Making Herb Salt

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Living in a crowded city, we feel very lucky to have an apartment with a sizable balcony and we take advantage of the outdoor space by making it as lush and green as possible in the warmer months.  Over the last few years, we’ve learned that while tomato plants don’t love our space, herbs thrive and we cram in as many varieties as possible.  These fresh herbs are wonderful for cooking, but as the temperatures begin to drop I know I’ll need to make a final harvest and wonder what I should do with the bounty.  Usually in the past, I’ve stored them in freezer bags or hung them up to dry, but this year I wanted to try making herb salt.

I found a promising technique on Food52 and decided to give it a whirl.  I’m not very comfortable leaving the oven on overnight or when I’m not at home, so I waited until I had a day off to tackle this project.

Basil, Rosemary, Lemon Balm

Basil, Rosemary, Lemon Balm

Sweet Mustard, Lemon Basil, Thyme

Sweet Mustard, Lemon Basil, Thyme

Using some kitchen shears, I snipped off big bunches of the herbs I wanted to use and gave them a good washing, then set them on a tea towel in front of a fan so that they would dry thoroughly–that herb scented air filled the whole apartment and smelled amazing!

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When the herbs had dried I spread them out in a number of metal baking sheets and pans, and covered them generously with regular kosher salt.  I turned the oven dial until I heard the pilot light click on (I’m guessing it hit just a little over a 100 degrees but I didn’t have the oven thermometer on), put the trays of herbs in, and set my timer for 8 hours.

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Later that evening, I pulled the trays out of the oven, checked to make sure they seemed thoroughly dry and got out the food processor.  In a few short minutes, I had my finished herb salts all nicely poured into a few unused mason jars. I’m so excited to use these all winter, especially the rosemary salt, which funnily enough, I plan to use on popcorn!

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A few tips:

Before you start, think about which herbs you would like to combine or keep separate.  I made one mixed herb salt that used a little of everything I had in my garden, but also made batches of single-herb salt for those with flavors that I use very specifically in certain dishes.

Be sure to have plenty of salt on hand.  I used nearly half a box of Morton Kosher Salt, which is about 1.5 lbs of salt.

If your herbs have stalks that become woody (most of mine do, especially at this point in the year) consider removing the leaves from the stalk prior to drying.  I only removed the leaves from the rosemary, and after drying the other stalks become brittle and it was harder to remove the leaves without them breaking into the mixture.

Once dried, some of the smaller leaves were harder to break up in the food processor.  They kept “floating” to the top uncut.  You might want to give them a little crush before processing.

Since this is intended to be more of a finishing salt, you may want to use something nicer that kosher salt.  Next year, I may try fleur de sel or Himalayan rock salt.

If you have lots of herbs, go ahead and make a large batch.  These would be great gifts to give to friends and family around the holidays.

After I popped these in the oven, I started doing further research on methods and next year I may try this one from Food Wishes.  I think this slightly different technique might address some of the problems I ran into.

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