Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Taste of a Place - Flavouring Salt

Only one more week and we will be leaving Reykjavik and returning to Canada. Our two months here has gone by so quickly. And leaving for home is going to be bittersweet; on one hand, it will be nice to have some actual spring, wait, hold that, some actual summer weather, but on the other, I'm really going to miss having all day every day to dedicate to the 11th apartment. I've so enjoyed working on the blog these last two months, and I couldn't leave this strange, formidable land without doing a blog post that celebrates it in some way. Aaand ...I just want a reason to post some travel photos!

So this week's post is all about salt! A lot of salt is produced here in Iceland, and it makes a good little souvenir if you happen to be at a local grocery store. I picked up a box, and decided to flavour it. Flavouring salt is an easy way to preserve the flavours and scents of a time or a place. Does that sound kind of hooky? 

Well, maybe. But mixing your favourite herbs or berries with a jar full of salt is a great way to hold on to the flavours of summertime. And when you travel, say to Iceland, it's a neat way to box up a bit of the country and bring it home with you. Ok, if I didn't sound hooky before, I think I've definitely got it covered now. It's a super neat way to save the tastes of a foreign land, you guys!! Do you dig it?

Good! Because the process is super easy. It's literally just this: step one, get salt; step two, mix with chopped herbs, zested citrus, chilis, garlic or any flavouring you like; step three, leave the mixture to dry overnight.

I did two batches. One was a fairly standard, citrus and rosemary, easy on the rosemary because we're going into summer and we'll likely be eating a lot of seafood. And the second batch was angelica salt, a little more experimental, but very Nordic.  Some tried and true formulas are chili and lime, garlic and lemon, dill, basil, etc.

Angelica is an aromatic herb which grows in abundance in the sub-Arctic regions of the Northern hemisphere. Although it grows in Canada, it has been much easier to find and harvest here in Iceland. (We looked for it last summer on Prince Edward Island, but didn't have any success). It has some medicinal properties, but is used most widely as a flavouring in liqueurs and candies. And for those gin lovers out there, me included, you'll recognize the scent quite well. 

Chris managed to harvest a whole armful for me while we were out exploring the waterfalls of Iceland's 'Golden Circle', with my sister and her boyfriend. But you don't need to go out into the wilderness to find this Nordic special. We could have picked just as much of it on a leisurely walk through the city of Reykjavik!

To make flavoured salt:

Start by choosing your flavourings. If anything needs to by chopped, minced, zested, do that first. A spoonful of minced herbs or citrus zest is enough to flavour 100-200 g of salt. But use your discretion, things like lemon/juniper/basil/ginger/chili have a much stronger flavour then say, angelica or carrot. 

Mix the salt (I did about 100g per batch) with a small spoonful of your flavouring. Mix well and then pour onto a sheet of wax paper or parchment and allow to dry for 12-24 hours (or just until it's all completely dry). Pour into a clean glass bottle and store at room temperature.  

Drying time will just depend what you're mixing the salt with. Something like dried chili flakes and minced garlic will take very little time, while fresh citrus rind will take longer. If your flavouring is juicy, you can add some liquid to your salt. Just don't let the mixture get too runny. It should be about the texture of wet snow. Spread it on a sheet of wax paper and leave to dry. You'll likely find that the salt cakes, but don't worry, just break it up before bottling.

When you purchase your salt, consider the type that you are buying. I bought a box of salt flakes because they will make a good finishing salt, and we can simply sprinkle a little bit on our dinner. But if you prefer, a sea salt or rock salt can also be used and then put into a grinder. The jars pictured above came from the dollar store, and they'll be easy to transport. We'll be camping on the beaches of Canada, cooking fish on the fire and covering it with Icelandic angelica salt! I can't wait. 

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