I Make You Salt, You Like Me

Serving suggestion: salt and figs- simple pleasures

I have a speaking engagement at a food conference this coming weekend called the Foodbuzz Fest. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Apparently they think I know something about putting an A before a B and following it with a C, because they’ve asked me to help lead a panel on writin’ along with Greg and Brooke. Dastardly fools- what were they thinking? Little do they know I plan to mosey into the conference room wearing nothing but a unitard made from fig jam I’ve dried into a giant fruit roll-up. That will be my ninja-style way of tricking them into thinking I know what I’m doing. These are not the droids you are looking for. I REPEAT- these are not the droids you are looking for. If for some reason that masterfully-crafted plan does not work, however, I need to have a backup distraction tactic so they don’t figure out I’m a big, dorky sham. By distraction tactic, I actually mean bribe, and so I’m going to bring them some of my homemade salt.

Location scouting

I have scoured every nook and divet of the Washington coast to find the ultimate salt-watering hole from which to extract clean water worthy to be made into Salty Seattle Salt. If you could lick this salt through the screen, I know you would agree with me that it approaches the quality of the best salts on earth, namely Maldon and Murray River Pink. I think it’s even better because I hand schlup the water into coolers, trudge my precious cargo back to the car and navigate the arduous secret roadways back to Seattle, then distill it over the course of several days into fine saline ecstasy.

Bentley the explorer

I do this because, simply put, I am a giver. You like salt, I make salt, I give you salt, you like me. I learned that lesson at nursery school over a steamy quenelle of chocolate pudding with a boy named Paul Duncan. Only the pudding was really poop. My own. He said he wanted pudding soooo bad, and I desperately wanted to please him, so I manufactured pudding the only way I knew how, handed him a heaping dollop, and prepared to bask in his amorous affections. I have since revised my giving technique, but it’s based on the same principles.

Muscling up

In case you were wondering, it did work, back then, with Paul. Not two weeks later he attended my slumber party, gave me a giant stuffed Garfield, and showed me his hoohoodilly around midnight, both of us crammed tightly into the toe-end of a Luke Skywalker sleeping bag. I did not show him my cha cha in return, because I felt the chocolate pudding I had previously gifted him with was benevolent enough.

The boys gather rocks

As much as I am sure you enjoyed reading that, I am equally certain that you will love even more that I am somehow segueing back into a story about making salt, which is something you eat. Yes, I feel dirty nursery school dealings make perfectly valid fodder for food blog stories, and I have a sneaking suspicion that if you’re still with me, you probably feel the same way. In any case, the salt is evaporating as we speak and I’m frantically scouring the town to locate proper receptacles in which to dole out my little bribes.

Here’s a curiosity: I will be travelling par avion to San Francisco for said conference.  I don’t know much French, but I do know par avion because all of my French penpal’s letters would arrive at my house throughout middle and highschool with those words stamped in blue across the envelope. I always thought it sounded so alluring, and the idea that those letters had travelled BY AIRPLANE farther distances than I’d yet travelled in my young life made me covet them all the more. That was back in the days when intimate thoughts would be shared with virtual strangers via sturdy, irrevocable pen and paper.

Look at me, going all wobble-kneed- Linda- get back to the clack of taut plastic keys and forget such romantic longings. Another thing that has changed in the last decade is what exactly is allowed to travel par avion- in the main cabin, at least. As I mentioned, I will board a jetplane with my salt, bound for San Francisco. Salt is made from lots and lots of salt water. So really, I am transporting vessels of, essentially, water in little vials, and yet, I bet a million to one they will allow me to pass through the degrading gates of the security checkpoint with my salt safely intact. It’s genius, I tell you, GENIUS. I have found a way to stick it to THE MAN, and by golly I’m gonna do it loud, proud and high up in the clouds.

If you ever have the inclination to whirl up a batch of your own salt, there are a few things you’d do well to remember. The main thing is that most any beach you choose for collection will likely have people on it, so you need to do what I do and steel yourself against the furtive glances of curious strangers. Yes, they will think it is unusual to see a woman in a construction-orange dress and silver Wellies walk into the ocean with a cooler on her head. You must resist the urge to stare back and simply let your freak flag fly. It’s liberating.

After you gather the water and bring it home, allow it to settle (or rack it, in winespeak) for a few days. This will ensure that all the undesirable silty particles sink to the bottom of the vessel and when you siphon the water into the evaporating vat, it will be as pure as the driven snow. Next, in keeping with our theme of sterility, you’ll want to carefully siphon it into a very large cooking pot- I use a canning pot. Avoid the silt at the bottom. Finally, brew your salt at roughly 170°F for as long as it takes to evaporate down to a level small enough that you can transfer it to a rectangular baking dish- preferably enamel or glass.

