Saturday, October 12, 2013

Making Sea Salt

Salt is cheap, so why bother to make it? For me it's just a part of the self reliant lifestyle thingy. First of all, I don't use much salt. But when I do, I prefer sea salt because if its wonderful taste. And by far, way out in front, is the flavor of our local salt. I was blown away the first time I tasted salt collected at Honomolino Bay. I've since had salt made near Honuapo and find that it is also wonderful. I've become a convert and now prefer the flavor of local salt.

I now make, or collect, my own salt. Collecting it is not as easy as it once was. I use to be able to go to the non-used shoreline of Honuapo and collect naturally occurring salt in the lava depressions. 

But now large numbers of locals and tourists use the area. Sadly, people have pretty filthy habits, so eating the salt is no longer appealing. But I can still use that salt for non-eating purposes.

This is how I make culinary salt:
1- Find a clean shoreline where there is active waves on the rocks. 

I go to an area where the water is constantly active, there are no quiet coves, people do not swim, and no one camps or otherwise uses the area. I usually collect several gallons. Since the ocean can be quite dangerous here, I use a small bucket tied with a short rope on the end of a long stick. I've used discarded fishing poles in the past, but currently am using an extension pole that I also use for fruit picking. It gives me quite a long reach. But I still take care to watch the waves and stand in a relatively safe zone in case a rogue wave crashes in.
2- Once my sea water is home, the first thing to do is filter out the particulate matter.

 Running the water through a coffee filter works well. There's lots of different ways to do that, but I'll just rubberband a filter to the top of the water jug, turn it upside down, and collect the filtered water into glass jars.
3- Now it's evaporation time.

 Since I run a wood burning stove each morning, and during the winter also in the evening, a free heat source is readily available. So I'll just put two pots atop the stove and add the seawater. When the stove is through burning and cools down, I'll just lid the pots until the next time the stove is burning. That way the water stays clean. Each time I will refill the pots as long as I have more seawater to evaporate, so over time the salt gets pretty concentrated.

I finally get to the point where I'm using just one pot and its about half full, though in this photo I was evaporating only my last couple cupfuls. 

I'll start seeing salt crystals forming. Very quickly there will be a mass of bubbling salt crystals. Now for the next five minutes I have to watch it carefully, waiting until I no longer see steam. Then I'll transfer the salt to a small frying pan for drying the rest of the way. The reason I do this is that the salt tends to adhere rock hard to my pot. But if I use a small clean frying pan for the final drying and stir it frequently with a wooden spoon, it does fine. In fact, it becomes quite fluffy and white. It only takes a few minutes to drive the rest of the moisture out. 

4- Final step. Spoon the salt into an airtight jar for storage. 
From 4 gallons of seawater I get one pint jar of fluffy salt. Plenty for my own use plus extra to give away or use as Christmas gifts. 


  1. I prize the sea salt I collected from dried pools on the really rough side rocks in Maui, really hard to climb to, but, like you, I later found that other folks found it there, too, and made it a mess. I think I may try making a little solar drying set-up, since my stash is about gone.

  2. This was really useful.. Thank you. Giselle

  3. Barry and everyone else, if you'd like to receive some freshly made sea salt from the district of Ka'u Hawaii, send me an email with your mailing address. I'd be more than happy to gift you some. I will send it priority mail, so just give me a hint as to how mcg you want. I have quarts and quarts of the stuff, I just went on a binge of making it, getting ready early for the Christmas mailing season.

  4. Here in Kalaupapa, there are so few people here that we're fortunately still able to collect very clean sea salt from the depressions in the lava. We just let it dry in a hanging bag and it's good to go (if you're careful when you're collecting it). Otherwise, you just go through it after it's dry and pick out any dirt. We're lucky we get to skip a few of your steps. I just love the taste of our salt from this very special place - it actually has a sweetness to it!

  5. leanna thats nice to hear you harvest it over there in Kalaupapa. I'm over east of you in Wailau, and have thought about harvesting seawater and processing it as above or via my sun oven. currently I harvest it each summer over west end at kawakiu, but the last two years people have been going and taking every last grain of salt and not leaving any for others to harvest, so I haven't gotten any in a long time. I appreciate that the author included the 4 gallons : 1 pint ratio, thats very encouraging! Mahalo nui

  6. Great tip! I always thought collected salt was more complicated, must try soon!

  7. I want to try this! Over here in Puna, I'm not sure of a good collection site. What types of human contaminants should I be concerned with? Wouldn't the boiling would kill most of the bacteria? Or is it a problem for foul flavors/odors?

    Also, are you still taking salt requests? I appreciate your mana'o and generosity! Mahalo nui!!

  8. Molecula, I'll send out some freshly made seasalt to anyone who emails me their address. Email me at

    I've seen guys, both tourists and even locals, take a leak right out on the lava. And I've seen tourists letting their kids toilet out by the ocean lava too. Locals often bring their dogs along and dogs poop and pee anywhere. Therefore, I go to a place where humans seldom visit. Cleaner that way. Of course there are bugs, lizards, birds, and fish....but at least it's not human or dog waste.

    Nothing lives in pure salt. So boiling is not necessary when making salt. Evaporation out on the lava produces safe salt, as long as it is clean looking. I've made salt by evaporating sea water in a black pan. I put a sheet of glass over it with a gap for the moisture to escape. Solar evaporation! It works but is slow. It takes a long time to get just the salt. But with this method the salt is chunkier with bigger crystals. Very interesting looking.

    Anyone with access to sea water can make salt. Let the sun do the work of evaporation. You just need to protect the salt water from getting loaded with dirt and debris from the air. The stuff probably wouldn't hurt you but I'm not fond of the idea of eating dead gnats and Mosquitos (they are attracted to the minerals), dust, and bits of plant material of unknown origin.