Making flavored salts
Flavored salts are hot in the gourmet world. Walk into just about any gourmet shop, or even your local mega-mart and you'll find small tins of flavored salts for sale. The price on the container may not seem too dramatic - until you calculate out the cost of the product versus the cost of the component ingredients...then you realize you can make these delicious seasonings at home for a fraction of the store price. Here's your guide to making your own flavored salts.
Flavored saltsFlavored salts are a great way to add flavor and lovely color to simple foods, particularly roasted and grilled foods. With summer grilling season on the way, now's the perfect time to make some salts to have on hand for seasoning and finishing grilled veggies and meats.
Some citrus salt sprinkled on chicken or shrimp adds a lovely tang, mushroom salt or sun-dried tomato salt adds a delicious savory element to pork or various veggies, and rosemary or oregano salt will enhance beef or lamb nicely. In addition to "finishing" foods with these salts, you can also include them in flavored rubs to put on foods before cooking.
How to make flavored saltsThe basic procedure for making flavored salts is to blend dry flavoring ingredients and kosher or sea salt in a food processor. That's it. Getting some of your ingredients appropriately dry takes far more time than making the actual flavored salt creation.
Often, flavored salts can be a by product of drying an ingredient for other uses - sun-dried tomatoes, for example, are great to have on hand for Italian cooking, and dried citrus is a tangy addition to Asian cooking.
Once you have created a flavored salt, keep it in a tightly closed container - and near your food preparation area for quick, delicious access.
Flavored salt recipes
Basic Flavored Salt
1/4 cup kosher salt or sea salt
1 to 2 teaspoons ground flavoring
Combine your ingredients in a food processor and process for several seconds.
Dried Citrus SlicesI like to do this with blood orange slices, but any citrus will work: oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines...
1 piece of citrus
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Slice a piece of citrus very thinly, and as consistently as possible. Lay the slices out on a cookie sheet. Bake about 2 hours - the slices will dry out and lightly brown. Watch them closely in the last 15 minutes. You want them toasty - but not toast, if you know what I mean.
2. Store in an airtight container. A clear jar of dried citrus on the counter is actually quite attractive. When you want a salty-citrus essence for a dish, simply follow the basic flavored salt instructions above and you'll quickly have a tantalizing citrus flavored salt.
"Sun"-dried (oven-dried) tomatoesIngredients:
Roma tomatoes, as many as you like
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise and lay cut side up on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Bake 8 to 10 hours. (Yes, 8 to 10 hours - there is far more liquid in tomatoes than in the citrus slices.) Again, watch them closely near the end. Choose the driest tomatoes for making flavored salt, and save the rest for other cooking.
2. You can save dried tomatoes in an airtight container, or pack them in olive oil. The olive oil absorbs some of the flavor from the tomatoes and that in itself is a lovely ingredient for salad dressings for pasta. But keep in mind you can only use dried tomatoes for flavoring salts - once you pack them in olive oil, they won't work.
Dried MushroomsMushrooms need to be dried at an even lower temperature than citrus or tomatoes.
Fresh mushrooms of your choice
1. Preheat oven to 125 degrees F., or the lowest possible setting. Brush the mushrooms with a mushroom brush or dry, clean towel - do not rinse them since they tend to absorb liquid and the point of this recipe is to get them dried out. Slice them thinly and lay out on a cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 hours, again watching them closely near the end.
2. Store completely cooled dried mushrooms in an airtight container and use them as directed in recipes calling for dried mushrooms. To make a mushroom flavored salt, follow basic flavored salt recipe above.
Drying herbsDrying herbs takes longer, but there is no heat involved. It's great to do at the end of the growing season so you can preserve the flavors of the garden all winter long.
1 bunch of herbs still on the stems, preferably harvested before flowering.
1. Bundle several stems of the herb together and tie up, much like a bouquet of flowers. Make some holes in a small paper bag (lunch-sized), and place the herb bundle upside down in the bag. Gather the opening of the bag around the bundled stem ends and tie up.
2. Hang this bag in a an area that is dry an gets good air circulation - probably not the kitchen. In about 2 weeks, the herbs will be appropriately dry. You can pick the dried leaves off the stems and store them in an airtight container or make an herb flavored salt following the basic flavored salt recipe above.