in style, with Flor de Sal…!!

Mushroom picking in Mallorca

Collecting mushrooms

Collecting mushrooms

One of the many things that we love about Mallorca is the island’s dedication to its traditions of foraging for local wild produce, such as mushrooms, asparagus and the like. When we’re out walking in the mountains at this time of year, we meet any number of Mallorcan families enthusiastically searching for setas, all equipped with their traditional wicker baskets to collect their mouth-watering harvest.

The Mallorcan mushroom season is usually late October to November, depending on the weather. The rains usually arrive in late August, but if like this year they’re late, the season tends to be a bit later.

 

Mushrooms or Setas in Mallorca

Mushroom varieties in Mallorca

Mushrooms are quite varied in Spain, with some very big varieties growing in the forest areas. Our weather is good for mushrooms – hot summers, high humidity and autumn rains all contribute to conditions that allow them to thrive.  Ceps, or porcini (in Spanish rovellos) are quite common, as are Chanterelles. Niscalos or lactarius deliciosus are also prolific, and are used in many of the local dishes. But here in Mallorca the real pick of the crop is the Esclata-sangs (Lactarius Sanguifluus – Bleeding Milk Cap) a large flat fleshy mushroom, which bursts with flavour when cooked…!

This island is not shy about promoting its local produce, and every year on the last weekend of November, the tiny Mallorcan village of Mancor del Vall comes alive with the Fira de l’esclata-sang i de la Muntanya. This delightful little place lies in the foothills of the Tramuntana mountains and this autumn fair is one of its annual highlights.

Esclata-sangs in Mallorca

Esclata-sangs in Mallorca

This wonderful fair aims to show and preserve traditional mountain activities and island traditions, but the main attraction is their prized mushrooms, which are showcased over the weekend in a variety of dishes offered by local bars and restaurants. You can snack on mushrooms on toast, freshly made at one of the many stalls, or visit one of the cafes or restaurants to try one of the many specially prepared dishes featuring these delicious mushrooms.

If you’d like to find out a bit more about the varieties of mushrooms you can find here (particularly the edible variety!), there is an excellent online catalogue published by the University of the Balearic Islands in conjunction with the Balearic Natural History Museum.

And then, why not “go local” and join Mallorca Hiking for a guided mushroom foraging walk. Our expert guides will take you to the best areas, talk you through the various species and keep you safe by making sure you don’t pick the wrong ones!  If you’d like to book a walk just for you and your family and friends, we’ll organise a tailor-made day out just for you… you can then go home and cook a delicious meal with what you’ve picked!

Do contact us for more information – we’ll be happy to help…

 

Mallorca’s gastronomy during hiking (part two)

jamon serrano

In our last blog post we where talking about what to bring when you go for a walk and giving suggestions and tips on delicious local food and products. Here comes the continuation on the same topic.

Pa amb oli” is the way local people from Mallorca call a slice of bread with tomatoes, olive oil and salt. This is the local sandwich base, which can be topped with other food or eaten directly as the 4 ingredients are already very tasteful. The best thing to do while hiking is to prepare it during one of our stops: cut some bread slices with a foldable knife, cut some tomato slices (the tomato should be a big one!) and then add virgin olive oil (local gold) and salt. A fresh “pa amb oli” is something that all locals go mad about!!

Dry cured cuts of meat are among the best toppings to a “pa amb oli”. Typical dry cured meat from Mallorca is made of pork meat, salt and spices. The most popular types that are eaten without cooking are sobrassada (orange soft paste that can be directly spread on a bread slice or bread cookie), paté (orange soft paste made of pork libber that can also be spread on a bread slice or bread cookie) and camaiot (grey and white color, cut in slices). These are the fatty and “unhealthy” part of the meal, but in small quantities they are just delicious if you like meat. It is common to also complement the “pa amb oli” with other Spanish dry cured cuts of meat such as Jamón Serrano, fuet, chorizo, salchichón… We recommend you to buy from small producers in order to maximize quality and authenticity. Majorcan cheese