Siphoning

I typically do five gallon batches and they evaporate for more than 24 hours before I transfer them to the baking dish. The transfer is essential because if you leave it in the canning pot, salt will stick to the sides and form unattractive crystals, whereas if you transfer it to a heavy-bottomed pan with larger surface area, more desirable crystals will form across the top of the saltwater. The crystals that form at the top of the water tend to be larger, lighter and fluffier than the ones that form at the bottom of the pan. Some people separate these into two distinct salts, one for finishing (the upper) and one for basic use (the lower). The flavor is virtually indistinguishable and often, if I am careful with the evaporation process, I will simply mix them. I place the baking dish in a very low temp oven for an additional one or two days, or until almost all the water has turned to salt. The salt will remain wet for a few weeks; this is my favorite time to use it. Eventually it will dry out and resemble any fine finishing salt you’d pick up at your local market.  Yield varies, but I’ve been getting about ¾ c per gallon, on average.

The salt vat

That’s it, no real mystery in salt-making. The question is, do you think it will be a sufficient bribe? I mean, clearly I have duped them into believing something they oughtn’t, so I will need to keep up the charade (that’s pronounced with British inflections, btw, like this: shur-AAAAHHED) with a sufficient amount of smoke and mirrors. I am crossing my fingers this is enough. I’ll report back on the other side. All my love, crazy-jedi-ninja-Linda

Salt crystals forming
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65 Responses

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  19. Hi there – I found your blog through Eating Rules and I am very intrigued by the salt making . . . I live a bit north of you in beautiful BC, near Boundary Bay. Our local beach (Crescent Beach) is quite shallow. I’m wondering how that might effect the salt. have you ever made salt from up here?

    Thanks!
    Laura

    Linda Reply:

    @Laura, In my experience, the more shallow the water the longer you need to “rack” it to settle out the sand because more granules get intermingled and sandy salt is no good. I’d go on as calm a day as possible and try to go as far out as you can to avoid stirring up silt. I’ve made salt as far north as Deception Pass- it’s pretty epic from waters around there, so I imagine if you’re careful with technique you’ll have a great result. Good luck and report back!

  20. Nice salt! We make our own, too, on the other side of the country. I wonder if Atlantic salt tastes different from Pacific salt.

    We only do it in the winter, when we heat our house with a woodstove and need to keep water on the stovetop to humidify the house. We get 5 gallons of water at a time (our chosen shoreline often has major breakers, so we need waders to do it), and slowly evaporate it in a cast-iron pan. House is humidified. Sea salt is made. Everyone’s happy. (Our method, in case you want to compare notes, is here: http://www.starvingofftheland.com/2009/02/09/she-steals-sea-salt-by-the-seashore/)

    Glad to have found you — you’re highly recommended by my friends Brooke @ foodwoolf and John @ foodwishes.

  21. Haha, man, that’s some good storytelling. It’s an artful segue master that can go from gifting fecal matter to youthful sleeping bag discoveries to salt making to French phrases and then back to salt making. Killing valuable work time while reading this is becoming one of my favorite parts of the day.

  22. Great job at the writing workshop. Especially loved your shoes!

  23. Salt – you had salt? crap!! i should’ve mugged you of that instead of your purse!!

  24. Remind me never to ask you for homemade pudding :-)

    I too wish I could be there to hear you speak and witness the unitard first hand.

    I’m off now to pick up figs. Have to try the fig and salt combination!

  25. Darn — Wish I was attending your class! I’m sure it’ll be very interesting :)

  26. gawd, Linda, I get to sit in your session Saturday morning and learn about writin’ AND lick your salt too.

    See you then. Can’t wait.
    Pam @ Sticks Forks Fingers

  27. Really, I just have never thought of anyone actually making salt, incredible.
    And what a story you tell, too cute and funny, loved every line, thanks for a nice giggle.

  28. This is, quite possibly, my favorite blog post ever. Not just of yours.
    Of anyone’s :)
    I am dying to meet you, but sadly won’t be a foodbuzz fest. I know you will wow them in your session, tho.
    Cannot wait to hear all about it- I’m quite certain news of your awesomeness (and your outfit) will be all over the twitterverse.
    Have a fun weekend :)

  29. How fun! Poopy pudding was new to me, and fortunately to my young daughters too. Love the photos and the idea of making salt. We actually import our salt from Cervia Italy. It is called the sweet salt of the Popes because it was confiscated for the papal table, and the flats have been harvested since Etruscan times. I think your way is much easier and probably less costly. So…. the big question…. how does it taste?
    I shouldn’t think you need to worry about TSA for content, the biggest issue for you is weight. But you are so slight, maybe you should wear the salt? They have garlic necklaces, why not a Salty Seattle Necklace?
    Ciao,

  30. Wow, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at sea salt without thinking about “poop pudding!”

  31. I will be so sorry to miss your salt! All the gumming and drug blogging I did for the last three week put me way behind on this script and now I have to stay home and work. I absolutely LOVE the poo story. Perfect.

