This post comes to us courtesy of cookbook author and food writer Karen Solomon.
OK, so, I love salt. I use kosher salt for pickling, curing and cooking. My little black dress tableside is Maldon sea salt, the British salt sensation with its huge, honking flakes of minerally, clean salt flavor and crunchy texture.
For special occasions, I also bust out the finishing salt coiture. I have some awesome smoked salt that I received as a gift, and I use it liberally in chilis and soups or on meats whenever I want a bit of smoky flavor. And for years I have been addicted to Eatwell Farms’ Rosemary Salt, their homegrown rosemary mixed with sal gris. I have such a crush on it that it feels like I’m cheating if I eat eggs or potatoes without it.
But I am the gal who is all about decreasing reliance on processed or store-bought food as much as possible. If I can make it myself, I like to give it a try. Recently, rock star blogger Heidi Swanson gave me an amazing idea: make your own celery salt. Her technique? Dry out celery leaves in the oven until fully dry and toasty. Crumble and mix with an equal amount of Maldon. It’s a totally fun and easy project for the kitchen crafter with just a few minutes to spare. Heidi, I am stealing this and calling it my own!
But don’t just stop with celery. Think about fresh herbs like lemon verbena (awesome), sage (gorgeous), thyme (hot dog!) or rose geranium (whew! perfumey). I’ve got my eye on dill, kaffir lime leaves and kale, and I can’t wait to see how well they will dry and how much of their flavor they will retain.
Simply lay dry leaves in a single layer, not touching, on a Silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet. Dry them in the oven at 200°F until they shrivel and get crunchy (however, note that sometimes they won’t feel crunchy until they cool for a minute). Small leaves will dry faster, of course, but the process should take 5 to 20 minutes or so.
Once dry, crumble the leaves and lift the edges of the Silpat or parchment to make a cone; pour into a spice bottle. Add an equal amount of Maldon or regular sea salt, cover and shake to combine. Store in your pantry. It will last a while, but the flavor will be best when fresh. Use this to finish food at the table and to make your flavors sparkle.
About the author: Karen Solomon is the author of Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It and Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It (Ten Speed Press). She has been a well-published food writer for over a decade. Her edible musings on the restaurant scene, sustainable food programs, culinary trends, food history, and recipe development have appeared in Vegetarian Times, Fine Cooking, Prevention, Yoga Journal, Organic Style, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Zagat Survey: San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants, and elsewhere.