Salt maker Brady Ryan collecting the harvest on his salt farm.
Photos by Dave Hanson
by Laura Steiger, Outreach Team
What do you get when you combine sea water, greenhouses, and sunshine? San Juan Island Sea Salt!
That’s what Brady Ryan discovered, long after his less-successful initial childhood attempts at making sea salt on his parent’s stove. I’ve got to hand it to him—as a kid growing up on San Juan Island and pondering possible homemade gifts, sea salt was a pretty brilliant idea.
No longer relying on the kitchen stove, San Juan Island Sea Salt is produced using solar energy.
Seawater is filtered and collected into 3-inch-deep ponds inside passive greenhouses. It takes 3 to 6 weeks for the sun to finish a batch, and each greenhouse produces 200 to 300 pounds of salt per batch.
Most brands of sea salt, produced by an energy-intensive process of boiling off the water, are almost entirely pure sodium chloride (NaCl), but the ocean is only about 80 to 85 percent NaCl. San Juan Island Sea Salt’s evaporative process retains the mineral wealth of the sea resulting in wonderfully wild and briny flavored salt.
The salt is transferred to drying racks where moisture levels are carefully monitored before the salt is ground and packaged.
An interesting by-product of this process is the production of nigari, also called bittern. Nigari is used as a coagulant in the making of tofu, and the salt farm sells it to people who want to make their own homemade tofu. Who knew?
After careful monitoring to achieve the preferred moisture content, San Juan Island Sea Salt is ground to a consistency similar to fleur de sel. The irregular crystal size, lots of minerality, and a slight moisture content make it ideal as a finishing salt to sprinkle atop your baked goods, meats, vegetables, chocolates and caramels, egg dishes, or pretty much anything that would benefit from a pinch of salt. Of course, you can also use San Juan Island Sea Salt in recipes, just like any common salt.
Due to a combination of the trace minerals in the salt and our wet climate (and steamy kitchens), it’s completely natural if your San Juan Island Sea Salt gets a tiny bit clumpy. When needed, just give the jar a quick whack to loosen and sprinkle on the salty riches of the sea.
From the Salt Maker
Our theory in salting is plain: The simpler the food, the more powerfully our salt impacts your experience of it. With that in mind, here are some of our favorite ways to harness the flavor of the sea.
- Fresh cherry tomatoes with salt and vinegar
- Avocado on toast with salt
- Salt on a fried egg
- Salt on a fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookie
- Salt with nutritional yeast on popcorn