I grew up in a household where there was just one kind of salt. It was your basic, run of the mill iodized table salt. My mom kept ours in a vintage ceramic shaker that lived by the stove. It didn’t then occur to me that salt could come in any other format.
I discovered kosher salt in my 20s. By that point, I was living in Philadelphia and had taken something of a shine to food television. I watched Nigella Lawson, Rachael Ray and Sara Moulton with something close to religious dedication. One thing I began to notice that they all had in common was the way they salted their food. They used kosher salt, kept it in a small bowl by the stove and added it by the pinch, not the shake.
Since those early days, I’ve added a number of different salts to my kitchen. I use fine sea salt on popcorn and prepare a chicken for roasting with coarse sea salt. I add smoked salts to savory jams for a bit of campfire char and keep moist gray salt on the table for mealtimes. However, one of the very best things I learned about salt is that it takes nearly no effort to infuse it with various flavors right in your kitchen.
I tuck Meyer lemon peels into a jar of kosher salt and end up with fragrant salt that goes perfectly with fish. Truly, there’s no recipe to speak of for this one. Pour some salt into a jar, add a layer of citrus peel and top with more salt. Continue until the jar is filled. I particularly like combining vanilla bean seeds with flaky salt for sprinkling on chocolate chip cookies.
For more savory salts, I tend to keep a batch of homemade celery salt on my kitchen shelf, along with a small bowl filled with hand-chopped garlic herb salt. It takes all of five minutes to make and is the best thing ever on chicken or stirred into softened butter and spread on chewy bread.
While I love having these flavored salts in my kitchen for my own use, I’ve also found that they make incredible gifts. An assortment of small jars of home-infused salts packaged in sturdy brown paper gift bags is a perfect gift for your favorite hostess, mother-in-law or friend.
Garlic Herb Salt
Inspired by a recipe demonstrated by Sally Schneider in a video posted to A Splendid Table’s website, I keep this salt around at all times now.
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1/2 cup mixed fresh herbs – flat leaf parsley, rosemary, thyme and sage all work nicely
Place garlic cloves on a large cutting board and gently smash them with the flat side of your knife. Add half the salt and chop it into the garlic, until you have a paste of garlic and salt. Place the herbs on top of the paste and chop them in. As you chop the herbs into the garlic and salt paste, slowly add the remaining salt, until it is completely integrated.
The salt can be used immediately, or it can be spread on a plate to dry. If you prefer keeping it in its moist form, pack it into a jar and refrigerate for up to a week. Dried, it will last for weeks in a tightly capped jar.
Makes: 1/2 cup
Use this salt on top of chocolate chip cookies or dusted over intensely flavored puddings.
- 1/2 cup flaky Maldon sea salt
- 2 vanilla beans
Pour salt into a low bowl.
Using the tip of a paring knife, split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise, so that you expose the inner seeds. Using the blade of the knife, scrape the seeds out of the beans. Place the seeds on top of the salt and gently toss the vanilla bean seeds into the salt. You want to take care not to break up the big, flaky pieces of salt.
Once the seeds are well integrated into the salt, coil the empty beans into the bottom of the jar you plan on storing the salt in. Pour the fragrant salt over the beans and place a lid on the jar. Store out of direct sunlight to preserve the flavor and scent of the vanilla.
Makes: 1/2 cup
This recipe is inspired by one that Heidi Swanson posted to her blog, 101 Cookbooks. Use it on eggs, in salads and with anything else that appreciates a vegetal snap.
- 1 bunch celery
- 1/2 cup coarse sea salt
Break apart the celery and strip off the leaves, until you have enough to tightly cover a large, rimmed cookie sheet. Wash the celery leaves and spin or pat them until thoroughly dry. Arrange them on the cookie sheet and toast them in a 350° F oven for 4-6 minutes, until they look like leaves in late summer – crisp and dry, but not yet brown.
Funnel the dried leaves into a small jar and top with salt. Place a lid on the jar and shake until the salt and celery leaves are fully incorporated.
Provided that the celery leaves truly had no more moisture left, this salt will keep for months.
Makes: 1/2 cup