Handmade Holiday Gifting, Part 1: Basil-Infused Salt
The holidays are only a short ways off, meaning it’s time to start thinking about gifts. At the very least, it’s time to start thinking of ideas for everyone on your list — stocking stuffers, party favors, hostess gifts, gifts for coworkers or maybe your child’s teacher.
Today I’m sharing a unique idea that you might assume is something best left to the experts, when in actuality is incredibly easy to make at home, with no special equipment other than a food processor.
Homemade basil-infused salt.
What makes it so great?
First made a year ago and gifted to family and friends with high marks, this faintly green-hued basil salt adds an elegance that table salt can’t match. It’s definitely a creative, thoughtful offering to anyone who loves food. So, pretty much anyone. The recipe is simple and the ingredients couldn’t be more basic: fresh basil leaves and kosher salt.
As for cost comparison with the (really) expensive multi-colored, –shaped, and –flavored artisanal salts on the market, kosher salt costs about 4 cents per ounce, whereas the artisanal versions can be well over 1 dollar per ounce. Even if you’re purchasing fresh basil from the market instead of using basil grown in your own garden, this homemade salt is far cheaper.
Throughout the growing season I periodically let several of the basil plants go crazy and morph into a tiny basil forest. When my trees are big and beautiful, I find a patch of sun and spend a meditative half-hour or so plucking the leaves from a basketful of cut branches. After a thorough washing and drying, they’re run through a food processor with the salt, dried out in the oven, and then processed once more.
Last Christmas I presented my homemade infused salt in basic 4-ounce canning jars, the lids painted with chalkboard paint and a simple note in chalk. Be as fancy and festive as you like using unique containers, such as these, this, or these, food-safe cellophane gift bags, ribbons or handmade tags. If little ones want to help, set them up with some paper and paints, crayons, pipe cleaners, or glue and buttons to dress your gifts in even more handmade charm.
It’s a lovely accent to brighten up appetizers, salads, soups, meats, grains, veg, eggs or whatever else you can dream of sprinkling it over. I keep half of ours as is, and grind the rest extra fine in a spice grinder (as seen in the photo above) for my husband’s favorite use — on hot and fresh Whirley Pop popcorn. Nutrition bonus: You don’t need to use quite as much as you normally would, as the basil gives it extra flavor.
Packaged in a pretty container, basil-infused salt is one of those little touches that adds something special to an otherwise mundane meal. Make a double or triple batch, and gift it away… or hoard it all for yourself like I’m doing this year! No one wants a repeat gift, right?
Tell me… What would you sprinkle this over first? Have you infused your own salts before? Novel flavor ideas?
- 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 225º F, and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Place the basil leaves and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until the leaves are chopped up a bit -- 20 or so brief pulses should do. (Be warned that this may create a basil-y salt-y dust cloud. Step back when removing the lid.) Pour the mixture onto your lined tray, and spread out evenly.
- Bake 15 minutes on a center rack. Remove from the oven, and use a spatula or flat-ended wooden spoon to stir the mixture around and break up clumps that have formed. Return to the oven and bake another 15 minutes.
- Allow the mixture to cool several minutes, then use the parchment as a sling to transfer the salt back into the food processor. Pulse again until the salt is as finely ground as you prefer (remember to mind the dust!). For a finer-grained salt, especially good for popcorn, run the salt through your spice grinder, in batches as needed. Store in an airtight container on your counter or in the pantry up to 6 months.
+ Vary the herbs: Try a combination of leaves from about 8 sprigs each fresh rosemary + fresh thyme.
+ Brighten up the flavor: Add in the zest from 1/2 orange + zest from 1/2 to 1 lemon.
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