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Making your own sea salt?

My wife and I will be making our annual snow bird trip to Florida from Michigan for the month of January. I've never heard of anyone with access to salt water making their own salt. Could I just keep a slow simmer pot going for a few days to get salt? Would the process screw up the taste? Cookie sheets in a very low oven? I've never seen mention of the practice.....

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  1. Good sea salt typically comes from deep, cold water, in areas with little runoff from human settlement. So, Florida is not an ideal place for sea salt making, unless you go some distance off the coast. Also, sun drying is preferred to artificial heating, both due to cost and crystal formation.

    4 Replies
    1. re: danieljdwyer

      The only places where I've seen sea salt being made have been coastal areas in the Mediterranean and other low-lying spots. Sometimes in tropics. They flood the salt flats and then let the sun evaporate. Some of these places, I have to tell you, are not known for their pristine water quality. I have wondered about that, to be honest. So, no, you don't need deep offshore cold water to make salt.

      1. re: Nyleve

        That was the process in Bermuda and later in Providenciales. There is clean water around both, (I guess all water used to be clean) and vast salt flats. Salt harvesting was a reason why both islands were originally settled.

        1. re: Nyleve

          There's sea salt made just about everywhere there's coast, but the expensive stuff typically comes from cold, deep water. There's plenty of cold, deep water in the Mediterranean and the tropics. It's primarily a factor of how close the continental shelf is to the shore, so places with rocky coasts or that are volcanically active pretty much all fit the bill. Except down by Miami, the continental shelf is very far out in Florida.
          But, yes, they do make sea salt in places like Florida. It just isn't very good, and tends to be pretty cheap. It's not as if it's dangerous, salt not being something that easily harbors bacteria, but it's not going to have the best flavor.
          Making it yourself might be worth it in Brittany or on the North Sea; it's not in Florida. The Atlantic side of Florida is fairly average in salinity, about 3.5%, with the Gulf side usually under 3%. Using the 3.5%, you'll get about a third of a pound of salt from a gallon of water. Being very generous about the quality of the salt, and assuming every last bit is actually scraped off the pot, that's about $0.35 worth of salt. I really have no idea what the electricity costs would be this project, because I don't know how long you'd have to have the stove on at what temperature, what the efficiency of the stove is, and what rates they're paying. But, if they'd be saving anything, which I'm not convinced they would, it wouldn't be much, so the effort wouldn't be worth it just to get a half cup of mediocre sea salt.

      2. I imagine goldendog isn't interested in saving money, but rather is curious about trying to make it for fun.
        Here's a link that describes how you can do it:
        http://www.ehow.com/how_4607599_make-...

        And a few people who have had success making sea salt:
        http://madeater.blogspot.com/2006/02/...
        http://thegastrognome.wordpress.com/2...

        1 Reply
        1. re: bluemoon4515

          You're right. The idea was just one of curiousity--I have no illusions of turning out my own Fleur de sel and certainly not trying for the economics of it. Just the satisfaction of knowing it could be done. Just like home brewing beer, making my own pasta, churning my own butter, shredding/fermenting/canning my own winter kraut, trying to blacken my own fish on home equipment. I get my jolly's out of making them myself but is it better tasting, cheaper, and wort the labor? I often don't think so--can get better from the pros at my local super mart at a great price but I still get a charge of doing it myself. My best home endevors which better than any store bought brand are my pickles and canned tomatoes. Mostly grown myself, cost next to nothing, and a days work lasts my family all winter.

        2. The traditional method is to isolate sea water and let it evaporate naturally. No point in running the stove or the oven. Get a cookie sheet or a hotel pan or a kiddie pool full of ocean water and let the subtropical heat do its thing. You have a month in FL and nothin' to lose.

          OTOH, you'll be lucky if you get a pound or two of salt. You can buy the same amount for a few bucks, and it'll probably taste better. Consider this an intellectual / recreational exercise rather than a practical one...

          1. Yeah, I would not try this with Florida seawater...the Keys' coral reefs are disintegrating largely due to pollution from agribusiness runoff just like Lake Okeechobee has practically disappeared for same reason, too much fertilizers and junk from golf courses and agribusiness. Stick to more pristine sources as others here suggest.
            http://www.innovations-report.com/htm...

            1. i wouldn't use any water that isn't from way out in the gulf, frankly.

              1. Salt-making has an important history in Florida. It was needed to preserve fish and meat. Salt-making along Florida's Gulf coast involved boiling seawater in large kettles or containers to evaporate the water and collect the salt. Salinity varies along the coast. See image:http://www.museumoffloridahistory.com...

                1. Anyplace you have salt water and a flat area to let the water evaporate will work.

                  Large areas of the south end of San Francisco Bay have been used to collect salt commercially since the 1860s. Of course once collected it has to be processed, washed, dried, etc. Cargil/Leslie still operates a large operation, although it turned about 2/3 of the salt flats over to the federal government for wildlife refuge in 2003.

                  In Hawaii collecting sea salt was an important part of Native culture, and depending on where it is collected the red clayey soil in some areas is important in flavoring the salt, although most Hawaiian salt is white.

                  1. Talk about back to basics. Have always wanted to try it like Lewis and Clark did in Seaside, Oregon. They boiled the sea water out of a pan with a fire.

                    A few more links on making salt:
                    http://www.howtobaker.com/techniques/...
                    http://img4.sunset.com/static/pdf/One...
                    http://docsouth.unc.edu/imls/lecontej...

                    Some search the globe for different kinds to make gormet specialty salt with different colors and tastes (found this very interesting):
                    http://www.denverpost.com/food/ci_164...

                    A video how to do it is at:
                    http://huntergathercook.typepad.com/h...

                    1. Kieran over at Ice Cream Ireland makes his own sea salt from the waters around Dingle for Sea Salt Ice Cream. His method is here: http://icecreamireland.com/2010/02/21...

                      The recipe for the ice cream is here: http://icecreamireland.com/2010/02/24...