Casco Bay, chef, cook, culinary, culinary education, education, Herb Farm Restaurant, Maine, making sea salt, ocean, Oregon, Potato chip, restaurant, Ron Zimmerman, sea, Sea salt, training cooks, United States, USA
In 1989, I concurrently started a three-year apprenticeship under Chef David Strouts C.W.C. and a year at what was then Oregon’s best culinary school. Week three of the first class at that school, there was a day where we were allowed to make anything we wanted. I chose to make potato chips from scratch.
This was long before the days when chefs would play with “home-made” potato chips on menus. I was laughed at by half that class.
My curiousity was this… if so many potato chip makers were making hard cash, I wanted to understand the process. Early on, I sought understanding of things that most people take for granted.
Flash forward to October 25, 2011.
I’ve just relocated back to Maine and co-rented a gorgeous 3 bedroom, 2 bath, fifty feet from the Atlantic, in Casco Bay, Maine. Lobster boats low-rumble past us about 1/3 of a mile out, setting and hauling traps. After a twenty year prior career as a profesional chef, I now have a kitchen yards from the sea.
I had never made salt.
I walked to the edge with a canning pot and brought nearly three gallons of clear sea water to the kitchen. After trading a few tweets with Ron Zimmerman, proprietor of the Herb Farm Restaurant, for guidance, I put seawater onto an evaporation process at 230 pm.
I McGyvered a heat diffuser to slow the end process, by using a cheesecake ring to lift the pot off the burner.
At 11pm I took it off heat, spread it out in a glass dish and left it uncovered on the counter overnight (it was still a wee bit damp). This morning, I put it in the oven for 15 minutes to complete the drying. After it cooled, I crushed the pieces into grains.
Snowy pure white. Tastes like sea salt, looks like sea salt, must be sea salt. If I had a big kitchen woodstove going this winter, I’d do this everyday and sell some.
I bet, if you ask any cook in the USA across the 1 million restaurant locations, 9.9 out of ten would not be able to tell you how to make salt. That’s sad. It’s sad that it took me 25 years of curiousity before I finally did. The most basic of culinary ingredients – yet so removed from our collective and individual consciousness.
The best part of this experience was this – sharing a small jar of the most-pure hyper-local made-by-my-hands snow white salt with a new friend, knowing that it will be pinched at most meals over the next month. That – is – salt of the earth.