Growing herbs is a popular pastime as they are easy to grow and nothing can match the taste that fresh herbs add to our favorite dishes. However, the winter season can leave us longing for their distinctive fresh taste. Of course, you can preserve herbs by drying them and storing them in glass jars, but their vibrant flavors are missing. So, is there a way that we can keep the fresh flavors of summer herbs alive throughout the year? Herb salts are a wonderful way to preserve the flavors of summer while adding a gourmet touch to your favorite dishes. A healthy bonus is that you need less salt to flavor your food when used along with herbs.
While you can purchase herb salts at your local specialty grocery store, they are easy to make at home using herbs straight from the garden. The ingredient list for herb salts is short - all you need is kosher salt and the fresh herb(s) of your choice.
When getting started with herb salts, I recommend beginning with making basil salt, which is the easiest to make and so versatile. You’ll need ½ cup of fresh basil leaves, a ½ cup of kosher salt (or coarse sea salt), a food processor, and a baking sheet. Put the basil and kosher salt into the food processor and pulse for approximately 30 seconds. The mixture will be wet and should look like green sand with tiny flecks of basil. Spread out the mixture in a thin layer on a baking sheet and place in an oven heated to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 15 minutes and then stir the mixture and bake for another 15 minutes until completely dry.
Take the basil salt out of the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before using your fingers to grind up any remaining clumps. Your first batch of herb salt is ready to use right away or can be stored in a tightly sealed glass jar for up to a year, available for use whenever the fresh taste of herbs is desired. The ratio of salt to herbs can be adjusted by increasing the amount of herb with the salt if desired.
Rosemary salt is another popular salt blend, which is made up of 1/3 cup rosemary leaves and 3 1/3 cups kosher salt. *Optional – add 2 Tablespoons lemon zest.
Parsley, sage, and thyme are other delicious options for making an herb salt using a single herb. It’s important to note that the ratio of salt to herbs can be adjusted by increasing the amount of herb in relation to the salt, to your desired taste.
Combinations of herbs can be mixed with kosher salt to create custom blends for a gourmet touch to a favorite dish. Suggestions include using rosemary, sage, and thyme along with garlic and salt to add a Tuscan flair. There are no rules when it comes to what herbs to add to your salt blend. Have fun experimenting until you find the perfect combination! Use in place of salt along with an extra dash of herb flavor to kick up your recipes a notch on the flavor scale. Herb salts make great gifts and are a wonderful way to share the bounty of your garden.Photo credit: Noelle Johnson