Sunday, April 28, 2013

Make Your Own Flake Sea Salt

This might be the coolest thing I've ever done. People have been doing it for thousands and thousands of years. It's not something new or trendy or cutting edge. It's literally prehistoric.  

 Sea Salt.

The result of evaporated seawater. Basically, Sodium Chloride.  

Did you know that much of the salt you see today labeled as "sea salt" does not actually come from the sea? As long as it meets the FDA's purity requirements, there is a loop hole that allows people to label their product as "sea salt". Super not cool... right?

Before I go any further I need to give a HUGE THANKS to Chef Gabe (corporate executive chef of Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar) for inviting me out on his boat and giving me an inside look into the world of sea salt production. da man!

Here is a look at how the process went. 

Step One: Collect Seawater
We met Gabe down at his boat in Dana Point Harbor where we promptly made some strong Bloody Marys (complete with celery seed from Gabe's garden) and headed out to sea.

 We met a couple seals,  made friends with some dolphins, and caught a glimpse of a baby whale all in the first hour.

 He took us a couple of miles off shore where the underwater shelf dropped off and the seawater was pure and clear as glass (thanks to the California Current that runs along the western coast of North America). Once there, he filled a 5 gallon bucket with water...mission accomplished. 

Silly me forgot to bring along a bucket for myself so I found a couple of empty smart water bottles in my car when we got back to the harbor and filled three of them (totaling about 3/4 gallon). I couldn't believe how clear the water was - it looked just like drinking water. 

Step Two: Evaporation
I poured the seawater into a large pot and turned the heat to medium-high. 

Keep the water temperature around 175 degrees, under boiling temperature so that your water is evaporating at a slow, steady rate. After a couple of hours you will notice that your water is starting to appear cloudy - you can actually see the salt - and keep reducing until your seawater resembles a cornstarch slurry - thick and white. Place your seawater brine into a shallow dish or pan and let the sun do the rest of the work. 

Cover it with plastic wrap (poke a few holes so it doesn't get steamy in there) and place it in a sunny spot. After a few days it will be completely dry. Be patient. 

Step Three: Store it 
Store your salt and get ready to use it for finishing all of your favorite dishes.  Have some fun with it...sprinkle a bit on Burrata with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil ...or on top of homemade semi-sweet chocolate chip cookies...options are limitless. 

Note: My 102  liquid ounces of seawater yielded just under 5 oz of sea salt (by weight) and about 1 full cup of sea salt (by volume). It doesn't take much seawater to produce a nice amount of salt that will last you quite a while considering how potent it is and that you will really only be using it for finishing. Pretty rad to say the least. 


  1. I can't believe there can be fake sea salt? No fair. Thanks for the lesson, I'm itching to make some myself now.

  2. So commercial "sea salt" isn't. Who knew? I'll have to give this a try.

  3. No need to go to such lengths for a bucket of seawater when you can make your own flake salt.

    But first, all salt comes from a sea, whether it's made by evaporation of extant seawater or it's mined from an extinct seabed... that's why mined salt can be sold as sea salt in the U.S.

    So, to make your own flake "sea" salt, just make a brine at 3% by weight (i.e. same as seawater but without the chance of sewage or other contaminants), that's 30 grams of any salt in 1 liter of water. You can even make it a 33% brine if you'd prefer Dead Sea salt. Then evaporate it as you did (while optionally singing a nautical ditty). I'd use a non-metal tray to finish the process & avoid ruining a metal pan.

    1. Thanks for sharing that Brian! The only bummer about doing it this way is that you miss out on an epic adventure and those much sought after nuances that come from harvesting water from different bodies of water. But in a pinch - short cuts are always good to have especially if you know a nautical ditty or two :)