Fragrant Herb Salt -From Your Garden To Your Kitchen
Salt is our most used seasoning. In fact, in many recipes “seasoning” just means salt and pepper. Salt has also been the preferred preservative of humans since our earliest attempts to save some food for another day.
In the Bible it means, permanence, loyalty, durability or fidelity. In Greek, Persian, Hebrew, Arabic texts salt is related to a covenant or a binding relationship. It is an essential part of life.
Herbs are aromatic, edible plants that add flavor, scent, color and vitamins to our meals.
Use Them Together
It’s simple, combine salt and herbs; they form a convenient flavor agent for anything we cook, the salt preserves the herbs, and the herbs help us flavor our food in a way that is not all salt. It is a symbiotic relationship we can’t beat!
Using Salt and Herbs
Making herbed salt is one more way to use the herbs that we grow in our gardens and creates a convenient way to enhance our meals. This will:
Preserve our fresh herbs.
Create a complex but convenient seasoning for anything we cook.
Add color and interest to meals.
Your fresh herbs, combined with salt, and possibly some other spices and flavors can provide endless flavor options for your meals and snacks.
What Herbs Work Best?
Here is a dependable list:
These are primarily sturdy and resinous herbs and the salt you make can keep unrefrigerated for a long time. Basil, a soft herb, is the surprise, but it works well.
Some Ways To Use Your Herb Salt:
Try in some of these dishes.
- On poultry and meats to roast
- Unique popcorn
- Egg dishes
- Spreads and dips,
- Marinades and sauces
- Soups and stews
- Pizza and Grilled Cheese
- With olive oil for fresh bread
What Mixture Is Best
Infused salt is the most intuitive of recipes. Combine salt with one or more herbs. You can add other flavorings. The classic Tuscan herb salt that every northern Italian cook must have next to the stove contains a little chopped garlic.
Three Ways-What’s Your Preference?
In The MIddle
There is a range of opinions here. Many cooks mix herbs and salt 50/50. A cup of loosly packed herbs to a cup of salt.
I use a higher ratio of salt to herb and my salt dries easily overnight without any heat. I think that avoiding heat maintains better fresh flavor. You may feel differently. The mixtures with more herbs than salt take longer to dry and you may need to use the heat of a very low oven. (Below 200)
I keep Rosemary salt ready to use and make some for gifts. The recipe is in the recipe section below.
Heavy on the Herbs
I see recipes suggesting ratios as high as 3 cups of fresh herbs to ½ cup of salt. This, once blended will make a green salt with a very moist texture. This ratio would be stored in a sealed glass container in the refrigerator. This has the texture of a salty herb paste. You could easily coat a roast in this.
As your product dries the vivid green color will fade to a softer shade. Salt’s value as a preservative will keep it flavorful for a long time.
How to Store Herb Salt
Use glass containers with tightly sealed covers. We find that the taste of plastic will be noticeable over time.
What Else Can I Add?
Use your imagination, add flavors you like which can be dried.
- Dried peppers
- Citrus zest and dried rind
Recipe Ideas: Special Herb Salt Versions
- Classic Tuscan Herb Salt-This is from the great PBS radio show “The Splendid Table” use garlic, 4-5 fresh peeled cloves, 2 cups fresh sage and rosemary, ½ cup kosher salt. Roughly chop in your food processor or with a knife.
Uses-to salt any poultry or roast, vegetables and beans, egg dishes and so they say a Bloody Mary!
- Herbes de Provence salt, use Rosemary, thyme, lavender, savory and salt. Also from The Splendid Table. The cooks on this show make simple butter cookies and sprinkle them with this salt!
In both cases spread the herb salt over a sheet pan and dry overnight.
- My Favorite Herb Salt, the product of trial and error. Now I can do it with my eyes closed.
One cup of herb leaves, removed from the stem and packed. One cup kosher salt, 3 cups flaky sea salt. (I use Alessi brand because they are a local Florida company and I like the product.) Use a true coarse, flaky sea salt.
Steps: using the food processor I blend the kosher salt and the herbs, if using garlic add it now. The large salt crystals are now uniformly small. Add this to the sea salt crystals and mix thouroughly. Spread on a parchment covered sheet pan to dry overnight. My favorite mix is with rosemary, the result is a green flaked white salt, it keeps for an extended period and has a distinctive herb scent.
- Bright summer mix-Chive, Dill, basil & lemon zest-fish, eggs, fresh vegetables
- Cilantro, lime & garlic-any tropical recipes, particularly fish
- Gremolata salt-parsley, lemon zest & garlic-snapper, lamb, osso buco
- Hungarian paprika salt with marjoram & thyme. Here’s the full recipe.
What Makes Salt So Useful?
Salt is perfect to enhance and preserve the flavors of herbs for two reasons. It magnifies the flavor of food and at the same time, it preserves food. In salt, our fresh herbs taste great and they last. Salt enables us to enjoy them all year long.
Salt in Our History
Because salt could preserve food it allowed civilization to progress. People could preserve food for times of the year when food was hard to find and it made food able to be transported over long distances. People could move to find better locations with some confidence that they could eat along the way.
Salt And Flavors
Salt enhances the flavor of virtually all food items. Why? It’s biology; our bodies require sodium chloride. It absorbs and transports nutrients, maintains blood pressure, and keeps the right balance of fluid. It can intensify good tastes and minimize bad ones. Some flavor compounds are just too delicate to notice, salt brings that out, it allows us to detect the subtle and complex flavors of even simple foods.
I took a series of cooking classes and the instructor, wisely. required us to cook dishes without salt. Then, we would slowly add salt, a bit at a time, constantly tasting, with little disposable spoons. What we noticed was not more salt as we added it, what we noticed was more flavor. This was a revealing exercise and I never forgot it!
Salt Dries and Dehydrates Food.
These are the three major classes of salt and how they affect your food.
Table Salt-has small consistent crystals. This makes it best for baking because it distributes more evenly in batters and doughs. You can buy it without iodine. It is less commonly used in herb-infused salt as it has the most “salty” flavor and commonly includes the most additives.
Kosher salt– called cooking salt, flake salt, kitchen salt-is a coarse salt without iodine or common additives. It is sodium chloride and may have anti caking additives. It is desirable because it lacks common additives of table salt such as iodine, fluoride or dextrose. These can have a metallic taste. The crystal size is larger than table salt. This makes it seem slightly less salty and more “pinchable” and easier to handle than table salt. It is made from rock salt from mines or from evaporated sea water.
Sea salt-has large irregular grains and a pleasant crunch and briny flavor. It is created by the evaporation of saltwater and is primarily sodium chloride with some trace minerals which can add flavor and color. Minimally processed, it contains some minerals, including potassium, iron, and calcium. You should find it more expensive than the first two.
Summary, Using Your Garden Yield
Fresh garden herbs are always ready to use. You can easily grow them, and there are endless ways to use them. Some ideas may surprise you. Here are some resources you can use in your garden and your kitchen.