A Saline Primer: Make Your Salt and Eat it Too

finishing salt

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?

saltbucket

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. 

bentley oceanshores

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. 

l and b oceanshores

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 :) 

jonas lost salt

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. 

boiling salt

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.

baking salt

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19 Responses

  1. Your article has proven useful to me. It’s very informative and you are obviously very knowledgeable in this area. You have opened my eyes to varying views on this topic with interesting and solid content.

  2. Can’t wait to try this. Love your blog! Came across it on foodbuzz & am a new follower!
    – Jessica @ http://cajunlicious.com

  3. Cool! My next project after I get the cider bottled. I always like an excuse to head to th beach. Maybe we’ll head towards Seaside (Oregon) where Lewis & Clark set up a salt works to prepre for their trip back east. What resources did you use to determine the best water quality areas? Thanks for sharing your experience.
    ~Loren

  4. How perfect are a year of archives for my insomnia! I love that you started with my nemesis, the Caprese, and have progressed to foie powder.
    I can’t believe there is an actual reason to go to Ocean Shores!
    I can’t believe there was a picture with sun in it (has always been foggy)
    Can’t wait to go try salt-mining for myself:)

  5. I’m pretty sure you are the coolest,most talented food blogger I have ever stumbled upon. Always looking forward to what you do next…

  6. I had a desire to begin my own firm, but I didn’t earn enough of money to do that. Thank heaven my mate told to use the home loans. Therefore I used the secured loan and realized my dream.

  7. Linda, I am just finding your blog and I have spent the past half an hour wondering how I can incorporate salt production into my next road trip (from California up to Vancouver then down through the Southern states and back to Brooklyn) in August.

    Do you think I could keep the buckets in the backseat as I drove? I think I could locate ovens on the way to dry some of it.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. I’m literally salivating over this! And I wish I wasn’t on the extreme other end of the country, as I would love to come to your salt party.

  9. That is so cool! I gotta do that, but how do I know which part of the area is cleanest? Hmmmm… I’m in Costa Rica and close to the Pacific side…. hmmmmm. I guess I’ll have to do some asking around and such. THanks so much for sharing and going for it!!

    We HEART our sea salts… yumm!

  10. Wow, this sounds like fun! I think this is the first time I’ve read of someone making salt, and it’s great. I’d love to sample the salts of the world.

  11. it’s always around, but the quality of almost anything can be improved by making it by hand, as you know from the candy world :)@Chri

  12. I like that you said it rocks- sort of a pun on my little salt rocks :)@Dawn Brister (Whineaux)

  13. Funny I never thought of salt as something that needed to be made. It’s just always around.

  14. If I were closer to the coast, I would definitely give this a try :)

  15. I love it!!!! And I love salt!!! (JF will tell you probably too much at times.) Fabulous post Linda.

  16. I can’t believe you made your own salt — that ROCKS!

  17. Brilliant. First time I have come across this salt making. So clever.

  18. I think you should go for Galveston anyway! Then I will send you a bit from the Pacific Northwest, you can send me a bit from the Gulf, and we can taste compare. Better yet, we’ll get foodies in on it from all over and do a giant salt swap, hmmmm, and idea brewing :) @Vegetable Matter

  19. So cool on such a primal level. What would we cooks do without salt??? I’m tempted to drive to Galveston to collect water from the Gulf of Mexico (probably not exactly pristine water, though, I guess). Great entry!

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