Blackthorn Sea Salt x Mademoiselle Macaron

Just Sea Salt...?

Mademoiselle Macaron has partnered with the wonderful team at Blackthorn Seasalt for one of this year's limited edition Valentine's macaron flavours. We sat down for a wonderful virtual chat with the team at Blackthorn to discover more about the fascinating processes that afford this sea salt the most delicious taste - produced here on the West Coast of Scotland.

It all began with our shared dream. My husband, Gregorie's, entrenched knowledge of the world of salt and architecture, coupled with our absolute love of food, my obsessive research interests and commitment to environmental sustainability. This ignited a spark that would eventually lead us to create Blackthorn Salt. Although trading started in 2020, Blackthorn was the result of decades of research and was a natural evolution from our experience in the family’s 150 yr old salt-importing business as well as a desire to make a salt we're proud of, using methods that work for the Scottish climate.

Furthermore, our location and sense of place are at the core of who we are: the West Coast of Scotland. It serves as our backdrop, our history, and our inspiration. Nearby, historic salt pans like Newton, Craigie, and Alyson, as well as the preserved Maryburgh Houses, serve to remind us of a bygone era when salt was vital in daily life and keep us mindful of the incredible heritage that we are becoming the latest chapter of. These pans once used coal to evaporate seawater, producing a rough but essential commodity before refrigeration. Today, Blackthorn proudly revives this local industry, employing modern methods while honouring our past. We hope both our predecessors and successors would marvel at Blackthorn Salt.

Everything! No, there are 3 main ways, the method, the taste and the ethos. 

Method: We use a modern version of the ancient graduation tower method, dating back to the sixteenth century. Inspired by structures in Poland and Germany, Gregorie, an architect, revitalised this age-old technique for the 21st century. By using the incredible natural forces of the West Coast of Scotland, (principally the wind, but also sun when it comes out) Blackthorn captures all that we were looking for. Every crystal comes from pure seawater, gathered locally and evaporated on the only working Thorn Tower in the world. This incredible structure harnesses the power wind and sun to dry off 90% of that water. In the Pan House, our Salters then use their unique skills and patience to retain as many of the natural minerals as possible and gently draw off the beautiful Blackthorn crystals. There are no chemicals or industrial processes used; no bleaching, seeding or adding.

Flavour: Blackthorn’s flavour profile has all the characteristics we look for in a salt - it gives an echo of the sea, but there is also a depth and mellowness (provided by those precious minerals and bark tannins) which respects and elevates flavours allowing them to resonate satisfactorily and leaving a lingering taste of morishness.In particular, we work hard to capture around 6x more calcium (enhancing sweeter characteristics), potassium and magnesium (for the sour and bitter) to work alongside the sodium chloride (salty) and the tannins (savoury umami) so that our salt is not simply salty per se, but works to elevate each of the 5 basic tastes. 

Ethos: Whilst it is hard to be perfect and we are always seeking improvements, we test all of our business decisions against implications for sustainability and check whether we can innovate further to ensure we are being the best that we can be. Being very much a family business, we are also aware of the long term, our place in the world and in the local environment, the privilege that we have being able to work in the way that we can and the legacy that we leave behind. With this in mind, we are committed to supporting schools and colleges where we are able and often welcome groups of students/ children to come and learn about the Blackthorn way, whether from a culinary, business, sustainable or innovative angle.

Chefs were among the first to appreciate and use our salt, and that’s truly remarkable. It's an absolute privilege to witness the creativity of so many amazing chefs as they incorporate our salt into their dishes. Each chef brings their own special touch and culinary style to the table, making it impossible for us to choose favourites. We appreciate and celebrate every chef who chooses to work with Blackthorn. If put to the test, I know Gregorie would say his mother!

We've been fortunate enough to try a wide array of dishes seasoned with our salt, ranging from charming local cafes to renowned multi-Michelin starred restaurants. Our culinary journey has treated us to a delightful variety, including everything from comforting miso to creative cocktails, indulgent fudge to succulent smoked salmon, as well as an enticing variety of cheese, ice-cream, chocolate, butter, pasta, bread, fish, vegetables, fruit, soups, sources, steak dishes, ferments, labne… you name it, the list is endless as salt can be included in pretty much everything! 

There are so many highlights to mention, Award winning, meeting the King, being included in products made by artisan makers across so many fields, when we found out that the tannins in the blackthorn branches had such a positive effect…, but probably one of the most unique was the incredible news we received from NASA: Imagine our surprise when we learned that a small part of the planet Mars - the actual Red Planet itself- had been named "Blackthorn Salt"!

When scientists at NASA examined footage sent back by the Curiosity Rover from Mars, they identified a tiny gypsum deposit  and decided to christen it ‘Blackthorn Salt’. While the Mars version may be smaller than a penny, its significance is enormous. It's a testament to the enduring legacy of minerals and water, echoing the ancient processes that once formed our own salt. This unexpected connection to space exploration has been a truly surreal experience for us.

Would it surprise you if I said salted caramel? :) 

Seriously speaking though, macarons and the skills of those making them mean that they have evolved into such an incredibly versatile delight. I think for us it would often be a question of who made them and how, as that seems to have more of an impact on the end taste and experience than the attributed flavour - with some, no matter how exciting the flavour sounds, they just are just a damp squib, but with others, such as your lovely Mademoiselle Macarons, the simple vanilla is meltingly delicious (not that it stops you from being inspired when it comes to flavours!!).  

Do check out the Blackthorn website for more beautiful images and information - and to buy their sea salt!

The highlight of our Valentine's macarons

The wonderful Blackthorn sea salt is one of the stand-out flavours in this year's Valentine's gift box. The Chocolate Sea Salt Ganache enrobes a rich and fruity Passionfruit curd.

Why not order your own box - or one to share with your love - to try the Blackthorn sea salt caramel macaron yourself?

Shop our Valentine's Collection

Mademoiselle Chats with...