Salt is one of the things that made civilization possible. Sure, it makes food taste good but its real value is in it’s ability to preserve food. When you can preserve excess food, your chances for survival through a tough winter, summer drought or other disaster or emergency, go way up. Today we take salt for granted but it was hard to come by for thousands of years. Traders established “salt roads”, or well-worn trading paths through countries that didn’t have access to salt. Wars were fought over salt. People gave their lives for salt. The epic saga of salt is fascinating and we recommend Mark Kulansky’s book Salt: A History of the World.

In the right proportions, sea salt has small amounts of essential nutrients that the body needs: iodine, iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese and zinc. We all know by now that too much salt has adverse health consequences so keep that in mind as you plan your emergency food strategy.

Today, we manufacture so much salt, and so many different kinds of salt, that it’s easy to take it for granted. Now, imagine there’s no salt. Well, there is salt but it’s in the ocean. How do you get it out? For a look at the modern process, check out this on-site tour from theKitchn.

Can you harvest your own salt? Sure. And the good news is, it’s easy. The hardest part is finding clean seawater. Beware: Seawater is not the same everywhere. Ensure you’re using clean water that contains no runoff or chemicals. This eliminates public beaches and seawater from harbors or near industrial operations. Collect your water as far away from civilization as possible. You’ll get about 2 cups of salt per four gallons of water, so even though it’s a time-consuming process, the return is worth it.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Boiling method:

  • Clean seawater
  • A strainer, cheesecloth or cotton fabric with no soap residue
  • A large kettle or pot
  • Fire source

Strain the seawater through the cloth and the sieve to remove any large particles (like sand). Bring the strained water to a boil in a large pot or kettle. After the water boils for a minute, reduce the fire or heat until the water just simmers. You’ll be simmering water for a long time, so be patient. When you see salt crystals start to form in the bottom of the pot and there is just a little water left, remove the pot from the heat source. In order to not burn the salt it’s a good idea to finish evaporating the water in an oven or kiln or by letting it dry in the sun.


Evaporating method:

  • Clean seawater
  • A strainer, cheesecloth or cotton fabric with no soap residue
  • Large glass trays (like Pyrex baking dishes)

Strain the seawater through the cloth and the sieve. Pour the strained water into glass trays. (Don’t use metal or you’ll end up with bad-tasting salt and a corroded tray.) Leave the trays in the sun or by the fire and allow the water to evaporate.

Whichever method you choose, when the water is gone you’ll be left with large salt crystals. Break them up and store your salt in clean glass or ceramic containers.

For information about preserving food with salt, check out this site.

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