I am trying to take my own advice about remembering to breath. Is that working for anyone, by the way? Lol! Oh yes, Christmas is racing towards us. This year, I decided to make as many Christmas presents as I possibly could. Partly to cut down on costs, but mostly to make myself stop and think about something besides work, bills, chores, and even the blog…to stop and think about my loved ones. Today, I am sharing with you one of these homemade gifts: Vanilla Salt.
During the holiday’s last year I was spending a lot of time in Charleston, South Carolina for work. My last trip was just before Christmas. I remember scouring King, Market, and East Bay Streets for presents. One of the shops I popped into just off Market is the Spice & Tea Exchange. If you have one of these franchises near year, I definitely recommend a visit if just to experience the fabulous smell of the shop. You’ll find one of the largest gathering of spice blends I have ever seen along with amazing infused salts and sugars, tea blends and more. While I was wandering and opening jars to smell and taste, I saw one of the store employees measuring out truffle salt for a customer and I got a glimpse at the process as a number of tools and supplies were in the same area. “I can do something like this,” I thought to myself. I also asked the lady if I could get a couple of bags of the truffle salt, too! (Yum!)
Fast forward a year later and I’m thinking about what I can make everyone for Christmas. Out of my back pocket came the infused salt and sugar ideas. My sister and almost all of my friends love food and (mostly) enjoy cooking. Making them “gourmet” blends would be perfect and bring some fun into their kitchens and dishes. Liking interesting flavor combinations, I thought vanilla salt (over vanilla sugar) would be a delicious, yet practical, treat. It’s still salt, after all, and who doesn’t love vanilla?
Now please do remember that this is salt! The beautiful vanilla aroma will fool you into thinking you’re about to place a few sweet crystals on your tongue when you are not. Use it as a nice finishing salt. I’m still experimenting with the portion I set aside for myself. So far it goes great on seared scallops and savory butternut squash dishes. Recently, I used it on freshly grated hashed browns I threw in a skillet with butter. That little bit of vanilla in the salt enhanced the creaminess of the butter to the point of “wow!” My next project is to use the Vanilla Salt in my Christmas cookies in place of the regular salt. Needless to say I am pretty confident my friends will enjoy this gift!
- 1 vanilla bean (seeds and pod)
- 1 cup coarse sea salt
- Food processor
- Empty clean jar
- Pour salt into the bowl of a food processor. I have a mini processor, so I worked in 1 cup batches of salt. If you have a larger processor, follow the ratio of 1 vanilla bean per cup of salt. For a faster and more intense vanilla flavor, increase the amount of vanilla bean.
- With a sharp paring knife, slice the vanilla bean lengthwise in half so that you have two sections.
- Take a vanilla bean half, hold down one end, and use the back of your paring knife to scrape out as much of the vanilla “caviar” (the seeds) as possible. Add the vanilla caviar to the salt.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 on the other half of the vanilla bean. Set empty pod(s) to the side.
- Pulse salt and vanilla caviar together in the processor until well blended. You may want to use a flat spatula to push salt back down the sides of the processor bowl once or twice if you have a moister sea salt like I did.
- Place the scraped vanilla bean pod(s) into your jar.
- Pour the salt and vanilla caviar mixture into the jar, ensuring that the pod is burried in as much salt as possible.
- Close jar and set aside somewhere cool and dry for at least a week to allow the salt to be infused with the vanilla. If you are patient enough, I would recommend at least two weeks if not more. The longer you let the salt “steep” with the vanilla, the more vanilla flavor you’ll get (vice just the fragrance).
- When your desired “infusion” time is over, add the salt back into the food processor along with the vanilla pods. Pulse until well blended.
- For gifts, dispense evenly into spice jars or containers and decorate with labels, ribbons…anything you like!
Tip – If you have a moist salt like I did and want to dry it out a bit, bake the plain salt at 250°F for about 10-15 minutes. Wait until COMPLETELY COOL before adding the vanilla. Trust me on this one. I did two batches: one where I baked the salt after infusing it for two weeks…and then a batch where I baked the salt first then added the vanilla while the salt was still warm (In my defense I thought it had cooled!)…Doing either of these two will cause the vanilla salt to take on a baked fragrance, think Christmas cookies, rather than the fresh vanilla you’re aiming for.
Happy Holidays! ~Ruth