Many months ago, I tried -- again -- to make an acceptable vegetarian substitute for corned beef. Husband's favorite food, after all, is the sandwich, and before he became a vegetarian, his favorite sandwich was the corned beef reuben. This time, I was attempting it with homemade seitan, which worked moderately well, but as it was my first attempt at seitan, things went wrong.
I next tried to make a Chinese BBQ pork style seitan, which worked better. I actually documented that whole process intending to return to writing on Isolated Foodie, but it never happened.
Now, I'm back. I've been working in my local food world intensely for the past couple years and some friends are in the midst of a pretty hard-core local food challenge: eat nothing but food grown in our region. Now, our region is a great place to grow cool weather crops year round, but it's a little lacking in some other departments. Grains, for instance, among other things. This morning I was talking with Local Food Friend (LFF) and he was bemoaning the lack of salt in his current local diet. Now, I am an unrepentant salt slut and I don't mind admitting that publicly. (Hence, the unrepentant part.) Giving up coffee, chocolate, most spices? I can do that for a month. But salt? Not a chance!
So, I said to LFF, couldn't you make your own salt? We live on the ocean's edge; plenty of salt water. Can you do that, he asked. My answer: Gandhi did it, so why not us?
My follow-up answer was to Google the heck out of this question. I read three different suggestions/opinions (here, here, and here) and since two of the three were reasonably positive, I decided to give it a try:
To that end, I waded into the chilly Pacific this afternoon armed with three gallon zip-lock bags to collect some liquid salt. It sat on the counter for a couple hours to let the sand settle to the bottom (which it did very nicely). I strained it through a flour-sack towel folded in quarters to get out more grit, pouring carefully to leave the sand in the bags. Two gallons are cooling in a stock pot now after having boiled for 25 minutes to kill off any harmful biological bits. Tomorrow, I'll evaporate that down in a big roasting pan bit by bit to get my salt.
Another 2/3 of a gallon is in a bowl in the freezer. When I was involved in maple sugaring many moons ago, we would discard ice in sap collecting buckets because the sugar generally concentrated in the unfrozen part. I figure that salt's effect of lowering the freezing temperature of water should mean that I can concentrate the salt content by removing ice as it forms. That's my theory and I think it is worth a trial.
Once I've done a few rounds of freeze and discard, I'll boil the remainder to take care of biological hazards, strain it again, and then finish reducing through heat.
With any luck, by the end of the day tomorrow, I'll have some wild salt, freshly caught from the Pacific Ocean. And if I have luck, then LFF will also be in luck: he will not have to eat unsalted food for the next 24 days. Personally, I'd be close to suicidal by Day 17, so I'm really hoping this works. Keep your fingers crossed!