Thursday, March 15, 2007
eating, at heart's desire
Man, this past weekend was gorgeous. We went out to Tomales Bay State Park and spent a day at the beach. We had planned for a picnic, with the thought of dropping by the butcher shop on the way for some tasty ground beef. They also had some pork "stew meat" so a bit of that made it into the cooler as well. A little jaunt over to see some cowgirls and our menu for the day was set.
There were only a handful of cars in the parking lot when we arrived, which was a bit of a shock. We had last been here during the summer, and by noon the place was a mad house. This adventure, there were never more than twenty cars there, and it seemed like most of those folks were there to hike, not sit in the sand and chow.
After settling in, I took the monkey out for her first ride on a kayak. The bay here is very protected, with waves only a few inches high. The tide was just beginning to come in and the water clarity was nice. I had another one of those bizarre culinary ideas in my head, involving a container for collecting water, and a stove for boiling it. I had recently read an old post by a bay area blogger who had made her own salt, and figured I would try my hand at it too.
After checking on the sea grass, looking for "Mr. Crab" with no luck, I paddled out from the shore a few hunded yards and gave my collection container a dip. With approximately five liters, we made our way back to the beach. I fired up my tiny alcohol stove under a pan of sea water, put the top on to get it boiling faster, and got down to mixing up some burgers.
With them safely on the grill, I looked in on the boil and it wasn't going to happen. I mean, it was lightly boiling, but I didn't have enough fuel to sustain it for long and the wind and grill configuration was doing wonders at battling efficiency. H flipped the meat and we began getting out our fixin's and prepping our plates. I left the water to cool, and attended to my stomach.
Yeah, it was juicy. Good thing we used the leftover sandwich bread. It had the right sourdough tang and was tough enough to absorb the steam and cheesy goo without falling apart completely. It was a most satisfying burger, enjoyed with my family while gazing out at the smooth bay and incoming fog.
Afterwards we engaged in a ritual "dig to china" hole to kill off the remaining hour and stay warm. Cold and caked with damp sand, we packed up the car and made our way back to sunny warm Oakland.
The next day, I put the sea water (remarkably free of sediment, thankfully) into a large stock pot and got it boiling. I reduced it down to about half a liter and then poured it out onto a ceramic serving platter and set it out in the backyard to crystallize in the sun. By evening, I still had a pool of water, but the crust on the edge was glittery and white. I brought it inside and let the dry conditions of my oven pilot light do the rest.
The following morning I had a damp, salty sand, so I scraped it up to mix it around and put it back out in the sun to finish it off. Heaped onto a little plate it looked....salty. Somewhat glittery, pretty darn white, and sea salt tasting. I guess that's a success. I gave some to Aunty, and put the rest in a small container. The entire "harvest" was somewhere near a cup in volume. I didn't weigh it, but my guess was about four ounces in mass.
Heaped on a tea saucer, it looked more impressive. If I had more money to spend on that fancy stuff, and didn't have to go make it myself, I'd pay about ten bucks for this. I mean hey, in striving to go more local in my diet whenever possible, this was a good step, but I wouldn't start using it for ALL my salt needs. It confirmed my suspicion: salt making is easy and cheap, but involved and time consuming. I'll do it again sometime.........after I start making my own beer to enjoy while watching the water boil.