There are many cheese producers in Mallorca, bringing lots of different products to the market. Cow and sheep cheeses are the most usual, though there are some excellent goat cheeses as well. Native red sheep are farmed to produce excellent and original flavors. There are ecologic producers who use traditional methods and reach excellent results (normally a bit more expensive than bigger producers). Curing and aging processes directly affect consistence, texture and taste of each cheese. We do not recommend bringing fresh cheese when hiking unless you bring a well functioning/long lasting cold bag. Cheese is a source of animal fat, protein, vitamins from group A, B and D, as well as minerals like calcium and phosphorus (great for our bones). It must be eaten moderately, but when you are hiking it is always nice to cut some slices with your foldable knife and enjoy its fantastic flavors, alone or combined with a “pa amb oli”.

 

Bakery products from Mallorca, both salty and sweet, normally contain pork fat. They are not healthy products eaten on a regular basis but it can be interesting to bring some of them ‘cause they are delicious and provide a caloric boost that can be needed when you have a long way to walk. “Coques” (sort of cold pizzas with only vegetables on it) with paprika, onion, tomatoes or parsley are crunchy and oily. “Panades” are round pasties filled with cooked lamb meat or bacon, onion and peas. “Cocarrois” are long pasties filled with cooked vegetables, including raisins. These pasties use to be typical Easter food, but nowadays they are baked the whole year around; they are very convenient to bring to an excursion because they last more than other bakery products. If you like sweet stuff (or you are longing for a sugar kick), then you must bring some ensaïmada, a round spiral inflated dough powdered with sugar, sometimes filled with sweetened apricots or other ingredients (cream, chocolate, etc.). There are other typical sweet baked products like “coca de patata”, “bunyols”, “crespells” and “robiols”, but easy on the sugar and fat.

panades

In terms of drinking, we always recommend to drink mineral water (preferably from Mallorcan springs). Freshly squeezed natural orange juice can be sometimes acquired in some hikes as there are some rural houses which prepare them for you in the very moment.

Finally, we sometimes like to bring some local red wine to do a small toast and savor this traditional beverage during our lunch break. But the wine culture in Mallorca is interesting and rich enough to write another blog-post…

Made in Mallorca

made in mallorca hikingThere isn’t nearly enough information produced about the variety of products that are made and sold in, and exported from Mallorca. Mallorca has a history of producing a variety of products, which are all available here on the island for you to discover. Exploring the real Mallorca can start with sampling some of these products. They all contain an essence of the island, whether it’s liquer made from local herbs or perfume made from the flowers of the almond blossom…. Tempted? Then read on:

Many of the island’s products are known only in Spain, however some of them, such as Camper shoes, are now a global brand!

Here’s a sample of some of the ‘home-produced’ items you can buy in Mallorca.

Sobrassada and Botifarró

Pork products form a large part of the Spanish diet and these two delicacies are produced throughout the Balearics. They are well-known and well-loved across the whole of Spain. Essentially, Sobrassada is “sausage meat” made from good quality minced pork combined with spices like paprika, salt and red pepper (which gives it a lovely red colour), which you normally spread on bread. Every producer makes it slightly differently…

Botifarró is the name given to a sausage filled with coarsely ground pork, including liver, and spiced with salt, pepper, herbs and aniseed, which gives it its distinctive flavour. They are delicious, large chunky sausages and perfect for BBQ’s!

Ensaimada

You may have noticed Spanish holiday-makers walking around the airport with large hexagonal boxes. These are used to carry home the ensaimada which is a light, quite sweet pastry usually eaten for breakfast. The dough is made of flour, water, sugar, eggs, mother dough and reduced pork lard called saïm, and shaped into a spiral – it is quite unlike anything you will have tried elsewhere.

Sometimes ensaimadas are filled with angel’s hair (squash jam), custard cream, almond puré, chocolate, sobrassada, apricots, but normally they just have a light dusting of icing sugar – perfect for “dunking” in coffee at breakfast or a mid-morning snack.

