Anywhere in Chile, you are always near the sea. Even from the foothills of the Andes, you need only a few hours by car to enjoy the beaches. Today we travel to the coast, to discover a very special place of the Central Valley and its culinary treasure: the salt from Cáhuil.
Cáhuil village is located 15 kilometers south of Pichilemu and is not only famous for its craft production of sea salt. The resort of Pichilemu is recognized worldwide for its perfect conditions for surfing and each year attracts thousands of tourists, who enjoy its perfect waves and delicious seafood, such as oysters from Cáhuil.
The town’s name comes from Cáhuil seagull, which flays over the coast and the lagoon of the same name, which is surrounded by a vast, protected wetland. It is an ideal place for fishing, swimming and boating. The salt evaporation ponds of this area have existed since pre-Columbian times. The indigenous people were the first to extract salt from the sea. Today its method of production has refined, so that Cáhuil salt is highly prized by chefs and gourmet products lovers.
The action of the winds and the sun allows the extraction of salt through the evaporation of water. The process begins from blending fresh and salt water, which is mixed internally during the winter months; when weather conditions open sandbars that separate the coast from the lagoon. Then, during the summer and spring, when the sand banks have been restored, it proceeds to fill the pools that make up the salt.
Work on salt evaporation pond is an activity of high physical effort and is performed with the help of some tools, such as shovels, rakes, wheelbarrows and water buckets. Primarily requires manpower, so this activity has been traditionally exercised by men. The teaching is based on oral transmission between members of the same family, so this tradition is shared by grandparents, parents and children. The salt pan workes of the area have great knowledge and experience. They produce a highly refined salt, for example by making circulate movements in the water to avoid the concentration of unwanted items.
Sea salt is known as a miracle of nature. In addition to its traditional use in the kitchen, its high content of mineral elements also makes it very popular in the beauty industry, as exfoliate or healthy bath. Sea salt is characterized by its unique flavor. It has lower sodium levels and more minerals, such as iodine or magnesium. Among the features of the Cáhuil salt, there is its white color, sometimes slightly pinkish or yellow, also its salty taste. This sea salt is odorless, with a soft palate and has it great ability to easily dissolve the seasoning of various foods.
Pichilemu Municipality created the Ruta de la Sal, which presents tourists the places where salt generation process is performed. This route starts in Pichilemu and goes to sectors Cáhuil, Barrancas, La Villa, La Palmilla and La Plaza. On this route there are two rural ranches (Oro Blanco y El Bronce), where you can taste the exquisite cuisine of the area.
I want to invite you to create a marine and terroir pairing by preparing an easy and tasty recipe: salmon cooked in sea salt. With this dish I recommend to serve Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Chardonnay. The origin of this wine is Ucúquer Vineyard, located on the south bank of the Rapel River. This vineyard is located about 100 kilometers from Cáhuil, in the Central Valley, and what is more important: only about 15 kilometers from the coast. It is a Chardonnay with a very complex and fine bouquet, with notes of white and tropical fruit and aromas of grapefruit, pear and apricot. It also presents some notes of cake and freshly baked bread and nuts, which come from its aging in French oak. But what really makes its personality are the saline notes and the refreshing acidity, which give us the feeling of breathing the fresh and healthy air of the beach.
Salmon Cooked on Salt (Saumon a l’Unilateral)
Ingredients 4 persons
- 2 cups coarse sea salt
- 1 kg salmon fillet
- Spread salt evenly in a dry heavy skillet and heat over moderately high heat until salt is hot to the touch and just beginning to smoke, about 4 minutes.
- Put salmon dry and season flesh with salt and pepper, then put, skin side down, on salt.
- Cook salmon, covered, without turning, until almost cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, until salmon is just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Slide a spatula between salmon skin and flesh and transfer salmon to a platter (salmon skin will be too salty to eat). Serve with boiled potatoes and / or fresh salad.