Salty Provisions brings a taste of the Norwegian Sea to American kitchens with creative salt blends
CHRISTY OLSEN FIELD
Taste of Norway Editor
A sprinkle of flaky sea salt is the signature touch in my kitchen, from chocolate chip cookies to roasted vegetables. I keep a dish of it on the table instead of a saltshaker, and my two kids learned to sprinkle flake sea salt on their dinner not long after they figured out how to use a fork and spoon.
I did an actual happy dance when I was introduced to Amy Beyer of Salty Provisions this summer and learned about their flavored sea salts. Beyer and her husband, Linn, offer a range of flake sea salt blends using North Sea Salt Works’ signature HAVSNØ™ (translated as “Snow of the Sea”), harvested from cold pure seawater from Saltsteinsleia in Aukra, Norway. The flakes are flat and soft with a light crunch— like a snowflake.
I had first heard of North Sea Salt Works in an October 2019 article by Nevada Berg on her blog North Wild Kitchen. If you haven’t read it yet, it is worth taking a look: northwildkitchen.com/north-sea-salt-works.
I recently chatted with Amy Beyer to learn more about how Salty Provisions connected with this distinctly Norwegian salt, adding their fun American twist on a world of flavor options.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Christy Olsen Field: How you were first introduced to HAVSNØ™ Flake Sea Salt?
Amy Beyer: Linn’s maternal side of the family is VERY Norwegian. With 29 siblings between them, his grandparents were the only two that came to America and stayed permanently. All the other surviving relatives stayed for the most part in Norway and close to their respective towns of Måløy and Raudeberg on Vågsøy to raise their own families. When we started planning our wedding (got married in 2012), Norway was the only choice, and we finally took our “official” honeymoon in 2016. He hadn’t been back to Norway to visit since he was 7 years old, so he wanted to reconnect and introduce me to them all. Many of his mother’s aunts, uncles, and cousins came to visit Chicago, so he got to know them over the years. I have a great-great-grandmother on my maternal side who was born in Trondheim, but I have little information on her.
We were connected to his mother’s cousin Ottar Kvalheim through Facebook. We flew into Molde to visit him. One morning, in a local bakery, he handed us a pouch of flake sea salt that we had tasted the night before on our dinner. He said, “Take this home. It’s made on the next island over. It’s really good.” And that was it. We had no idea then how much that moment would change our lives.
COF: What inspired you to open your own salt company here in the United States?
AB: Upon our return, I started cooking with the hand-harvested flake sea salt from North Sea Salt Works. I have been a salt junkie my whole life, but I had never investigated much further than the table and pink Himalayan varieties. I was blown away that the flavor could vary so much between different types (and we’ve come to learn that every single brand has a totally different flavor profile). We only brought home one pouch so when I started running low, I turned to the internet to find more. The only place I could find it listed was the producer in Norway. Amazon doesn’t even have it (yet!). When I went to their website, I saw a header saying that they didn’t ship single orders to the United States.
I wasn’t interested in finding a second favorite brand of flake sea salt, so I emailed the company asking how many cases would be required to have it shipped. Thankfully they agreed and sent some from a bit of inventory they had at a distributor on the East Coast in hopes of breaking into retail. I began getting cases from them, and selling the extra at local events. In December 2017, Linn and I started realizing the salt might be my next thing – I was a professional photographer for over 15 years and that had run its course. We knew the salt was special, but the thought of spreadsheets and quotas sounded awful, so we didn’t want to propose a sales/distributorship role. The only other option was to create our own product line using the HAVSNØ flake salt as the main ingredient.
Our Roasted Garlic Flake Sea Salt was born, and a couple weeks later I had eight different flavors of salt for sale at a local winter farmer’s market. It was fantastic market research to work out the kinks in real time with instant feedback during tastings. We changed our business name a couple of times, and packaging options to simplify everything. The first year, we ordered a few cases at a time. Now we import it directly from Norway on pallets sent via ocean freight.
COF: What makes this Norwegian sea salt special?
AB: The women at North Sea Salt Works are amazing! We finally got back to Norway in February 2020 and spent the day with them at their facility and at a SMAK food show in Oslo later that week. It was the first time we’d met in person, even though we’d been doing business together for over two years.
The flavor comes from the clean water in the Norwegian Sea. The current comes down from the Arctic Ocean and the flavor profile is beautifully crisp, clean seawater. That’s it. It tastes exactly like the ocean should. It doesn’t have the harsh finish that so many warmer climate flake salts can have. It’s also got a beautiful snowflake structure that we try to preserve in many of our blends.
COF: How do you infuse different flavors into salt? Where do you get inspiration for flavor combinations?
AB: From the very beginning, it was important to me to build on the clean flavor of the salt. All of our blends are gluten-free and vegan. We never use anti-caking agents, fillers, or artificial flavoring. We also list 100% of the ingredients on the label. A lot of people have food sensitivities, including me, so it’s been a priority from the very beginning to use clean ingredients.
We’ve got a couple flavors that are straight salts versus blends with herbs and spices. We sell the plain HAVSNØ in pouches and shakers, plus a Triple Smoked flavor with real hickory, oak, and mesquite; a Toasted Flake sea salt that tastes buttery and light. The others are blends I dream up on my own. Some are inspired by food recipes, like our 30° North Hot Salt and Hotter Hot Salt, which was inspired by Cajun, Creole and Louisiana cuisine in preparation for a show I did in the region on a road trip. Our Coffee Salt and our Nine Pepper Hot Salt are inspired by partnerships with farmers market friends: Sandhill Coffee (we use their dark roast beans in our second most popular blend) and Watt’s Sauce (we use their pepper blend that is a byproduct of one of their hot sauces after the pressing). We also fresh grind as many of the dry ingredients as we can, and it makes all the difference in the taste.
Some of our flavor combinations are suggested by our customers, such as our French Truffle and Triple Smoked varieties. Our most popular flavor is Double Onion + Roasted Garlic blend, made with green onions, yellow onions, chives, and our Roasted Garlic Flake sea salt. Yum!
COF: What are your favorite ways to use these salts?
AB: I tell people that it’s good on anything chilled, grilled, baked, roasted, steamed, or sautéed. Certain flavors lend themselves to specific things, but for the most part, if you’re cooking (or drinking), you can use our salts to improve your culinary skills. One customer said it takes her meals from a 2 to a 10! We also make recommendations on our website for specific combinations.
We are so grateful to be able to bring a little bit of Norway to the Americas. To many of our customers, it’s the taste they like best. We love connecting Scandinavians to a bit of the homeland too.
Hjertelig tusen takk to Amy Beyer for sharing her love of salt with us! Salty Provisions can be found at local farmers markets and events in the northwestern Chicago suburbs, as well as online at doyoulovesalt.com and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @saltyprovisions.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 23, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.