Trapani Salt - Cuordisale Saline di Trapani

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Whole salt of Trapani home
The whole salt of Trapani, is produced in what is generally called “small saline with traditional conduction.” They extend on the west coast of Sicily from Trapani to Marsala. It is produced in salt tanks whose construction varies since the 1200 till 1800. The saline have an extension that varies from 8 to 25 salt tanks. Each of them are about 2.500 square meters (50mx50m), with an output that varies with an equivalent to about 80-90 tons.

The working method is a discipline handed down over the centuries by the people who are responsible for the production, the so-called “curatoli” with an old fashion system by bringing the sea water on each tank, concentrating it from time to time, till extracting the valuable content. The characteristics of their product varies depending on the wind, their layout exposure and the quality of the soil tanks where the water is concentrated. Although the same tank can produce different quality of salt and different characteristics. For example: the salt that is formed in the center of the tank has usually very large crystals and its more valuable, Meanwhile the salt deposited in the edges of the tank is usually more thin and less clean. This kind of salt is called “salt by rainfall”.

Is been recently founded another type of salt very requested on the market, the so-called “flower of salt”, which is extracted on the surface of the water through salt tank nets. This salt shows crystals of about 5mm and has a very soft taste … Its not a salt with extraordinary organoleptic qualities but very appreciated by many chefs to garnish and flavor sophisticated dishes.

The sea salt is considered an adjuvant in Biological Medicine of a regular diet and is a valuable remedy for a number of deficiencies that creates hormonal imbalances, glandular and our nervous system. For example, pure magnesium and potassium from sea salt, are much more effective than many inorganic salts sold in pharmacies. Also pure iodine whole salt acts directly to the thyroid without presenting the dangers of dead iodine obtained by chemical processes. The whole salt, unlikely by the refined one, contains at least 70 of the 84 substances that are founded in sea water. In addition to sodium and chlorine in whole salt there are “impure” minerals such as sulphates, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and trace minerals like strontium, manganese, iodine, zinc, fluoride, silver, boron, silicon, copper… that are very valuable for our health. These work together with each other and alternative minerals, vitamins in our body. For example, to use the of iodine (for thyroid) needs the copper, while magnesium, manganese and potassium helps the silicon for bones and joints. Studies confirms these elements, are more important than some vitamins in the prevention of diseases.

How to choose a whole salt from Trapani?

The most common mistake people makes when are talking about the whole salt is to expect a gray coloured salt and not white. The salt is by nature pure white, sometimes can show a pinky color but still very clear. Many tend to associate the concept of dark as whole, this rule does not apply with salt. So, if you are offered whole salt and shows gray/dark aspects, beware … it’s just a dirty salt. Another important characteristic is to control the moisture. The whole salt is always very humid. If you realize the salt is dry it means is produced in industrial methods. The reason why the whole salt is moist will depends from the high amount of magnesium. this feature is reduced considerably in the process of industrial salt production. Nor does the warranty IGP Trapani Sea Salt can help you with the best quality choice because the specification of the “IGP Salt of Trapani” guarantees only the origin of the place and certifies the salt is washed and dried.
Another very important element is how to choose a quality sea salt from Trapani, if bought directly from the manufacturers, or, if you rely on representatives make sure to have clear the connection with its production. The money you spend to buy the variety of salt is also invested to purchase packing materials, labor and for the maintenance of the saline, which are very expensive to maintain. By doing this you will help to preserve this magnificent and unique environment. Be careful, because the “ripoffs” are way more than you can imagine…

Salt cycle works
To better understand how the production cycle works, is appropriate to make a premise: Each saline is constituted by a set of tanks where the water is conveyed. These tanks are essentially divided into four types of groups: “VASI”, “FRIDDE”, “CAURE”, VASCHE SALANTI (or caseddre). They are distinguished by the amount of salt in the water, which is expressed in degrees “Boumé”. It begins from a lower salt amount than seawater (3.5 ° boume), and in order will rise in the tanks vasi, fridde, caure, up to the maximum concentration that occurs (28-30 ° boumè)
In order to better explain the operation, take for example the production cycle of the “Salinagrande”:

The production cycle of sea salt from Trapani is a long and laborious process. To explain it better we have to start from the end:

At the end of the of extraction, in the month of September, the saline and the tanks, where salt has been extracted, are filled back with sea water as much as possible. and preparing for the winter, in that period the saline drops in a hypothetical “sleep” which will be woken up in the month of March, the time that starts the new production cycle.

The first process is to “assummare” (emptying) the saline. Although this is a complex operation. The first thing is to remove the excess water in order to bring out the partition walls of the tanks fridde, caure and salanti. Then remove all the water from the tanks caure (assummare the caure).

Part of the water is discharged into the sea and part of it is transferred to the vasi tanks. The caure held in dry water until the soil becomes completely dry (about one week). At this point, it begins to drain the water contained in the vasche salanti in caure and are now dry. This water, placed at the end of the last tank, has a degree of salt greater than that the sea water and is an excellent starting point for the new extraction (yeast).

After the salting tanks are dried we proceed to clean them . The wind and the winter rains have brought a slight amount of muddy material that may contaminate the new salt that will be produced. This operation is called in jargon “tirare la piaya” is a transaction that is not carried out in an industrial salt production and therefore affects the quality of the product, especially in the salt extraction in many years, these materials are deposited in a layer of salt year by year and hasn’t been removed.

In addition to cleaning the salting tanks, we proceed to leveling, replacing the calcareous material from which the soil is composed of salting tank, at the points where it is necessary and compacting everything with a rolling procedure.

