You may have noticed that here at Salty Seattle, we have a wee obsession with- you guessed it- SALT. I pretty much think it’s the salt of the earth, I want to be its Salty Dog, and I sometimes don’t know if I’m worth(y) of my salt. I know there are other saltophiles out there, however unfashionable it may be to admit it in our Atkins-crazed flavorless society, and I say, let’s unite! We should join together as exemplars of the movement back to good taste and simpler times, and what could be simpler than salt-making?
It was one of those AHA! moments I had a few weeks back that I just couldn’t shake- “Linda- must make salt. Must make salt soon.” What started as a little tickle in the back of my cerebellum quickly grew into a full-blown mania- the chanting voices in my head would not be calmed until a cauldron of oceanwater was brewing on my Bertazzoni. I did a fair amount of research on water quality of various points of the Pacific Ocean, and decided that my collection point should be at Ocean Shores- some three hours drive from my humble abode perched atop Mt. Baker in the heart of Seattle. I thought long and hard about how to coerce Jonas into spending more than six hours in the car on a rare day off (with a teething baby Bentley and a mother-in-law who won’t admit to hearing loss, no less) and I decided that AMBUSH was the best tactic.
Since Bentley had stayed the night with Grandma the night before so that we could dine at Sitka and Spruce and get up to some crazy post-dinner antics, I chose a weak, hungover moment to strike. I lured Jonas into the car with promises of espresso and bacon sandwiches to soak up the alcoholic remnants of the previous evening. He barely noticed the canning pot and plastic buckets I placed in the trunk. “How about a Sunday drive?” I asked, the picture of innocence while he sipped his Iced Mocha. He’ll agree to anything when he’s plied with coffee, so I took his tacit yes and ran with it- all the way to pick up Grandma and Bentley and then all the way to Ocean Shores.
We found a great locally-owned butcher shop along the way in Aberdeen called Michael’s Meats where I bought Jonas an eight pound prime rib roast that was literally still mooing for the amazingly low price of $50. The thought of Prime Rib and Yorkshire Puddings for dinner did quite a bit to alleviate any misgivings he may have felt about being duped into a salt-collecting mission, and by that time he was really starting to get into it too. We drove the last half hour to Ocean Shores in good spirits and parked on the whitest, sandiest beach you’ll find in Washington State. Placing Bentley in the care of Grandma, Jonas and I went out to sea, buckets and drums in hand. As it turns out, you have to get pretty wet to collect a proper sample of ocean water, but hey, October is still technically at least Indian Summer, right? We all (Jonas, Bentley and I, at least) had a bit too much fun traipsing out into the surf- thoughts of hangover completely washed away by then- but we paid for it by driving home in the buff since I had neglected to bring dry clothes in my haste to skip town. Was it uncomfortable to spend three hours in the car, husband, child and self nude next to a fully-clothed and scowling mother/grandmother? Yes, yes it was- well, for Jonas at least :)
The really fun part commenced the next day when I enlisted the assistance of my friend Lily to help me filter all the water we had collected through tea towels several times and then put it all in the giant canning pot. I would estimate that we started with about five gallons of pristine Ocean Shores water once I put the pot on the burners to begin the boil. I left it on a low boil to reduce away slowly for, oh, about 12 hours. At that point, and this occurred over a two day period, I only had about 6 cups of water left and quite a bit of salt had already collected at the bottom of the pot. I decided to put the whole thing in a baking dish in order to simulate true salt flat conditions and bake down the rest of the water. Once I put it in the oven on 200°, it probably only took another 3 hours (stirring roughly once an hour) for the water to evaporate completely. When it was all said and done, I was left with five cups of the most gorgeous substance- pure as the driven snow.
I let it air dry for a couple of days, marveling at my creation. I couldn’t take the wait any longer last night, so I sliced up some homemade duck breast prosciutto, ground up Spencer steak and pork tenderloin in the Kitchenaid meat grinder, and threw together a rich Bolognese sauce featuring two prominent tablespoons of my precious-s-s, precious-s-s salt. The sauce was so good that baby Bentley insisted upon lapping it up straight out of the Le Crueset Bouillabaisse pot I had simmered it in all day. Who knows? It may just be finally time to solidify that salt party idea I have been stewing on for several years. Everyone brings salt-loving food like edamame, mozzarella, aubergines, and a chocolate tart (soo good with salt), and we taste test the salts of the world to see which matches best with what. Yes, I think it’s high time.