Salt endeavor #1

July 18, 2008 | By | Comments (1)

By Amy Machnak, Sunset food writer

I started this salt-making experiment by straining the water through a very fine strainer lined with coffee filters to remove the sand and any other solids items. Once I’d removed all the physical contaminates from the water, but I thought I should at least attempt to kill any bacterial organisms. Based on what I learned in culinary school, this means boiling. I transferred the water to a large stock pot, brought it to a rolling boil, and let it go for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, I preheated an oven to 275°. I measured 3 cups of hot ocean water and poured it onto a rimmed baking sheet. I repeated this 2 more times, ending up with 3 trays and 9 cups of liquid. I baked the uncovered trays for almost 2 hours.
Nothing happened. The level of the water hadn’t dropped at all. I started to doubt whether this was going to work, but decided to increase the oven temp to 350°.
After about 30 minutes, the water line started to lower. I gave it another 90 minutes and sure enough–the water was gone and the tray was covered with a crystallized white film. SALT ! I had done it.

I let the trays cool slightly and then used a metal spatula to scrap the bottom and sides of the tray to break up the crystals. I tasted a very small amount and it tasted like salt. The appearance and texture wasn’t exactly odd, but it didn’t look like what I had imagined.

Granted it was white, whiter than I imagined what Pacific Ocean water would make, but I guess I assumed that it would be fine and sandy like the stuff in the shaker. These crystals were large, flaked, and very irregular in shape.

I later learned that one way to tell whether the expensive salt you buy from the store is processed: All the grains will be exactly the same size and shape. Nature is a little more random.

So how much salt did I get? The total amount was almost 1/3 cup. Not bad for a first try. It’s 90° outside, I wonder if I could save 4 hours of oven energy and just stick my trays out in the sun?


  1. Lili

    Hello Amy,

    I’d try the Sun approach like the French and Greek do, or think of Salt Flats-Calif. Now that’s evaporation! Just cover your pan with cheesecloth or fine screening to keep out unwanted debris and have patience.

    If you would like to see a great tasting and extremely fun naturally shaped salt, there is Cypress Salt from the Greek Isles. Expensive (nearly $27lb.) but soooo nicely flavored you’ll want to put every little pyramid shape on your tongue…You’ll be hooked!

    Use it for special meals or a topping for oysters, etc. It’s also excellent on spiced Tofu. Collect and experiment with all the different kinds of salts sold now days and enjoy new flavors.

    Sold at some Whole Foods or other specialty stores.

    May 7, 2010 at 2:42 am

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