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.


Freya and Paul said...

Wow, what a fun dad you are! Your monkey will remember all of these events with great pleasure!
By the way, congrats on the mention on PoshBecksNosh!

Kevin said...

You've been hanging around that Mad woman, haven't you?

Callipygia said...

You can be like those Marshall Honey folks who keep bees all over the Bay area to make different flavored honeys. Imagine all the different places you could collect saltwater from. Sounded like a funtime too- them burgers wow.

D-man said...

f&p: I hope I'm remembered as fun. I'm trying to do things to set that in memory, so thanks. And that mention by Sam just about made my head explode. Then a slight terror set mean more people may be reading this crap? (Maybe I should tone down the swearing)

Kevin: Not actually hanging around (something about the vacuum), but certainly inspired by. Wait, no, it's really your fault for mentioning her culinary fundamentalism that reminded me of this experiment. I've been wanting to perform it for a few years now so when I saw the post and thought about the impending beach run, I just had to borrow a kayak and make it happen.

She is mad.
Like, brilliant mad.

D-man said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cookiecrumb said...

Yo! Somebody is very impressed!
Nice work. Beautiful texture, and such a snowy white.
I had long worried about the beige color of my salt, until today when I was reassembling the patio furniture. Part of the decor is a glass vase filled with rocks from Bolinas beach. When it rains, the vase collects water that turns rust colored, I assume because the rocks contain iron.
Bingo! The water I collected is also iron-oxide rich, hence the salt is tinted.
I *hope*!
Good work, D-man. Madly yours, cc

D-man said...

Callipygia: Marshall's rocks! In fact I've got a Buzzerkeley and a Marin Wildflower (mainly Novato I heard) that are incredible.

As for doing salt this way (what like provenance de sel), I'd stick to the ocean sites around here, and doing it in a kayak might prove difficult unless in an estuary of sorts that is near open ocean and not SF bay....which would probably land me back in Tomales Bay. Which was very fun indeed. I'd like to do this again soon, like maybe next week.

cc: *bowing* Thank you! From the salt queen herself, that is some compliment. As for the redin the patio rocks, yeah iron probably has something to do with it. Seawater? Sure....but to what degree, I don't know (I'll look into it some, gotta be in one of those old geo texts) It could also be the remaining critters boiled down (plankton) but my guess would be the various salts besides NaCl would be to blame. We shall have to carry this conversation on. (Here or at your Thursday market sometime.)

sourdoughly yours,

Stacie said...

I remember that post about the salt, and yours is beeeuitful! I miss the Bay area! We used to go to Tomales Bay often, such a great day trip. I got spoiled there, thinking that everywhere has amazing nature just moments away!!

Kevin said...

I've noted that fundamentalism is fundamentally disturbing unless it's you fundament.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Stacie: Hello! Thanks for the salty compliments. Yeah, ain't Tomales nice? The only thing I'm missing on trips out there are some WLSNP socks to keep the toesies warm when the fog rolls in....

Kevin: Nice work with the words. On some level, it's always about the fundament huh?