This Chef is Growing His Own Salt, and It's Delicious

© Jonathan Sawyer
By Justine Sterling Posted February 03, 2015

Not all salt comes from the ocean—some comes from a mason jar in Ohio.

Not all salt comes from the ocean—some comes from a mason jar in Ohio. At Cleveland’s Restaurant Trentina, chef Jonathan Sawyer and the restaurant’s resident forager and “fermentationist” Jeremy Umansky are growing their own flavored finishing salts.

How? Well, you actually need salt to make salt. And there's a ton of it kicking around at Trentina because Sawyer and Umansky are famous for housemade charcuterie, salted cheese and vegetables. "We go through a case of salt every week,” Sawyer says, “so why not reuse it?” The process starts with a super-salty solution of the recycled salt and water. Sawyer ties a string to a spoon or stick, suspends it into the solution and waits. As the water evaporates, salt crystals begin to form on the string. When the whole string is covered in giant crystals after about 30 days or so, it’s removed and set out to dry. Then, the salt gets misted with the brine, which hardens onto the crystals, imbuing them with color and the flavor of whatever it came from. Most recently, the team grew chanterelle salt, but in the past they’ve also made lobster roe salt, fish salt and grapefruit salt.

If you want to grow your own salt at home, Umansky recommends starting with a seasonal blood orange salt. “I love the pairing of citrus and salt,” he says. Simply add some blood orange juice and zest to a mix of water and salt (making sure that the salt is still 30 percent of the solution), suspend a string in the brine, place the jar in a cool, dry, undisturbed place and wait for your delicious science project to crystalize.

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