We make sea salt directly from locally (Chatham and Falmouth) harvested seawater. We concentrate the brine two different ways depending on the season. During the warmer months of the year (May through October) we evaporate seawater down the traditional way using just the sun and wind. We call this “summer salt.” However, during the colder months (December through March) when solar evaporation rates are very low, we allow the seawater to freeze on cold days and nights and then remove the ice that forms. Here we take advantage of a natural oceanic process called “brine rejection,” that occurs when seawater freezes and the dissolved salt is separated from water during ice crystalization. We call the resulting salt “winter salt.”
Salt works were numerous throughout the Cape’s shore lands in the early to mid-1800s, both Chatham and Falmouth were major centers of production on the Cape. Up until 2015 we made our salt here in Chatham’s Old Village, but this past year we’ve moved our operation to the Pariah Dog Farm in Falmouth.
FYI: Seawater is about 3% salt – so it takes about 5 gallons of seawater to make 1 pint of salt. Sea salt is mostly (~86%) Sodium Chloride (NaCl), but also includes a host of other natural salts (e.g., CaCO3, CaSO4 2H2O, MgCl2, MgSO4, NaBr, KCl). Depending upon the specifics of the weather the day of “salting off” when the brine is brought all the way down to salt crystals, the sea salt produced will contain different fractions of these trace salts as well as a certain tiny fraction of very pickled and dried marine micro-biology (e.g., plankton, algae) as well as local pollens in their seasons. We collect seawater from specific waters at different times – so the salts produced in these “batches,” while broadly similar, have somewhat different flavors, textures and trace ingredients. So both the source as well as the weather on “salting off” days will affect the texture and taste of the sea salt produced. For these reasons, we label each bottle of our sea salt with the water source, the day of collection and the day of harvest – sea salts from different harvests are therefore unique.
We make maple syrup every year from the sap of American sugar maples in the late winter / early spring months of February, March and April. We’ve been doing this every year for last decade on my daughter’s 70 acre farm in Germantown, NY in the upper Hudson Valley of eastern New York (Columbia County). We tap about 400 trees and produce about 50-100 gallons of syrup most years. Our sugar shack is off the grid in the “back forty” so to speak, and so, we also cook it down an old-fashioned way – in a large open flat pan (3’ x 7’) on an earthen masonry stove (called an “arch”) over a hot wood fire. It’s a method that lends itself to making individual batches of about 5-10 gallons (of syrup) over a 1-2 day period. It’s a long cook, so our syrup tends to be darker, smokier and, we think, more flavorful than that produced by other more modern methods.
We stalk the erratically available native wild plum or Beach Plum (Prunus maritimus) in late August and September. The Beach Plum annual harvest is notoriously unpredictable. For example, last year’s harvest was very good, but this year looks to be poor to middlin’, and some years can produce no plums at all. Beach Plum Jelly is famous concoction on the Cape. Recipes abound on the internet, but the basics for jelly making are 1/3 whole fruits (strain out the pits after cooking), 1/3 sugar, 1/3 water with some pectin suggested in the case of beach plums. Also consider making cordial: Also 1/3 whole fruits, 1/3 sugar and 1/3 vodka or brandy. Mix together and let sit for 6 weeks or more before draining through a colander and bottling—great winter holidays perk up.