Friday, December 14, 2012

Homemade Sea Salt

This is a project my husband and I have been wanting to do for over a year now.  A friend posted about this back then; she had found instructions on Not Without Salt.  After talking about making it, and never doing it, my husband finally stopped to gather some sea water last weekend and started making salt with it right away.  He actually did this all by himself on a Saturday while I was busy with other things.  I saw him doing it, and then the day before yesterday, made a batch all by myself while everyone was at school/work.  It was so fun, and amazing that you can make salt out of only some ocean water! 

salt9WWe gathered the water from a secluded, non-populated, rocky beach, pictured above.  My husband is a science guy, and he knew we should visit a beach that was not part of a bay, since bays can trap pollution and other contaminants.  The water here in the Azores always looks so clean and crystal clear anyway.  And when we brought it home and he filtered it, there was hardly anything to get caught in our filter.  (To filter, we used a cloth yogurt- cheese making bag.  But one can use anything set over a strainer- a few layers of cheesecloth, paper towels, coffee filters, even a clean kitchen towel.)

After filtering, you boil the clean sea water on the stove until it drastically reduces (by about 4/5 of the original volume), and you are left visible salt crystals suspended in very little water.

After that step, you just want to transfer to a glass or ceramic oven-safe vessel and gently dry it out in the oven.  We used our convection oven setting, which is perfect for this, because it blows out hot air and cooks and dries at the same time.  Don't bake at too high of a temperature, or you will scorch the salt.  You can bake until most of the water is gone and then let it air-dry overnight, if you want.  Here, we have so much humidity that the salt actually absorbs MORE moisture if left out overnight, unless we turn our dehumidifiers on.  So that is an option, too- leave out overnight with a dehumidifier.  That way you dry it out without scorching it.  (Photo below is of salt drying in the oven- you can still see a little water left at this point). 
Have fun with this-it's so cool to make, and the kids love getting involved, as well! Our 8-year old LOVES anything science and helped my husband with the whole process.  Our 6-year old kept saying how we were going to "save so much money" because we didn't have to buy salt at the store anymore!!  Ha ha.  And last night, he tried roasted cauliflower for the first time ever because he knew I used "Daddy's Sea Salt" on it.  He tried it, LOVED it, and ate only that for dinner, even though we were having other things he really liked. 

You can use sea salt for almost any food, but here are some ideas to get you started.  My fave out of that list- Sea Salt Caramels

Homemade Azorean Sea Salt
adapted from Not Without Salt, and other places on the Web

fresh ocean or sea water (easiest to work with 1-2 liters at a time)
a filtering device- cheesecloth, kitchen towels, coffee filters, etc
fine mesh strainer
big pot
ceramic or glass baking dish (not too large)

1.  When gathering your sea water, try to keep the following in mind.  Sea Water for this is best when it comes from an isolated, non-populated, open beach, so, not a bay or lagoon, etc.  Try to find a clean beach, obviously.  Gather a few gallons, if possible; you want to have enough on hand.

2.  At home, set up your filtering device and filter 1-2 liters of water.  My husband just suspended my yogurt-cheese making bag from a pitcher and poured the water through that into the pitcher, then poured it into the pot.  When I made sea salt a few days later, I simply got out the pot I was going to be using, set a fine-mesh strainer over it, and set a clean kitchen towel over that.  I poured the sea water directly into my pot through the filter and was ready to start boiling. 

3.  Boil your filtered water until it reduces to only about 1/5 of the original volume, and you have just a little bit of water with visible salt crystals suspended.  I just boiled on the highest setting on my (induction) stove.  It took less than an hour to reduce enough.  By the time my baby and I had eaten lunch and I had cleaned the kitchen, it was done boiling. 

4.  Transfer everything to a small-ish glass or ceramic oven-safe dish.  Using convection if possible (or just a regular oven), bake at about 250 degrees for 30-60 minutes.  Check on it frequently; you do not want to scorch it.  Bake until all the water has evaporated.  Only salt crystals should remain when you're done.  Let the salt cool.  You can then break it up into smaller crystals or just leave as-is.  (We got a lot of flaky crystals.)  Store in an airtight container. 
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