One hundred plastic bins bask in the sun. Tiny lines ring the sides of each one. “See that sediment?” Brian McMahon asks. “That’s daily.” McMahon explains that the lines appear on the bins as water in them evaporates. The grainy residue is sea salt.
Salt was important in ancient times. It was a seasoning, a disinfectant, a preservative, and even money. The Bible calls Christians salt. (Matthew 5:13) Christians slow moral decay in culture by showing Christ’s love. They add spiritual “flavor” to the world.
Many people prefer sea salt’s taste and texture over regular table salt’s—the kind that is mined from the ground. Sea salt is less processed, so it retains more minerals and does not need additives to prevent clumping.
Ten years ago, Brian and Shaena McMahon were vacationing in the Caribbean. The couple decided to try making sea salt. They used a process similar to what people have used for thousands of years—air and sun. The McMahons dipped out some blue-green Caribbean water and poured it onto the metal pan of a toaster oven. After a few days, the seawater evaporated. It left behind a deposit of white flakes.
“We were surprised how much salt was in the water,” Brian remembers. A business idea was born.
Today, the McMahons run Hatteras Saltworks. Their home on Hatteras Island, North Carolina, is perfect for making sea salt. Two strong ocean currents—the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current—meet there. Minerals from the far reaches of the Atlantic Ocean mix together.
The McMahons’ yard looks like an array of solar panels. Instead of toaster pans, there are scores of solar evaporators built from recycled parts. Each evaporator holds three plastic bins under a pane of glass. Brian collects sea water by pumping from the surf at high tides on full moons—the time when salt content is highest. The North Carolina sun bakes through the glass, bringing temperatures to 170 to 190 degrees inside.
That’s high enough to reach the “kill step,” Brian says, destroying bacteria.
After about a month, all that remains is white salt deposit. A gallon of seawater produces about four ounces of salt. The McMahons crush the sea salt into smaller grains and package it. Hatteras Saltworks offers three flavors—pure, smoked, or rosemary.
Salts from Hawaii, the Himalayas, and France’s rare fleur de sel are world-renowned. Brian hopes Hatteras salt may one day be famous too.
For now, he says, “It’s a labor of love.”