Gourmet Herbed Salts

Salt.

It has been around for a long, long time, with evidence of its use dating back as far as 6500 B.C. The British evaporated salt by boiling seawater from salt spri­ngs in small clay pots over open fires during the Iron Age.

Salt was used as money by the many ancient cultures, including the ancient Romans; the roots of the words “soldier” and “salary” can be traced to Latin words related to giving or receiving salt. The word “salad” also originated from “salt,” and began with the early Romans salting their leafy greens and vegetables.

During the Middle Ages, salt was transported along roads built especially for that purpose; the most famous of which is the Old Salt Route in Northern Germany.

It was not uncommon for civilizations to go to war over salt. Salt tax was one of the causes of the French Revolution. More recently, in colonial India, the British government controlled salt production and monopolized profits from it. Of course, it was Indians doing the producing. Gandhi protested this monopoly in March 1930, marching for 23 days with his followers to the coast. When he arrived there, he violated the law by boiling a chunk of salty mud. This march became known as the Salt March to Dandi, or the Salt Satyagraha, after which people began making their own salt in protest. The Salt March went on to become an important milestone in the struggle for Indian independence from the British, which came to pass in 1947.

There are numerous references to salt in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. One of the most famous is Lot’s wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt in Genesis after disobeying God’s command. A rock-salt pillar that stands today on Mount Sodom is known as “Lot’s Wife.” Salt is used in Shintoism to purify things, and Buddhists use salt to repel evil.

As children, we were told we would have to pick up each grain of salt that we spilled in life, by being careless, in the afterlife with our eyelashes. We were also told that giving someone our salt, by way of our tears, was a sign of how deeply we cared.

On the way to the beach, one of a few on the Arabian Sea, hills of salt drying were a common sight.  My uncle would always stop, and while we climbed these hills, he would purchase freshly dried rocks of salt to carry back home to my aunt as a gift.  It was a ritual every time we made the journey to the sea, and while he chatted with the man whose salt hills we climbed, we’d enjoy a good lick here and there.  Some hunters where I live now set up blocks of salt as a way to lure deer, who enjoy a good salt lick as much as I did as a child.

Salt is an essential element in the diet of not only humans but of animals and also plants. Salt loving plants are called halophytes. It is said that in a pinch one can use properly prepared coltsfoot leaves as a salt substitute.

Salt remains an effective method of food preservation, key to pickling and fermentation. It is one of the five tastes or flavors, what is called ‘salty’.

If you have shed tears and tasted them as they drip down your nose, you have tasted salt.

If you have experienced sweat dripping from your forehead, entering the cracks of your eyes and stinging them, you have felt salt.

If you have walked along the seashore, relishing in being where a fiery sky kisses earth and water, breathing deeply of the air, there, you have inhaled the scent of salt.

And once you have emerged from the warm brine, seaweed dripping from your hair, and you lay down to dry with a sea shell in your hand, you see your skin is marked with a white residue:
Salt.

Do you hear it call out to you?
Feel the instinctive pull to add a pinch to your food, a pinch to lemonade, a pinch under your tongue when your blood pressure has dropped?

Salt.
What a difference it makes, whether as a sprinkle or a shower!

Salty days, sweaty days, they call to me to make my annual herbed salts while playing with this full moon. The garden is lush with sage, buzzing with thyme, chives, and a bit of lovage as yet. I receive my cues from them as to what flavors to create with.

The recipes are below for your pleasure; adjust them if you prefer stronger flavors or milder ones to suit your tastes. Add some red chilli flakes, fresh lemon verbena, or fresh basil, working with the herbs in your garden. I have made salt with coriander and cumin seeds, orange peels, and fresh shiso, as well as sumac berries, orange zest, and fresh thyme.  Try Celtic Salt, Coarse Sea Salt, Pink Himalayan Salt, Maldon Salt Flakes, Hawaiian Red Alaea Salt, Black Sea Salt, Smoked Sea Salt, there are so many kinds of salt to explore!

Make a few small batches with 1/2 or 1/4 of the proportions to see where your preferences live, get creative, and enjoy the process 😊
A little bit makes a big difference.

Savory Sage Salt

 

2 cups coarse sea salt
1 cup himalyan pink salt
1/2 cup red alaea salt
1/2 cup black salt

1/8 cup juniper berries
1/8 cup garlic powder or 8 cloves finely minced garlic
zest of 4 lemons
2 – 3 cups worth fresh sage, loosely packed
1 – 2 cups fresh thyme

optional:
1 cup fresh thyme, ground in a grinder
1 cup fresh sage, ground in a grinder

Preheat oven to between 150 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Spread salts on a rimmed baking sheet.
Arrange the remaining ingredients on the salts, other than the optional ones.
Bake until the herbs and zest are dry, approximately an hour or so; you have to check.
Remove from oven, turning the oven off.
Crumble everything together.
Pulse part of the salt in a grinder with as much juniper as you can spoon out.
Combine with the mixture that’s left on the baking sheet, which should still be slightly warm.
Add the optional herbs, if using, and meld them together with your hands.
Put the baking sheet back in the turned off oven, which should still be slightly warm, until completely cool.
If the oven has no warmth, preheat it back to 150, turn it off, and proceed with the previous step.
Store in glass jars, I put a muslin bag of white rice at the bottom of the jar to keep the salt from getting damp.

Fragrant Lovage Salt

 

2 cups coarse sea salt
1 cup himalyan pink salt
1 cup red alaea salt

1/4 cup orange peel powder
2 – 3 cups fresh lovage leaves and some stems, loosely packed
2 -3 cups fresh chives, loosely packed
1 -2 cups fresh parsley, loosely packed

optional:
1 cup fresh lovage, ground in a grinder
1 cup fresh chives, ground in a grinder
1 cup fresh parsley, ground in a grinder

Preheat oven to between 150 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Spread salts on a rimmed baking sheet.
Arrange the remaining ingredients on the salts, other than the optional ones.
Bake until the herbs and zest are dry, approximately an hour or so; you have to check.
Remove from oven, turning the oven off.
Crumble everything together.
Pulse part of the salt in a grinder with as much juniper as you can spoon out.
Combine with the mixture that’s left on the baking sheet, which should still be slightly warm.
Add the optional herbs, if using, and meld them together with your hands.
Put the baking sheet back in the turned off oven, which should still be slightly warm, until completely cool.
If the oven has no warmth, preheat it back to 150, turn it off, and proceed with the previous step.
Store in glass jars, I put a muslin bag of white rice at the bottom of the jar to keep the salt from getting damp.

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