Outer Banks SeaSalt is a specialty ingredient straight from our shore.
By itself, salt isn’t much.
It needs something else to make it work. With food, it flavors. With metal, it rusts. With water, it sustains. Along the Outer Banks, salt water supports the local economy, from tourists to fishermen.
Amy Huggins understands this important relationship between work and water. She moved to the Outer Banks in 1986 from Jackson, Michigan, a city on a peninsula surrounded by the Great Lakes.
In 2005, she started Outer Banks Epicurean, a culinary business that offers cooking classes and chef services focused on local seafood. Three years ago, while making a grocery list for her business, Huggins wrote the words “sea salt.” It felt odd to her to pay for something from a far-off ocean when she lives beside the Atlantic.
So Huggins headed to the beach with a bucket. She returned to the house, put the salt water on the stove, and let it boil. After the water evaporated, Huggins ended up with a powdery, white residue inside the pot.
Extracting salt from salt water isn’t a quick transformation. When salt dissolves into water, it loses its crystalline structure, and it takes a while to get it back. Huggins went through gallons of water while practicing the process. She learned to work in small batches, no more than 10 gallons of water at a time. She now allows two days for one batch, heating it up, letting it rest, and heating it again. One gallon of salt water produces just three and a half ounces of salt.
Huggins calls her product Outer Banks SeaSalt. And she sells it in 10 specialty stores on the coast. At $14.95 for a four-ounce jar, Huggins’s salt isn’t competing with Morton. It’s too coarse for table salt, and it cakes together in the shaker.
Instead, Outer Banks SeaSalt is a finisher — the sprinkle on top of a grilled steak or a chocolate candy that enhances the flavor. The special-occasion ingredient that alone seems extravagant, but every once in a while, it works.
Leah Hughes is an associate editor at Our State magazine.