Before we get started with this one… I just want to throw in a caveat that this probably isn’t sanitary and maybe don’t try this one at home kids. That said, if you want to throw caution to the wind like I did, I’ll give you instructions on how to harvest your own salt just do so at your own risk.
Saddle in everyone cause this is a weird one. I want to talk about salt. I know I’m late to the party (or should I say book club?) when it comes to discussing Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samir Nosrat’s brilliant book that teaches readers how to master those four elements and manipulate them to cook anything well; but let me be the 2736372th person to say how incredible this book is. It was only a few weeks before I picked up my copy of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat that I had a culinary awakening about how amazing salt is. And like Nosrat so hilariously articulates in her book through an anecdote about rolling a pork loin in salt, once I realized how much I’d been under salting my whole life I may have overcorrected a bit. I made a steak that was pretty much inedible and disregarded the value in layering salt, pretty viciously salting a cream sauce even though I knew I’d be adding smoked salmon later on. But I think I’m finally honing it in and controlling salt, so it won’t be too long before I’ve mastered the first element!
Anyways, now I’m moving on to really thinking about the type of salt I’m using. Like most of America, I grew up with the salt shaker of god knows what, probably iodized table salt.* Like olive oil, I’ve recently learned that there should be a difference between salt you use for cooking and salt you use for finishing. I’m actually developing kind of a crazy large salt collection in my kitchen as I become more and more obsessed with learning about salt. So here’s the star of this post and my latest addition to my salt collection: sea salt I harvested myself. Yes you read that right.
This stuff is super potent, so be careful. I left mine in bigger flakes and I definitely wouldn’t recommend cooking with it if you take that route; you’ll over salt fast. You also don’t get very much salt from quite a bit of water, so I’d say it’s best to treat this like a finishing salt; sprinkle it on chocolate chip cookies right before baking, sprinkle it on avocado toast, or finish your breakfast salad (it’s a real thing and it’s awesome, and that’s coming from someone who HATES salad).
My apologies to those of you who don’t live near a coast and can’t try this one out for yourselves. For those of you who can, check out this ~recipe~ if you can even call it that.
Final verdict? It’s cool to harvest your own salt – especially if you’re into the science of cooking. It isn’t a lot of work, but it is time consuming, probably not very clean, and the pay off isn’t great. If you happen to be at the beach and want to experiment, give it a try. Otherwise, stick with store bought kosher or sea salt for cooking and invest in a nice Maldon or Fleur de Sel for finishing.
- As many water bottles as you can full of sea water
Go to the beach. Make a day of it! Bring snacks, build a sand castle, definitely wear a bathing suit because you will be swimming.
Get in the water, you’re going to want to go out far enough that there isn’t much sand floating in the waves.
Fill a water bottle up with sea water.
Repeat steps 2-3 as many times as you want; enjoy yourself and do some swimming when you’re done.
When home, combine all your bottles in a pot. Boil until all the water has evaporated out. Let cool and dry.
Scrape as much salt out of the pot as possible, you should have a fair amount in the pot, but a lot will stick to the sides, so be sure and get that too.
Now decide what you want; if you like the big flakes, stop here and store the salt in a bowl to use as finishing salt. If you’d prefer finely ground salt, transfer into a mortar and pestle and grind until desired flake size.
“Cook” time on this one will really depend on how much water you have, altitude, concentration of salt, and about a thousand other variables. So you’re just gonna have to keep an eye on this one, sorry!