23.10.15

(Supplier Visit) Batangas Salt

If you grew up in the Parañaque area and/or have been alive for more than three decades, you are probably familiar with the sight of vast and flat irasan (salt beds). Our saltmaking style, in contrast to the Ilocano coast's "cooked salt" and the Boholano coconut husk method, has sprawling salt beds lined with shards of clay pots (rumor has it that they now make new "shards" specifically for salt beds, with demand for clay pots being on the decline for a tiny bit of time now). The saltwater is basically evaporated off by the sun and wind.

Shards of clay pots tamped to make salt bed floors.
Last April, upon the suggestion (and general directions) of a good friend, we found ourselves in the salt farm of a new supplier in Batangas. These and other producers are an integral part of the dried and fermented fish industries of the region.

There is a tendency to romanticize saltmaking--we envision the leisurely raking the beds in by workers in rustic straw hats, while a refreshing breeze furthers evaporation, leaving soft, billowy crystals. But it is truly backbreaking work under the brutal heat of the sun. And with industrial or consolidated salt taking over the palengkes (it is becoming more common to find Mindoro salt in Cebu), saltmaking is becoming a less profitable venture in many places. Salt farms are dwindling, except perhaps in Pangasinan and Mindoro.

Salt being collected in baskets.
The Batangas salt is very earthy, a salt-next-door. I have childhood memories of picking salt out of my eyebrows after swimming in Nasugbu. The high salinity of Batangas water results in a VERY salty salt. Our Batangas salt is perhaps the saltiest one we've ever carried. It still has mineral notes, but is very boldly salty, like-a-Hagibis-song-is-masculine salty. Perhaps the perfect salt for a preservation project, or for cooking.

Varied elevation allows gravity to distribute saltwater from the ocean throughout the beds.
Slippers of storage staff need to be tacked onto wooden planks to avoid wounded feet.
More slippers.

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