There is a small town named Maldon, a small town which has nevertheless successfully existed for the last 1100 years or so, in a tidal estuary in Essex. It has a rich history, and there are many fine reasons to visit there.

The reason I know Maldon is because of their salt. Maldon sea salt is raked from flats in which seawater has evaporated, as is true of most sea salts. However, the purity of the seawater from which it is taken results in an eerily perfect pyramidal crystal of salt, a tiny ziggurat of primordial but utterly pure seaborne crunchiness.

The flavor is almost transparent, sharp and salty on the tongue but ethereal, nothing medicinal or earthy about it. It does not change flavors; it elevates and focuses them like tiny crystal magnifying glasses for your tastebuds. It is transcendent.

You can calibrate your palate by it; a crystal of Maldon is the Platonic essence of salt. If you follow it with a crystal of sel gris de Guerande, you will taste the marsh grass and smell the sand of the beaches in the grey Guerande - even if you never have on prior tastings.

It can be used in cooking, but is best honored as a finishing salt. You can crush it between your fingers or in a grinder for a finer texture, but that seems almost blasphemous. Their tiny geometries seem too perfect to break.

Here is my favorite recipe including Maldon salt:

Gelato Con Olio e Sale

  • Vanilla ice cream (best: Haagen-Dazs!)
  • Olive oil (you'll want a nice greeny one, Colavita is widely available)
  • Maldon sea salt

One scoop of ice cream in chilled bowls (or a spinster's teacup, whatever), and drizzle with a generous spoonful (soup spoon! not teaspoon!) of rich olive oil, then sprinkle with salt. Fairy sprinkle. You don't want more than a crystal or two in each bite.

If you think "Uck, will not like" and go light on the olive oil, you'll only have to jump up to the kitchen to get more of it halfway through dessert. I did not invent this! It is a real thing. Largely Italian, but a genuine delight. You have to try it before writing it off - nothing to lose, the ingredients play together well but have plenty of other uses in the kitchen.