The salting tanks, clean for about 10-15 cm are filled with sea water, giving the start to the second phase which is the concentration of the water. Good weather conditions which are the complicity of sun, wind and water contained in caure and vasche salanti (salting tanks), begin to increase the degree of salinity. The “Curatolo” decides when the saline level in the salting tanks are sufficient, then pump the water contained in the salting tanks in caure, which increase the water level. it proceeds to re-fill with sea water the salting tanks and repeats the cycle described above for at least three to four times, meanwhile they fill with sea water both “Vasi” and the “Fridde” tanks, in order to maintain the levels that the water evaporating tends to lower. This cycle goes on usually until June, by then has reached a strength and a quantity of salt water produced, that allows you to go with another production of salt cycle. The “Curatolo” then puts “to a ride” the saline. In fact, if before the vasi and fridde received on their own sea water and were fed by caure salting tanks, now starts a chain of steps down as follows: A pump that draws from a channel that takes water from the sea and enters in the first of the three vasi, this place by a wooden door, at the opposite side enters water in the second vasi, and these, with another end, water enters in the third of the three vasi. This vase is called “government vasi” as this amount of water adjust it to enter the whole speed of fridde, caure and salting tanks to follow.

In the specific case of Salinagrande, together with fridde, caure, salting tanks and is divided into three rounds:

The first lap is formed by all the fridda 1 and caure 2,3,4,5. This feeds the salting tanks a, b​​, c, d.

The second round is formed by fridde 1 and 2, and from caure 3,4,5,6. This feeds the salting tanks e, f, g, h.

The third round is formed by cold 1 and caure 2,3,4,5. This feeds the salting tanks i, l, m, n

The average concentration in the fridde is about 9-12 ° boumé. In addition to any heavy materials (normally found only in trace amounts in sea water) in these tanks can begin to precipitate carbonates.

In caure it has a concentration that is, according to the sequence, from 12 to 26 ° boumé. In this order of tanks takes place in the precipitation of carbonates and sulphates (including calcium sulphate, gypsum)

The last caura of each lap (5,6,5) is the one that feeds the boxes and always have the highest concentration. This caure are called “sentine”. From these we extract the final concentration of deposits of sulphate, calcium and limestone elements general. This species of calcareous sediment is called “Mamma Caura” and is the compound from which soils are formed of salting tanks.

Let us return to the cycle of production:

Once the saline is operating, the curatolo “begins the phase of the production of sea salt . This phase involves introducing saturated water at 26 ° boumé in salting tanks. This is called in slang” to “muddare saline “(give up the salt). saltmakers traditionally refers to day of operation of ” St. Anthony’s Day “, which would be on June 13 dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua. referring to this date, the salt workers know if they have ” muddato ” it’s early or late.

The Curatolo leads about 2-3cm of water saturated in salting tanks, he’s taking care to keep water levels constant in the vasi, fridde and caure. This is repeated every other day for a period ranging from 40 to 90 days. Depending if you have enough water in the saturated caure, if you decide to stop and make a collection at maximum for 90 days. A crop 90 days less impact on the cost of extraction and enhances the quality of the salt produced. We must say that most closely to September is most at risk because of the collection period, which increases the occurrence of meteorological phenomena.

The Curatolo then always decides when it’s time to start collecting. The ancients says the Curatolo has more decisional power than the saline owner itself. Thats the truth…

Let talk about the extraction:

The thing that unify all the extraction systems from each tank is to remove the water saturated in excess from the salting tanks. Once pumped out, brings out the salt crust and it’s ready for harvest.

The salt crust is broken with special shovel called “pale pi Rumpere” (shovel breakers) and is stacked in small piles, loaded into wheelbarrows first and deposited on a conveyor belt and forming the typical piles of salt

in ancient times it was loaded into baskets and carried over workers shoulder.

The quality of salt produced depends from the extraction system.

Up to 1980, there was a family tradition of harvesting the salt.

There were a number of people who, despite being seasonal, had identified in their system of family support, a cycle that was able to keep their families workers throughout the year. In fact, if the period of seasonal workers that went from July to September was dedicated to the work of the salt. was true that ending the salt harvesting systems they had to find alternative jobs … and these people, who certainly did not lack the desire and the need to work, had found them.

These people worked from July to September in the saline, when the extraction was over they passed to the different kind of harvesting such as: olives, garlic… working for their own or on behalf of others, and filled the whole year until July was coming for the period of salt extraction.

So there was a working system that spanned for several areas. These people knew exactly how and what they should do with their arts and gave quality work production. Unfortunately most of these people are in well-deserved retirement. The new generations have abandoned the work in the fields … They try to work more stable and less heavy.

It ‘been a huge loss of tradition not to mention that in these times there were many simple and stable jobs. Today think of the level of unemployment that exists in our country. So, by lacking the labor experts we are going to lose a culture that made the “hand-picked” a quality guarantee.

It was necessary therefore essential to carry out a method of extraction that was suited to the saline. There have been several experiments with the use of various mechanical equipments such as excavators, bulldozers, but these were damaging both the saline and the quality of the salt. In the market there is still nothing that fits the peculiarities of the saline of Trapani. So, after several years of experimentation, we, first, arrived to find a system of a mechanical extraction that would not damage the saline and keep the quality of salt very high. An equipment not designed by engineers but by salt workers. Today it is a reality and represents the pride of our company. Today we can say this extraction system collects what is surely one of the best quality sea salt in Trapani. This is an example of how technology and tradition can go hand in hand..
emptying salting tanks for cleaning
salting tanks cleaning, operation called in jargon “tirare la piaya”
shattering "neolo" (surface salt)

Traditional harvesting (after 1965)

"L'ammunzeddature" (u zu Vito Augugliaro)
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