Olive Oil

Excellent quality olive oils are produced from the olive farms on the island. Extra virgin olive oils with designation of origin are made from majorquine, arbequina and picual olives and have a wonderful, and very distinctive flavour. Olives and olive oil production will be the subject of a future article, so why not register to follow this blog…?

Wine and Liquers

There are two areas in Mallorca with D.O. – Binissalem (where a festival is held to celebrate the grape harvest every year) and Pla i Llevant. Wine produced in the island has consistenly improved over the decades and can now quite rightfully hold its own alongside the more well known Spanish names. See also our earlier article on Wines of Mallorca.

Two liquers are made on the island: Palo and Hierbas. Palo is a very dark (almost black), dense, thick liquid and made from infusing cinchona bark (quinine) and gentian roots, and caramelised sugar. It has been made in Mallorca since the 19th century. Hierbas, an aniseed drink, is made from infusing and distilling herbs gathered from the island. This is by far the most popular digestive on the island and comes in sweet, dry and medium varieties. Restaurants will often offer you a “chupito” when you’ve finished your meal and order the bill – and this is invariably Hierbas!

Don’t forget that liquids can’t be transported in your hand luggage so either buy your bottles after going through security or get them wrapped carefully in the shop and pack them in your main luggage.

camper shoes mallorcaShoes

The island’s shoe-making industry is based in Inca, Selva and Lluchmajor. These days some of the brands such as Camper and Patricia are well known across Europe. Modern, funky and traditional designs are all produced on the island and the quality of the leather used is well known.

Also made on the island are the canvas “rope” shoes or Espadrilles. Worn over the years by the locals and available in wonderful bright colours, they became popular across Europe in the ’60’s.

There is also another type of Mallorcan open sandal – ever popular with the locals – made from leather and recycled motor tyres! These also now come in funky colours, and with a number of variations on the theme…

Pearls

The imitation pearls made in Mallorca are famous the world over for their close similarity to natural pearls, which cost considerably more! The factory, established over 100 years ago and now producing over 50 million artificial pearls a year, is in the town of Manacor.Mallorca_Pearl_Bracelet

Mother of pearl and ocean substances are used to make the artificial pearl and the process is absolutely fascinating. Enjoy a visit to the factory where you can watch how the pearls are produced, and also take advantage of lower prices in the factory shop.

Don’t expect a bargain though – artificial pearls, such as those cultivated in Manacor, are almost indistinguishable from the real thing so they can be quite pricey.

Pottery and Glass

Pottery and ceramics have been synonymous with Mallorca for centuries. One of the cutest examples of the tradition for pottery is the ‘siurells’. These are little clay whistles produced as far back as the Arab times. Adored by children, they come painted in bright eye-catching colours and can still be bought on the island today. All over the island you will see many examples of Majorcan pottery for sale.

Glassblowing, which originated in Syria and was brought to the Balearics by the Romans, is a craft that still exists on the island to this present day. In places like Lafiore in Valldemossa you can still watch master craftsmen. In Palma there are many small Art Galleries where exquisite examples of this craft can be seen and bought.

Perfume

The perfume Flor d’Ametler (‘almond flower’) is made in Mallorca. The main ingredient is the almond flower, which gives it a distinctive scent. Make sure you look for the flower inside the bottle. Only the authentic perfume has that, copies won’t!

flor de sal mallorcaSalt

Salt is a relatively new product now being produced from salt “farms” mainly around Ses Salines in the southeast of Mallorca. There are 2 excellent producers – Flor de Sal and Llum de Sal – which use high quality sea salt in their products, as well as extracts and essences from Mediterranean plants such as mandarin orange, rosemary, rose and lavender, wine… As the most natural sea salt available, this is a very sought after product and is now exported worldwide.

From the earth..

Natural products like oranges from Soller and Almonds island-wide,  Olives & Olive Oil as well as growing Wine production have all been covered in previous posts, and these describe many diverse products made from these locally grown fruits.

Suffice to say there are some great shopping opportunities when visiting Mallorca – take some of these fabulous products home as presents, souvenirs or just treat yourself to a little Mallorquin luxury. So…. see you in Mallorca soon?