Salt production was an important pillar of the economy in Zeeland. The value of salt was particularly great in those days, as you could use it to extend the life of foods such as meat, fish and vegetables. So you could stockpile supplies to survive the winter. In a later period, at the beginning of the Middle Ages, salt was also used on a larger scale. Its uses included making fish sauce and preserving herring, cod and haddock.

Salt was prepared in large, flat iron pans, which stood in peat-fired ovens. The whole process of salt extraction was called saltzieden or selnering. This was done in the wooden, thatched salt shacks (see image). The crystals, left at the bottom, provided the “silt salt.” Salt from the Zierikzee was especially in demand and was traded far abroad.

Detail from a painting depicting the various stages of salt boiling. Painting from around 1540. (Stadhuismuseum Zierikzee)

For salt production, a lot of peat was needed. As early as the 13th century, the landlords began to restrict peat extraction from the inland dikes. Peat extraction had a detrimental effect on the drainage of the already low-lying land between the creek ridges. In 1515, Charles V prohibited peat extraction in the low-lying Zeeland.

However, this did not mean the end of Zeeland’s salt mining and trade. Instead, the more modern “bay salt processing” took its place, refining imported raw salt from France, Spain, and Portugal. Cities that had previously produced salt from peat began this practice as early as the 15th century. Cities like Goes, Reimerswaal, and Zierikzee became significant European salt centers. In the 19th century, this method of salt mining was also discontinued, bringing an end to Zeeland’s salt trade. With Zeeuwsche Zoute, we aim to bring back a part of this tradition to the province and share our beautifully handcrafted salt in a responsible manner with the rest of the world, just as in the old days.