Forager Finds: Sea Salt

seasalt

As you’ve likely heard, at Ocean House, we’re extremely proud of our commitment to a farm-to-table philosophy where locality and seasonality is paramount. The collection as a whole has the pleasure of working with farmers that practice responsible, sustainable food production, and I’m the lucky chef that has the privilege of forging relationships with those talented individuals. From back yard gardeners to cheese mongers, oyster farmers to beekeepers and many more, these are the people who provide us with superior products that our chefs transform into inspired five-star dishes. Whether it’s Chef Devin at Weekapaug Inn asking for local honey, or Chef Jacob in Seasons at the Ocean House looking for very small borage sprouts, or Chef Jen at Spicer Mansion looking to highlight lamb on this weekend’s menu, I’m your guy!

…the Atlantic Ocean is quite literally
on our doorstep.

B

ut awhile back, Ocean House Executive Chef John Kolesar tasked me with finding high quality, local sea salt. There were, of course, lots of options. As our sourcing radius is approximately 150 miles, with the ocean comprising a fair bit of that range, my extensive search began.

Amidst my search, a few standouts came to mind; there was some amazing Maine sea salt, some super flavorful salt from Wellfleet, Massachusetts and Kenyon’s sea salt from right here in Rhode Island. However being a forager, and in the spirit of sourcing quality product as close to home as possible, my attention turned to our back yard. For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to visit Ocean House, the Atlantic Ocean is quite literally on our doorstep.

Right beyond the walls of the resort was all the sea salt I could ever want, with the added bonus of it being free! Then came the tricky part; how could I turn diluted seawater into the flaky crystals that chefs go crazy over? The first step, of course, was to collect the seawater. For that step I immediately looked to local expert, Mr. Sam Fusaro. Sam has been a steward of the beaches and waters of Westerly, RI since before I was born! Naturally, he was a perfect resource to turn to for suggesting harvesting locations.

Sam suggested a handful of locations he thought would work best. There was the lighthouse at Watch Hill Point, the breach way at Weekapaug, or the beach at Ocean House. All were great locations, and we both agreed that high tide was the best time to collect the water.

Then began the trial and error process. How long to boil the water for? Do I let it evaporate in the oven or at room temperature? How should I handle the salt when it’s still wet? All of these things were part of the learning curve.

You’ve heard the expression “…so bad I could burn water.” Yup. That happened. But after several tries (and Sam making endless trips to the ocean for me) I finally came up with a method.

  1. Gather 10 gallons ocean water from a Sam-approved location.
  2. Filter water to remove any sand or ocean debris.
  3. Boil 10 gallons of ocean water down to 3 gallons (no salt will have formed yet).
  4. Separate remaining 3 gallons into two 1½-gallon batches.
  5. Place smaller batches of water on a very low stovetop overnight. Water should be kept hot, but prevented from boiling or simmering. A slow cooker can also be used for this step.
  6. When salt crystals begin to form, and water has almost completely evaporated, carefully scoop salt out of pot and onto a sheet pan lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
  7. Place salt in an oven heated to no more than 140° for 8-16 hours until salt is cured and dry.
  8. Transfer to an airtight jar.

Our homemade sea salt is used at all of the Ocean House Management Collection Properties, and specially featured during dinner bread service at Spicer Mansion! And this summer, we’re looking at other exciting ways to highlight this super-local treasure. Stay Tuned!

– Your Friendly Neighborhood Food Forager