Do your friends a favor, put down the penguin boxers, the earmuff headphones, and that awful candy cane shower gel. Give them something they really need…salt. Everybody needs salt. And these salts are fresh, fragrant, and homemade.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but salt is big right now. You can buy exotic salts form around the world, smoked salts, flavored salts, even big blocks of salt to cook and serve on. I’ve seen an entire store devoted to salt. That was a little weird, but the point is that salts are hot.
These finishing salts are meant to be sprinkled on food before serving. That way their fresh flavors will be most appreciated. I would use these on salads, eggs, meats and fish, veggies, french fries, etc. They would be great on homemade focaccia bread, too. If you put your salt on your food at the end you won’t need as much because you taste it more directly.
But there’s no reason you can’t use these for cooking as well. The rosemary and thyme salt would be great sprinkled on potatoes, or the lemon one on salmon before roasting.
What sets my homemade versions apart is not only the freshness of the flavorings, but the large proportion of flavor to salt. I grabbed these luscious lemons from a friend’s tree yesterday; the rind of just one of them will gloriously flavor a small jar of salt. I removed the zest with a sharp peeler, and grated them up in the small processor. This is a good way to do it if you want lots of zest at one time. Ina Garten does it this way when she makes lemon curd.
The lemon zest is so moist that the salt will have to dry out a bit before being jarred. I left mine spread out on a plate overnight. You could avoid this step by letting the strips of zest dry out before processing.
Woody herbs like rosemary and thyme work well with this project. I used both for my third salt. Clean and dry the herbs thoroughly, then remove the leaves from the stems. You can combine flavors, and use already dried herbs if you want. I think a herbes de Provence salt would be nice, made with dried herbs and lavender.
I made Red Pepper Salt, Lemon Salt, and Rosemary and Thyme Salt. I used dried red peppers, but you could also use red pepper flakes. I used fresh lemon zest, and fresh rosemary and thyme. There isn’t a recipe for these, but just a few guidelines. Use a coarse salt as your base, it could be coarse sea salt, or kosher salt, for example. Choose smallish containers, nobody wants to get a half gallon of salt for the holidays, and your finished product will look so much more ‘gourmet’. Clean and thoroughly dry your flavorings. Process them in a small food processor, adding some of the salt to help it break down and the flavors meld with the salt. Mix in a little more of the coarse salt into your blend before you fill your jar. If the mixture is damp, let it dry overnight before you package it.
You can use any small container for these. Grocery stores and large chain stores like Target sell canning jars of all sizes, but I also like to recycle pretty mustard, jam, and spice jars from my own kitchen. Just keep a bottle of Goo Gone handy and you can revitalize any bottle or jar. You can gift these right in a salt grinder, too.
Have a great Monday!