How to Make Salt From Local Seawater

Capture an abundance of the sea’s briny, bitter and butter-sweet trace minerals with these experimental techniques for how to make salt from local seawater.


| November 2012



How to Make Salt

The process proved surprisingly easy, and the yield was much higher than we had expected. And our salt looked pretty (pure white), smelled fresh, tasted exactly like the ocean, and made a fine seasoning for our feast.

Photo By Thomas J. Story (c) 2011

Based on the James-Beard-Award-winning One-Block Diet, The One-Block Feast (Ten Speed Press, 2011) is the ultimate guide to eating local. Complete with seasonal garden plans, menus, 100 recipes and 15 food projects, this guide explains how to raise and produce everything needed for totally made-from-scratch meals, all from your own backyard. The following excerpt on how to make salt is taken from “The Winter Projects.” 

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: The One-Block Feast.

How to Make Salt

Of all the projects we attempted as part of our One-Block feasts, this may have been the most far-fetched. We had read of other people’s efforts, most memorably Michael Pollan’s in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, in which he scavenges water from trash-strewn wetlands and evaporates it on his stove top into brown salt that, he writes, “tasted so metallic and so much like chemicals that it actually made me gag.”

But we persisted because we knew we had to have seasoning for our dinner, and figured—what with the San Francisco Bay to one side of us (the same bay that Pollan harvested, actually) and the Pacific Ocean on the other, we had some water to choose from. Also, the other raw materials that we had “imported” for our feast—grapes for the wine, olives for the oil, and milk for the cheese—at least were transformed from their natural state by our own hands. It would be copping out to just go buy salt.

The process proved surprisingly easy, and the yield was much higher than we had expected. And our salt looked pretty (pure white), smelled fresh, tasted exactly like the ocean, and made a fine seasoning for our feast. As to whether it was safe to consume or would behave like normal salt in cooking, we weren’t sure. We were just happy that we had, in fact, made our own salt from local seawater.

Pacific Sea Salt 

We hauled drums filled with Pacific seawater to our Menlo Park offices and reduced several gallons to salt.

Jake Kruger
2/1/2014 12:11:28 AM

I know this is a fairly old article, but I just happened upon it today and felt compelled to throw in my two cents. :-) I'm surprised that you had so much trouble getting the water and/or salt tested. I wonder if it might have had something to do with asking drinking water agencies--they often want to test for coliform bacteria, which is a much more involved undertaking than if you're just interested in heavy metals. Some universities have soil science programs that would be well-equipped for the heavy metals test. For example, the University of Delaware soil science program (http://ag.udel.edu/dstp/Gen%20Program%20Info.html) doesn't accept drinking water samples, but will accept other water samples and soil samples from any state. A soil test for lead, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, nickel, copper, and zinc is $25, according to their fee schedule (http://ag.udel.edu/dstp/forms/Fees/Fee%20Part%20A%20-%2008012013.pdf). If nothing else, you could always take your salt, mix it with some dirt, and send it in as a soil sample. :-) (But remember to send a control, too! The difference in concentrations is due to the salt you added.) Pesticide testing would be a different beast, but at least with this approach you could get the heavy metals loading figured out.


Julie Cunningham Goulart
1/9/2014 9:53:00 PM

we live on Cape Cod and are surrounded by beautiful ocean-I would LOVE to make my own sea salt for seasoning and in use in a sea salt scrub






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