Sunday, August 2, 2009

Seasons to Taste

I was not raised in a house where certain summer weekends meant securing peaches in clinging syrup, wedging cucumbers into jars with copious quantities of dill and garlic or simmering tomatoes in order to relive again with spaghetti and meatballs. No, preserving meant a freezer full of meat (a half of cow was order bi-annually) and a pantry crammed with tinned-you-name-it vegetables. A taste of the seasons is not something I ruminate about with nostalgic pining. Though as an adult with innate food snobberies I’d long for the return of an herb emanating a scent; melons that actually delivered some flavor, and if the heavens were indulgent, a tomato.

It does not matter how many options are available during the winter to us more often then not there is a failure to please. In order to stave off going culinary-postal I have started preserving June, July, August, September in jars and bags in the refrigerate, freezer and cupboard. All my notions and potions are dear contributors to the foods I make the rest of the year. Beyond the flavor that is trapped rests the memory of the day it went into the jar.

One of my favorite things to do for the past few years has been desiccating herbs and edible flowers in salt and sugar. I was watching a documentary on mummies and while the process of mummification was being expounded I was struck with the thought that the salts used had to have captured fragrances – this is the reason I deduct cable. My first attempt of burying lavender blossoms in salt yielded a perfumed salt that found a home on pork chops with caramelized onions and any vegetable I was cooking. Rose petals (organic only, please!!) covered in sugar added a delicate note to every cake and cookie batter it found itself in. One of my favorites has to be loveage that was allowed to wither up in the depths of a jar of salt. Given loveage’s intense celery-esque bouquet it created the most sensational celery salt that has become my go to seasoning. There has been summer savory, tarragon, and lemon verbena in salt; orange blossom, lemon basil and hyssop informing various sugars.

When putting up these aromatic seasoning moments always use a coarse salt and sugar. I place a layer of the salt or sugar on the bottom of the jar and then layer with herb and salt ending with layer of salt on top. Store with a tight fitting lid in a cool, dry spot for a few weeks before using. With the sugars I have kept them coarse as well as place the entire lot in the food processor and have ground them to fine powder -- baking sometimes requires a more finessed sprinkling.


Alisa@Foodista said...

I love making this too!I first tried it with vanilla beans and sugar, and it was amazing!Ill trying using lavander with salts too!I'd love to guide our readers to your site if you won't mind.Just add your choice of foodista widget to this post and it's all set to go, Thanks Richard!

Margie said...

I love that your inspiration for flavored salts came from mummification. I've never ventured beyond vanilla sugar, but you've inspired me to try herbed salts. Now I'm thinking about herb infused salts on the rim of my cocktails...