Finishing salts are the final touch to a prepared dish, crystallizing it with a last burst of flavor and aroma. Herb-infused finishing salts can be concocted by combining any fresh herb with coarse salt, meaning there are endless ways to get creative with crafting different salt blends.
This excerpt from the forthcoming book on Cultivating Medicinal Herbs from the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine explains the process behind this awesome alchemy of earth and sea, and offers a few delicious infusion recipes to get started with. As long as you have a way to blend the salt and herbs -- either by using a spice blender or mincing them by knife -- you can experiment to your heart's desire with all the colorful notes in nature's medley of herbs and salts.
Here's a list of a few favorite salts from the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine to inspire your imagination:
- Himalayan pink salt is hand-mined from ancient marine fossil deposits. The pink hue is derived from its high mineral and trace element content, including calcium, magnesium, copper, and iron.
- Smoked sea salt is prepared by slow roasting salt over flavorful wood smoke from various species of trees. I like to include smoked sea salt in BBQ herb blends.
- Red Alaea sea salt, or Red Hawaiian sea salt, is formed from seawater slowly evaporating in tidal pools, that are naturally infused with iron-rich, red volcanic clay. Talk about elemental alchemy! Fire, water, mineral, and air are all embodied in this crimson maritime sacrament.
- Volcanic Hawaiian sea salt is truly jet black, but it is colored by activated charcoal made from coconut shells, and not lava rock as one might imagine from its name. The black will “wash” off if used in cooking, so preparing it as a finishing salt is the best way to preserve the evocative ebony hue.
- Kala Namak is mined from several areas in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Also called Himalayan black salt, it has a pungent aroma and unique eggy flavor, due to its high sulfur content. It comes from the earth in inky crystals, but it is pink or light purple in color after it is ground.
- Celtic sea salt is a coarse sea salt, gray in hue, due to the harvesting technique, which includes the bottom mineral layer of the salt harvesting area. It is hand-harvested and sun dried.
Learn about the process and get started with some recipes over at Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine.
Photo: Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine