Ridiculously Local: Sea Salt Story

There are plenty of people I’d like to blame the sea salt experiment on, but really I only have my own curiosity to blame, but I’ll do my best to blame others in this post about it.

When I was a kid I can remember a horrible rainy (remember I grew up in the PNW?) weekend educational trip my parents took me on to the salt works that Lewis and Clark used during their time on the Pacific coast. About the only thing I remember from the trip was ‘this sucks, its raining’, ‘why on earth would they set up salt works that close to the water’ and ‘how did they ever get ahead of the rain on evaporating out the salt’.  I’m not even sure why we went here, maybe it was part of my education, but I blame my mother.

When I was a bit older I spent much of my time working at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center and doing a lot of self directed study (I have yet to meet a topic I wouldn’t read if it was the only thing in print around me). While working there one of the things we learned about, and studied was the estuary effect on the animals and plants we had around us. Lower salt content means that some things grew better, others worse. So, I blame this knowledge on the Science Center.

When I went to college in Roswell, NM (no aliens that I saw, just lots of desert), I left behind the water for many years and somewhat ignored things. One several of my drives I, of course, noticed the salt stains on the ground but didn’t look farther. By this time I’d driven by Salt Lake several times and learned that most table salt was mined, but no real interest in learning/doing more. I can only blame myself here.

After college a brief stint in Portland, Oregon before moving back to the SW, but this time in to Durango, CO- lots more fresh water than Roswell but still the desert. In Durango I read a wonderful book called “Salt” that I really enjoyed and as a result started to buy better salt.

Later, I moved back to Washington and once again there was the Puget Sound right next door to me. I can’t even say what possessed me to make salt one day, I’ll blame which ever book I was reading at the time. But the next thing I was doing was dippering out a five gallon bucket of water from the dock I’d spent years on at Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

I didn’t have the need to do this in a truly authentic fashion so I used a crockpot on low and started to reduce the liquid down. Little crystals formed on the top (my housemates probably thought I had little crystals in my brain) and eventually fell into the bottom. It took days and the house smelled okay, just a touch briny- not the low tide smell I feared.

After the whole five gallons was done I had roughly a quart of salt (this has to do with the salinity content of where I got my water, not skill). I put some of it into pretty containers and gave it to friends and family. I got very odd looks until I explained that I’d “made” the salt.

Making salt might be the most amusing ridiculously local thing I’ve done.


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