South Carolina correspondent Allison Littman updates readers about her summer spent in an Oregon sustainable community.
In our constant attempt to live sustainably, the Aprovecho interns recently discovered that the kitchen was running low on salt. However, we did not venture to the local grocery store to buy the product shipped from miles away, although most of us agreed that would be our normal response. Instead, we headed west to the Oregon coast to utilize one of the ocean's inherent resources -- salt.
We had hefty ambitions, and hoped to return home with a loot of four cups of salt. From prior experience, an intern estimated that we would need to boil twenty gallons of saltwater. So, without wasting any time, as soon as we arrived at a suitable sandy beach, we set up our salting station with two stoves side-by-side. Two brave interns waded into the freezing water far enough to fill a couple of five-gallon buckets with sand-free ocean water. We allowed each bucket to settle slightly, so that any suspended sand would sink to the bottom. Following that, we scooped several cups into the first bucket for a preliminary boiling. After becoming hot enough, we transferred the water to the other stove, into a cast iron skillet. Next, we waited. It became apparent after an hour that the salt precipitating in the pan was not any common table salt. Instead, a red powder accompanied the white crystals.
After several minutes of deliberation, we all concluded that iron was being pulled from the skillet in the boiling process. So, what we saw in the bottom of the pan was an iron-salt mixture. It turns out that a stainless steel pot is preferable, but we did not pack one for the trip. So, somewhat disheartened, we decided to redeem the voyage by harvesting a few buckets of seaweed that we incorporated into several of our daily meals the week after. Our final resolutions: try again with a steel skillet and pick up a box of Morton's on the way home.