Fragrant Tuscan Herb Salt

Maria Robledo
One of the staples of my pantry is a classic herb salt fragrant with rosemary, sage, and garlic that is used all over Northern Italy. I learned the recipe - or I should say approach - years ago while traveling in Tuscany and have never grown tired of it. It is good on just about anything.

You can use it as an essential seasoning to “salt” roasts of all kinds from pork and beef to chicken, game birds, and duck. It’s also great on vegetables of all kinds, dried beans, popcorn, potatoes, even a bloody Mary for a last minute flavor-enhancement. It gives herbal notes to my fried egg in the morning. It is great on popcorn...

The method is simple: you chop herbs, garlic and salt together, either by hand or with a food processor, then spread the mixture on a sheet pan. The salt dries out the herbs preserving their vivid flavor for months. You can improvise endlessly on the basic formula by improvising your own mix of herb. Thyme, rosemary, and savory with a touch of lavender will make a lovely Provencal herb salt…

Hand chopping gives a slightly less-uniform salt and is, surprisingly, fun, relaxing and quick to make. I recently came up with a faster food processor method that retains the essential pleasingly rough texture. The key: process the herbs with only one third of the salt, then stir in the rest.

The herb salt makes a great gift. If you want to make a lot of herb salt, I suggest doing it in batches, rather than all at once, to retain the right texture.

Ingredients
  • 4 to 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Scant 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • About 2 cups loosely-packed, pungent fresh herbs such as sage, rosemary, thyme, savory, or small amounts of lavender
  • (For Tuscan herb salt use a mix of fresh rosemary and sage leaves, 50/50 or whatever balance you prefer)
 

Instructions

Food Processor Method

Cut each garlic clove lengthwise through the center, remove the sprout (if any) in the center and discard.

In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic and 2 tablespoons of the salt. Pulse until the garlic is chopped medium-coarse. Add the herbs and continue pulsing until the mixture is the texture of very coarse sand. Transfer to a sheet pan and toss with the remaining salt.

Leave near an open window for a couple of days to dry. Store in clean, dry jars.

Hand-Chopped Method

Cut each garlic clove lengthwise through the center, remove the sprout (if any) in the center and discard.

Mound the salt and garlic on a cutting board. Use a chef’s knife to mince the garlic, blending it with the salt as you work.

Place herbs in a mound and coarsely chop them. Add the herbs to the garlic salt and chop them together to the texture of coarse sand.

Spread the salt on a baking sheet or in wide flat bowls and leave near an open window for a couple of days to dry. Store in clean, dry jars.

Copyright 2011, Sally Schneider, The Improvised Life

Prep time: 
10 minutes
Total time: 
10 minutes
Yield: 
3/4 cup

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