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Homemade Salt for the Sin Eater

Homemade Salt for the Sin Eater

A Breath of Snow and Ashes

Steeling myself, I leaned over and laid my own hand gently on the shroud.  An earthenware saucer, holding a piece of bread and a heap of salt, sat on the dead woman’s chest and a small wooden bowl filled with dark liquid – wine?- sat beside her on the table.  What with the good beeswax candle, the salt, and the bean-treim, it looked as though Hiram Crombie was trying to do right by his late mother-in-law – though I wouldn’t put it past him to thriftily reuse the salt after the funeral.

Diana Gabaldon, A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Chapter 39 – I am the Resurrection)

Have you ever made your own salt?

It’s certainly something Hiram Crombie and the rest of the fisher folk would have done back before they left Scotland, and it’s a near-effortless activity that I’ve been doing for a few years here on Pender, during our island winters.

homemade salt

The first step is to get yourself down to a clean beach or into a boat in pristine waters.  Pick your collection spot carefully, and choose a day when the weather is relatively calm, so that the water is still and clear.

This is especially important if you are collecting off the beach, as stormy weather churns up shallow waters, and means you’ll have more debris in your bucket.

homemade salt

I make my homemade salt in winter, because we have a wood stove burning all day, most days, and a pot of water on top of the stove humidifies the air and reduces the shock factor when approaching home electronics.

If you don’t have a wood stove but still want to give this a try, the kitchen stove (turn on your exhaust fan!)  is an option, or, if you prefer, wait until summer and boil it outside on a camp stove.

homemade salt

The first step after you get your buckets of sea water home is to strain the water through several layers of cheesecloth or a clean, natural-fibre dishcloth.  (I use a cotton/linen dishcloth that I reserve solely for salt making.)

Next, pour the water into a large pot.  A large enameled canning pot works well, as does my GIANT stainless steel stock pot.  Ideally, you want the water at a low boil, which allows for relatively quick evaporation without the billows of steam associated with a full rolling boil.

homemade salt

Once it gets down to a salty slurry, it’s time to transfer what’s left to a smaller pot or dish.  The greater the surface area, the faster the last of the water will evaporate.

Some salt makers transfer this to a 250° F oven for an hour or two until it’s dry, but rather than use electricity, I set mine on a rack about 6″ above the surface of the woodstove to slowly dry over the course of another couple of days.

Depending on the salinity of your local water, you’ll get just over a cup of off-white, chunky homemade salt for every gallon of sea water you start with. Use it as a finishing salt and at the table.  Store in a covered container indefinitely.

salt-bread copy


  1. Ada
    January 29, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Great idea! I live close to the sea, so soon I’m gonna collect some sea water and make my own North Sea salt! Too bad it’s stormy right now (even though I love the wind)… I don’t want to scoop up half the beach 🙂

  2. Susan
    January 29, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I live right on the Oregon coast. Gotta give this a try!

    • Theresa
      January 29, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      You’re in a pristine area to try it, Susan!

  3. Diane Jensen Donald
    January 29, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    That is so cool! I’d love to try this someday. Is there much risk/chance of pollutants winding up in the salt?

    • Theresa
      January 29, 2013 at 10:09 pm

      You definitely want to make sure you’re collecting from the cleanest water and environment you can, Diane. Check water quality and beach health advisories in your area.

  4. denizb33
    January 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Never would have thought of making my own salt, what a nice idea!

    • Theresa
      January 29, 2013 at 10:08 pm

      it’s a lot of fun to do with kids, Deniz…and it makes a great gift!

  5. Lynn
    January 29, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    kind of hard to try here in the Midwest….but interesting read…

    • Theresa
      January 29, 2013 at 10:08 pm

      if only we all had coastline, Lynn!

  6. Becky S.
    January 30, 2013 at 7:34 am

    If I didn’t live in the Midwest, this would be right up my alley. I love being self sufficient. The stove is going, so why not?!

  7. Becky S.
    January 30, 2013 at 7:37 am

    I should have asked with my first post. What is the purpose of the salt, bread and wine?

  8. Jennifer B
    December 17, 2014 at 7:46 am

    Becky S,
    They’re often given as a blessing of a new house, according to many traditions around the world:
    “Bread-that this house may never know hunger; salt- that life may always have flavor; wine- that joy and prosperity may reign forever.”

  9. Carol Mackey
    February 7, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Passing this on to my sons who visit the Keys annually with their families. Their kids (11-17) will think this is cool, I wager. Is there an odor associated with the boiling? Just in case. I wouldn’t want them to have any unpleasant “surprises” . . .although boiling Conch shells is certainly odiferous . . . “More Taing!” =D

    • Theresa
      February 7, 2015 at 11:58 am

      We have a pot on the woodstove for most of the winter, Carol, and I’ve never noticed an odour.

  10. Joanne Platt
    February 9, 2015 at 7:53 am

    Wish I still lived by the ocean, but alas I do not . I would love to try this.

  11. Anna Lapping
    May 18, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    I remember reading that in ABOSAA, and thinking how fun it would be to try. Unfortunately I don’t live near the sea, but I’d love to try it sometime.

  12. Molly
    May 21, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    Once again I bless your Facebook page for pointing me to a post here on OK that I missed seeing. If ever I live near the ocean (or get to visit for any length of time) I will certainly try my hand at this, it sounds like a wonderful natural process. Thank you for the post and for bringing it to new(ish) viewers.

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