Peugeot makes just about the best pepper and salt mills in the world. The pepper grinders have a lifetime warranty and do a superb job cracking and then shaving the pepper to volatilize all the aromatic and flavor elements of the pepper. Peugeot’s salt mills are likewise sturdy and reliable, and do a great job at delivering a consistent grind.
That said, Peugeot’s Guérande salt mill, which is especially designed to grind wet sea salts such as Sel Gris (aka gray salt, grey salt, gros sel, Celtic salt, Brittany salt, etc.) can cause people trouble from time to time. For the sake of helping anyone who has had trouble with Peugeot wet salt mills, I offer up the following exchange with a customer from The Meadow.
“Last year we purchased several product from you, including a Peugeot salt and pepper grinder — the one specifically for grey salt. While the salt grinder never worked extremely well, it was adequate. But in the last
couple months it stopped working entirely. We have tried emptying it and starting with fresh salt, and we’ve tried different kinds of grey salt. This a.m. I even tried coarse Kosher salt. That didn’t work either.
Do you have any suggestions or remedies?
First, are you sure it is a salt mill? Some Peugeot mills do not mark the mill with a P for pepper or an S for salt. The way to tell for sure is to look at the bottom of the mill. If the grinding mechanism in the bottom is indented, and looks to be made of polished stainless steel or nickel, and has Peugeot Freres stamped on the bottom, it is a regular, rock salt mill. (To the right, I have photographed pepper, dry salt, and wet salt from left to right. Click an image to enlarge.)
If the mechanism is made of off-white ceramic, it is a wet salt (Guerande-style) salt mill. Mechanism for wet sea salt: This mechanism was specifically developed for Guérande salt (meaning grey salts from the ancient Celtic saltmaking region just south of Britany, France); it enables the sea salt to be ground despite his high degree of humidity. The spiral shaft prevents the salt from becoming compressed and guides the salt crystals towards the mechanism made of a composite material which is not liable to saline corrosion.
Obviously there is trouble if you have a pepper mill and are using salt in it. Peugeot pepper mill mechanism: The shape with a double row of helicoid teeth guides the pepper grains blocks them while they are being crushed. This unique system enables the fineness of the grind to be varied simply by turning the button on the mill: from ground pepper to powdered pepper. The pepper mechanism has the advantage of a patented process which protects the steel from corrosion while keeping its sharpness and its resistance to wear.
If you have a regular, rock salt mill, you will have trouble using Sel Gris in it due to the residual moisture in the salt, which gums up the works. You would need to by the correct type of rock salt, such as Tidman’s Rock Sea Salt, Alaea Volcanic, Jurassic Salt, or Himalayan Pink Salt.
So… Assuming you do have a Guerande style mill, the problem is likely that you have excess moisture in the salt. This is perfectly normal.
While Peugeot makes among the best mills available, there are limitations to their Guerande wet mills in that they cannot handle some of the very wet sel gris. The moisture in Sel Gris is one of the chief attractions of the salt, especially when using it as a finishing salt–and you never want to buy it from a store where they allow it to dry out.
That said, if the mill is giving you trouble you can take a quantity that you wish to put in you mill and leave it out on a plate or bowl overnight, or longer if necessary, to allow some of that excess moisture to evaporate off.
Last, your mill may be totally gummed up and unable to function properly no matter what you put in it right now. If that is the case, you can just open it up and rinse it with warm water for a minute or two. Then, leave it open and allow it to dry very thoroughly — at least two days.
Then fill the mill with your slightly dried out salt, be sure that when you screw the top back on you don’t tighten it down too much, and give it a go. This should solve your problems.
The shape with a double row of helicoid teeth guides the pepper grains blocks them while they are being crushed. This unique system enables the fineness of the grind to be varied simply by turning the button on the mill: from ground pepper to powdered pepper. The pepper mechanism has the advantage of a patented process which protects the steel from corrosion while keeping its sharpness and its resistance to wear.
The Peugeot mechanism is designed to grind coarse dry sea salt. Made of stainless steel, it is protected from salt corrosion.