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 with Peggy Markel on one of her Culinary Adventures, 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 la minute flavor-enhancement. It gives herbal notes to my fried egg in the morning.

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 herbs…Thyme, rosemary, and savory with a touch of lavender will make a lovely Provencal herb salt…(There’s a whole section about seasoning salts in The Improvisational Cook.)

If you are flat-out busy and just want to BUY a great herb salt, I heartily recommend the one from Italy that wine writer Anthony Giglio (a big fan of our herb salt) told us about; Seasonello Bolgna Aromatic Herbal Salt is available at Amazon. (I recommend buying the 4-pack; it saves a fortune on shipping and the extra jars make great house gifts.)

Maria Robledo

Recipe: Fragrant Tuscan Herb Salt

Hand chopping gives a slightly less-uniform salt and is, surprisingly, fun, relaxing and quick to make.  To quote Anthony: “Whenever I’m feeling lazy I recall something I read in the Cibrea Cookbook about chopping onions, potatoes and yellow peppers for their ethereal Yellow Pepper soup: There is no substitute for the therapeutic feeling one enjoys when rhythmically chopping — perhaps a bad translation from Italian to English, but I get it. And I do it.”

I recently came up with a faster food processor method that retains the essential pleasingly rough texture.

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.

This salt has a high proportion of herbs to salt, making it extremely flavorful. Add additional salt to taste to tone down the intensity – up to half as much.

Makes about 3/4 cup

-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 )

Food Processor Method

Making herb salts in a food processor can reduce them to an over-processed powder UNLESS you use this trick: chop the herbs with only one third of the salt, then stir in the rest.

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, or for gifts, pack into cello bags and tie with a ribbon.

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, or for gifts, pack into cello bags and tie with a ribbon.

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9 replies on “make or buy: fragrant, wildly all-purpose herb salt

  1. If you leave out the garlic, you can probably scrub with it as well!

  2. Sounds great except that I would definitely use Sea Salt.

  3. Just bear in mind when using sea salt that it is STRONGER than other salts, so you will need to use less.

  4. Sally – I am writing an article on harvesting herbs for Michigan Gardening Magazine and wonder if I can use your recipe. I could include your photo also with whatever credits you would like and the article would also appear in Iowa Gardening Magazine, Minnesota, and Wisconsin since it would be a regional feature. Please let me know. I would like to mention the Splendid Table also since I am such a big fan! Karen

  5. Sure you can use my recipe. Thanks for asking. I would appreciate your crediting credit me and linking back to Improvised Life (: as well as Splendid Table. And if you use a photo, please include the credits that are there. If you have any questions, shoot me an email at [email protected].

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