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Salt shakerWhen planning your long-term food storage, don’t forget to include basic ingredients such as sugar, spices, and salt. These can all become very valuable for bartering with people who overlooked stocking up on the basics, and they can make your own life much more normal during periods of long-term scarcity. How much do you need to stock? More than you think you do. Today we’re going to focus on salt.

Salt is one of the things that made civilization possible. Sure, it makes food taste good, but its real value is in it’s ability to preserve food. When you can preserve surplus food, your chances for survival through a tough winter, summer drought, or other disaster or emergency go way up.

Today we take salt for granted, but for thousands of years it was hard to come by. Traders established “salt roads” or well-worn trading paths through countries that didn’t have access to salt. Wars were fought over salt. In some places they were paid with salt. That’s where we get the expression, “He’s not worth his salt,” and others like it. The story of salt’s impact on the human culture and commerce is fascinating and we recommend Mark Kurlansky’s book, Salt: A World History. (This guy has written a lot of interesting looking books, including more than one book on salt, books on cod, and baseball. He’s also co-written a book with Food Network and Travel Channel stars Andrew Bourdain and Mark Zimmern.)

In the right proportions, sea salt has small amounts of essential nutrients that the body needs: iodine, iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, and zinc. We all know by now that too much salt has adverse health consequences, so keep that in mind as you plan your emergency food strategy. Your body may need some extra salt during times of emergency stress and manual labor, but don’t let that become an excuse for overdoing it. Some freeze-dried entrees are overly heavy with salt. We’ve found that using the entree as a topping for pasta, rice, or potatoes not only cuts your salt intake, it also stretches your food supply.

Today, we manufacture so much salt, and so many different kinds of salt, that it’s easy to take it for granted. But imagine there is no more salt. Well, there is salt, but it’s in the ocean. How do you get it out? For a look at the modern process, check out this on-site tour from: www.theKitchn.com.

Can you harvest your own salt? Sure. And the good news is, it’s easy. The hardest part is that you need to find a source of clean seawater. That’s a lot easier for people living near the coast than for most of us. Beware: Seawater is not the same everywhere. Ensure you’re using clean water that contains no runoff or chemicals. This eliminates public beaches and seawater from harbors or near industrial operations. Collect your water as far away from civilization as possible. You’ll get about 2 cups of salt per four gallons of water, so even though it’s a time-consuming process, the return is worth it.

Boiling method:

  • Clean seawater
  • A strainer, cheesecloth, or cotton fabric with no soap residue
  • A large kettle or pot
  • A fire source
  • Strain the seawater through the cloth and the sieve to remove any large particles (like sand). Bring the strained water to a boil in a large pot or kettle. After the water boils for a minute, reduce the fire or heat until the water just simmers. You’ll be simmering water for a long time, so be patient. When you see salt crystals start to form in the bottom of the pot and there is just a little water left, remove the pot from the heat source. In order to not burn the salt it’s a good idea to finish evaporating the water in an oven or kiln or by letting it dry in the sun.

Or

Evaporating method:

  • Clean seawater
  • A strainer, cheesecloth, or cotton fabric with no soap residue
  • Large glass trays (like Pyrex baking dishes)
  • Strain the seawater through the cloth and the sieve. Pour the strained water into glass trays. (Don’t use metal or you’ll end up with bad-tasting salt and a corroded tray.) Leave the trays in the sun or by the fire and allow the water to evaporate.

Whichever method you choose, when the water is gone you’ll be left with large salt crystals. Break them up and store your salt in clean glass or ceramic containers.

Do you live too far inland to make harvesting your own sea salt feasible? You still need to stock up. Here’s a link for a good long-term storage option. It’s for regular iodized salt, not sea salt.

For information about preserving food with salt, check out this site: http://www.ehow.com/how_2123649_preserve-food-saltcuring.html.

We welcome your comments.

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