  32. This is so Voyage of the Mimi, I’m loving it! You’re brilliant and Bentley is precious.

  33. How cool! I’ve never seen this done before.

  34. Man, that’s cool! Impressive that you are making salt, wish I was there to try some!

  35. So sneaky, getting all that Seattle water past the TSA folks at the airport. How about a little competition with that SF salt water? I know, I know, same big ocean, but still, place must count for something when it comes to salt.

  36. I am sure I will like you independently on the salt…but you really insist I will gladly accept some :)

    Linda Reply:

    @Sara @CaffeIna, I will tuck some aside for you, darlin’.

  37. All you awesome bloggers about to attend Foodbuzz Fest are making me jealous. LOL. Sounds like it’s going to be an awesome time. If those security guards give ya crap about the salt just bat your eyes and smile sweetly. That’ll get them. Haha.

    Great blog! First time (I think. I’m losing my brain) I actually read a whole post. How I am unable to remember writing as awesome as yours is beyond me. Okay, now I am just kissing butt. Seriously, awesome work. Looking forward to reading more.

    Linda Reply:

    @Kim at Eating in Vegas, join us next year, my dear.

  38. Sooooo…. Not only do I NOT get to go to the FoodBuzzzzz hoopla but I don’t live near the ocean anymore so I can’t make salt. How sucky is that? I used to have ALL the benefits of living in Northern California, until the good Dr. Food took me away from it all and now I am stuck in New England. Yes, we have seasons but big deal.

    Linda Reply:

    @Janis Tester, THE HORROR. i suggest you rebel and buy a last-min ticket to sfo.

  39. I want to opt out of my cousin’s wedding so I can make it foodbuzz fest so I can see you in your fig roll up… The salt is a great tease too. I hate reading all about foodbuzz fest, when I realized I can’t make it that weekend. :( I loved your creativity back when you were in nursery school too… so entertaining. I guess it all started back in nursery school.

    Linda Reply:

    @Adelina, I guess it all did start back then. How twisted.

  40. I would like you even with out the salt, you are bloody awesome! However the salt is a lovely reminder of you. I figured the salt making process was time consuming, and your post only makes me appreciate you more! Well done!

    Linda Reply:

    @Kelly @ EvilShenanigans, awww, you too nice, lady. wish we were partying together this weekend.

  41. Remind me never to underestimate your powers of entertainment. I figured I was safe to sit here and drink my mugicha while reading this post. WRONG. Due to excessive laughing I snorted mugicha out through my nose, thank you very much. Now I’m wishing even more that I was going to be at FBZFest. I’m dying to taste your salt! (K, that sounded dirty…wasn’t meant to be…)

    Linda Reply:

    @Fuji Mama, uh ho- i’m hazardous to the health- next time i’ll put a disclaimer at the top:)

  42. :-( BIG POUTY GIRL FACE HERE. At least I still have some of your salt from when you sent it to me…. I can sorta pretend I am at fbzfest. Don’t forget to tell people to vote for me LOL!!!

    Linda Reply:

    @Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite, I will do my best to campaign hard, M.

  43. As to getting containers of salt through security… My husband & I use neti pots to cleanse our noses with salt water, both suffering from allergies. We take these with when we travel and outright refuse to check luggage. The salt I buy for travel comes in packets that are about 1cup from our coop. We’ve been stopped more times than I can count when we forget to include the salt in our “wet bags” for separate x-ray & they pull apart our entire suitcase to find it. One TSA agent informed me that salt appears under x-ray to look like an explosive. Happy trails!

    Linda Reply:

    @Erin, uh ho- now you’re making me nervous:)

  44. I can’t wait to see fruit roll up clad you again! And um, I hope you bring me some fabulous salt to try :)

    Linda Reply:

    @Lawyer Loves Lunch, there will be salt for you, my salty dame- two days- so excited.

  45. I’m exhausted from reading about the salt process — and that whole story about you and Paul was fiction, wasn’t it? :)

    I’ll be at your session on Saturday. I guess I’ll recognize you by the molecular fig leaf you’ll be wearing.

    Linda Reply:

    @Joan Nova, the Paul story is 100% fact, unfortunately:) Let’s hope they allow me to wear the fig- it’ll make for a fun session.

  46. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Gregor, Linda M Nicholson. Linda M Nicholson said: This is how to make salt: http://t.co/sr8vZpe also, fruit roll-up unitards & chocolate poop pudding. [...]

  47. You better figure out a way to make gallons of that for the shop. I like how it looks like Bentley is about to clock Jonas with the rock:)

    Linda Reply:

    @marisa, Indeed later, Bentley did give him a whack.

  48. so linda, how much would you charge to distill some salt water and mail the salt crystals out to me? because i would totally pay you for that goodness!

    Linda Reply:

    @Heather (Heather’s Dish), of course i will mail you some salt, my dear- just dm or email me your address, sweets.

  49. Well, I was going to suggest trading salts until I learned about your pudding proclivities … If you need more coolers, we have a bunch that you can borrow anytime.

    Linda Reply:

    @justin, i just may take you up on that, Justin- thanks.

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